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Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
May 13, 2012 6:07 PM   Subscribe

"Like his legendary Hogg, The Mad Man, and the million-seller Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany’s major new novel Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders—explicit, poetic, philosophical, and, yes, shocking—propels readers into a gay sexual culture unknown to most urban gay men and women, a network of rural gay relations—with the twist that this one is supported by the homophile Kyle Foundation, started in the early 1980s by a black multi-millionaire, Robert Kyle III, to improve the lives of black gay men."

An excerpt, from the Boston Review

Locus Online Review

A (rather flippant) review from Edge Boston.


An hour long reading and Q+A from PunkCast

Finally, a missing chapter and various corrections to the first edition (and corrections to other works) are available at oneringcircus.com.

Delany previously, previously
posted by kittensofthenight (38 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know, I'd never seen a picture of Delany before. I had not expect a beard so magnificent and, I do say it, yes, wizardly.
posted by kavasa at 6:14 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Delany? About time I say!

I sat next to a beardly bearly fella at a Delany reading over a decade ago, having no idea about Delany's appearance beyond what conclusions I could draw from having read his early-life autobio.

Yep.
posted by mwhybark at 6:32 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Delaney is a handsome fellow. Rumor has is that he is a bit stroppy in person, despite the winning charm of his writing.

I'm really excited about this book. Also, I love The Mad Man - it's absolutely brilliant. I've seldom found Delaney's porn all that...er...pornographic for the purposes for which porn is conventionally deployed, but I guess I would say that it is in many ways better than porn. If it weren't dead language, I'd say that his books are erotic novels...that makes them sound like sixties pulp, though. But they are novels which talk about people via talking in great and explicit detail about sex. And unlike most novel versions of sex, which make me wish to make sure that no one ever sees my imperfect body ever again without about fifty layers of clothes between my skin and the gaze, Delaney's books actually make it seem like sex could actually be interesting and enjoyable and non-horrible and between actual people instead of novelistic constructs.

Strangely, I have never found his work shocking in the slightest. Even Hogg, which is popularly and correctly admitted to be kind of gross and violent, isn't shocking. Or maybe his work is shocking because it's realistic - neither the worm's eye view nor an idealization. [blah blah interrogate what we mean by realism, mimesis, blah blah] Or at any rate, his outlook on the world is so calm and sensible and generous that his work is extraordinarily soothing. Even if he treats of horrible things, it's possible to feel that you can be a feeling, thinking human being and be a decent person and have a moral compass and yet still screw up and not be full of shame and self hate.

Also, he is one fine science fiction writer, memoirist and literary critic.
posted by Frowner at 6:32 PM on May 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


This new novel is one of Delany's pornographic works (like Hogg and The Mad Man) and a very different reading experience from his SF and realistic fiction; though excellent in its own way it won't appeal to everyone in the SF books' audience. It's surprising to me that Locus reviewed it, in fact.

Much of the best criticism on Delany's sex writing is online, including a series of excellent posts on Steven Shaviro's blog (start here and here) and Ray Davis's Delany's Dirt.
posted by RogerB at 6:36 PM on May 13, 2012


Delany has a moral imperative to write as much gay sci fi smut as he possibly can.
posted by The Whelk at 6:48 PM on May 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I agree, The Mad Man is one of his best novels. Tragic and intimate and awesome at times.
Thanks for the Delany's Dirt link, RogerB. Looks like a fun essay.
posted by kittensofthenight at 6:49 PM on May 13, 2012


Having heard about but never read Delaney, the plot of this novel seems really, interestingly surreal.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:52 PM on May 13, 2012


I really liked Dhalren - great book -
but Delany's NAMBLA endorsements are just fucked up
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:52 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Delaney!!! That's the best news I've had all year, I think. I will definitely be getting this very very soon.
posted by hippybear at 7:16 PM on May 13, 2012


You know, I'd never seen a picture of Delany before. I had not expect a beard so magnificent and, I do say it, yes, wizardly.

Just wait till you gaze upon the young Delany...
posted by mek at 7:18 PM on May 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Is there an explicit connection to Calvino's novel of growing up during WWII?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2012


Long & interesting interview w/ Delany from last summer.

It's in an amazing issue of the Paris Review that I normally never read (I ought to do something about that). Also has an interview with William Gibson and a short story by Jonathan Lethem.
posted by morganw at 7:43 PM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's sitting by my bedside table. Haven't cracked it, I guess I'm saving it a bit I have read upwards of 90% of his published works over the years and he has bent my mind in strange ways many many times. I've only heard him speak once, I would love to do so again.

(Oddly, the one big one I haven't read is The Mad Man. I guess I'm saving that one too ...)
posted by feckless at 7:48 PM on May 13, 2012


Just wait till you gaze upon the young Delany...

Holy shirtless Vulcan!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just wait till you gaze upon the young Delany...


Daaaaamn.

That warranted the first ever spit take due to unexpected hotness.

I mean, I expected some young-man pretty. But yeah. New keyboard.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:33 PM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the anti-paranoia (eunoia?) of the idea of a secretive zillionaire sinking tons of cash into making it easier for gay men to find interesting sex. It's like the anti-Atlas Shrugged.

I've never read any of Delany's novels about sex, but I have read and enjoyed his memoirs on that topic, particularly Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the history of gay culture in New York.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:42 PM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chip Delaney has the greatest beard in all of science fiction. And I don't mean "beard" in the closeted sense.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:57 PM on May 13, 2012


I've read a little of Dhalgren and only ever finished a single one of Delany's books, a volume of essays. My familiarity with his writing is mostly secondhand. I picked up his 1966 Nova this winter: it was as cheesy and earnest as any sci-fi written in the 60s, but despite its period qualities, it reflected an unmkistakably gay sensibility. I thought that was kind of cool.

Also, looking at that photograph of young Delany and thinking of his nickname… is it "Chip" as in "chocolate"?
posted by Nomyte at 9:02 PM on May 13, 2012


Nomyte, it's Chip as in Samuel R. Delany Jr, as in, "chip off the old block"... I am currently mainlining hella Delany and I am so fucking stoked to have even more stuff of his to read. Ooh rah! Delany! Reviving my flagging interest in SF!
posted by beefetish at 9:09 PM on May 13, 2012


anotherpanacea, I would be totally surprised if it wasn't a deliberate choice on Delany's part. His whole writing discipline is founded on aesthetics and concepts that relate directly to Calvino.
posted by mwhybark at 10:04 PM on May 13, 2012


Does this merit a new tag? nSFw?
posted by chavenet at 12:28 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always wanted to like Delaney more than I actually do. I simply find him un-readable on the sentence level, and not in a challenging way but more of a "Would it kill him to write coherent sentences?" kind of way. I definitely liked parts of the two novels I've read but I just can't bring myself to try and wade through another one.

But in my defense, PK Dick and Harlan Ellison also thought Dhalgren was painfully awful.
posted by bardic at 2:17 AM on May 14, 2012


I will have to very respectfully disagree with Dick and Ellison.
posted by Splunge at 4:08 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to read Dhalgren unsuccessfully for years, but Babel-17/Empire Star is/are phenomenal.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:12 AM on May 14, 2012


I would be totally surprised if it wasn't a deliberate choice on Delany's part. His whole writing discipline is founded on aesthetics and concepts that relate directly to Calvino.

Well, maybe. But it's literally the straightest, most boring "coming of age during wartime" plot you can imagine for a Calvino book. The magical realism stuff comes later. So I kind of want to know what exactly the connection is.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:43 AM on May 14, 2012


I only read Delaney for the first time a couple of weeks ago after I was bored in a bookshop and picked up Babel-17 at random, and... wow. Incredible writing. Now Dhalgren sits on a shelf across the room, taunting me.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:50 AM on May 14, 2012


Dhalgren is my favorite book that I will never finish.
posted by empath at 6:39 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


But in my defense, PK Dick and Harlan Ellison also thought Dhalgren was painfully awful.

The common saying at the time:

Q: What do the speed of light, absolute zero, and page 60 of Dhalgren have in common ?
A: No one will ever get past them.

posted by y2karl at 8:48 AM on May 14, 2012


I made it a few hundred pages in, I think :)
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on May 14, 2012


Chip Delaney has the greatest beard in all of science fiction. And I don't mean "beard" in the closeted sense.

Although Marilyn Hacker is a fantastic poet.

(Stretching a point for the sake of a joke--I think they got married primarily because they were dear friends who wanted children, not because they were a gay man and a lesbian who wanted social acceptability.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:10 AM on May 14, 2012


I picked up this massive brick of a book a few weeks ago, and I'm just about ready to start it. I've enjoyed (for various degrees of the word "enjoyed") his other porny books (though his nonfiction sex writing is the most amazing).

It took me about three tries to get to the hundredth page of Dhalgren, but after that it becomes significantly more readable.
posted by Casuistry at 11:45 AM on May 14, 2012


but Delany's NAMBLA endorsements are just fucked up

Huh? Can someone provide a link so I don't need to have "NAMBLA" anywhere in the Google search results on my work computer?

Dhalgren is my favorite book that I will never finish.

It literally can't be finished in that it's first sentence is actually the second half of the final sentence. It's an endless loop.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:34 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh? Can someone provide a link so I don't need to have "NAMBLA" anywhere in the Google search results on my work computer?

On my phone but if you go to his wikipedia page it's on there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:34 PM on May 14, 2012


Reading The Motion of Light in Water helped contextualize Delany's ideas about sex that I found weird. Or it just made me realize that sex ideas in pre-AIDS New York were incredibly weird to begin with. One of those. Not that this is an endorsement of Delany's endorsement of NAMBLA.
posted by beefetish at 1:54 PM on May 14, 2012


dammit way to close the italics tag
posted by beefetish at 1:54 PM on May 14, 2012


Dhalgren is my favorite book that I will never finish.

Funny. For me, Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand is my favorite story I will never finish. Not because I don't want to, but because I absolutely have no possibility of ever finishing it.

At this point, I'm convinced that the non-publication of the second half of the story is part of the experiential art of the book. Just as the story is suspended without warning, just as the characters' involvement with each other is suspended without warning, so is my participation in experiencing that story. And thus it will be forever, just like so many stories in our lives, where we have a slice of something and then it's over, perhaps before we want it to be, and we feel longing, and wonderment and a sense of loss... And that's all you are left with until death.

God, I fucking love that book. *looks for my copy to start reading again*
posted by hippybear at 4:59 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought Nova was great; pretty much all I can remember of Dhalgren is the question asked after a MMF threesome: "Do you like it with a curtain, or without?"

By the way, I have the SFBC edition of Nova, and the guy pictured on the back doesn't seem to be SRD. Who is he?
posted by DavLaurel at 5:08 PM on May 14, 2012


In a new and excellent essay on his blog, Steven Shaviro calls Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders "the best English-language novel [...] of the 21st century so far."
posted by RogerB at 12:41 PM on May 28, 2012


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