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Dark Reflectionsby Samuel R. Delany
"Dark Reflections, while harrowing and bleak, is mainly tender — a loving rendition of a place that gentrification has all but obliterated, a spot-on portrait of the East Village artist as a gay black geek." Andrew Holleran, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
Synopses & Reviews
Dark Reflections is the story of Arnold Hawley, a gay African-American poet who has lived in New York City's Lower East Side for most of his adult life. Divided into three sections, the book traces Hawley's life in reverse order.
In part one, "The Prize," we see him at fifty winning the Alfred Proctor Award for his sixth book of poems. He is at the height of his personal and modest literary success. Eighteen year later, he publishes another — much less successful — book. Cramped by loneliness and fear of old age, he has a nervous breakdown when his Aunt dies in Cleveland and he is unable to make the funeral.
The middle section, "Vashti in the Dark," takes us back to 1974, the time of Hawley's unlikely marriage to Judy Haindel. When it emerges that his new wife is deeply disturbed, the emotional and physical consequences are catastrophic. Hawley's third book comes as close to recording the impressions of this time as he dares.
And the final section, "The Book of Pictures," recalls Hawley's college days at Brown and Boston. Free at last from his strong-willed Aunt Bea, he experiences, his first sexual fixation — a black delivery boy, Slake Bowman. Hawley follows Slake to the home of his white photographer partner, Joe Salieri, both of whom make it clear he'd be welcome for an afternoon of wild sex.
Dark Reflections is a beautifully crafted novel that moves back and forth in time, creating an extraordinary meditation on deformed social attitudes, loneliness, and the startling invigoration of life's small triumphs.
"The title of the captivating latest by the Hugo-winning author of Dhalgren is also the title of a book of poems written by the novel's poet protagonist, Arnold Hawley. That might strike one as a more straightforward setup than that of Pale Fire. But given that Delany is a poet who gave up writing poetry for a more financially rewarding career writing sci-fi and memoir, and that the fictional Hawley is the same age as Delany and is also black and gay, the reader familiar with Delany's work soon feels that these 'dark reflections' form a fascinatingly structured experiment in alternative autobiography — what if Delany had remained a poet and not turned to prose? Hawley's career as a semisuccessful poet istold in reverse, its three sections take the poet from obscure old age to the dawning of youthful ambition. In contrast to the exuberant explorations of the East Village's sexual underworld in Delany's memoirs, poor Hawley's sexual career never really gets off the ground — 'what if' for Delany had not come to terms with his sexuality during early 1960s? Delany transforms poetry's status as the most ignored field of American letters into a devastating and beautifully written study of the loneliness and despair that so often accompany the life of the mind in America." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Arnold's triple minority status as gay, black, and a poet inspires Delany's finely nuanced meditation on the challenges and the changing roles faced by society's outsiders in what is one of his most masterfully written novels to date." Booklist
"Dark reflections layered into a complex, refracted narrative." Kirkus Reviews
Arnold Hawley, a gay African–American poet, has lived in NYC for most of his life. Dark Reflections traces Hawley's life in three sections — in reverse order. Part one: Hawley, at 50 years old, wins an award for his sixth book of poems. Part two explores Hawley's unhappy marriage, while the final section recalls his college days. Dark Reflections, moving back and forth in time, creates an extraordinary meditation on social attitudes, loneliness, and life's triumphs.
About the Author
Samuel R. Delany is a New York novelist and critic, whose first novel was published when he was twenty. His tenth, Dhalgren (1975), currently available from Vintage Books, has sold over a million copies. His more recent fiction includes Atlantis: Three Tales (1995), Hogg, (1995), and Phallos (2004); and his collected short stories, Aye, and Gomorrah (2004), is currently also available from Vintage. Delany has repeatedly won the Hugo and Nebula Awards. He is a recipient of the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a Life-time Contribution to Gay and Lesbian Writing and the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award. His book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue is a staple of gay studies courses. Besides his prize-winning autobiography, The Motion of Light in Water (1988), much of his nonfiction has been collected in three volumes, from Wesleyan University Press, Silent Interviews (1992), Longer Views (1996), and Shorter Views (2001). His most recent non-fiction book, from Wesleyan, is About Writing (2006). He is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia and teaches at the Naropa Summer Writing Program, in Boulder, Colorado.
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