Reading Delany is a humbling experience.
Delany started to write the Nevèryon
series when he was a couple of years younger than I am now – but yet so much more experienced, so much wiser, with so much more insight and compassion.
Reading the Nevèryon
series is also an intensely personal experience. This is what I
took out of it; it may vary vastly from what you see in it. Or from what the author intended.
Like a lot of good book, this series makes me realize my own mistakes and shortcomings. I already try not to police and go all judgmental on people, but let's face it: it happens. Sometimes I end up all too entangled in my self-righteousness. Sometimes I say incredible stupid things. Just the same day I made one of these incredible stupid, policing, judgmental remarks, I read The Tale of Fog and Granite
- and ended up putting my foot into my mouth, feeling like the most stupid, most ignorant person on earth.
I've learned my lesson: my morals, my sensibilities, and my experiences should by no means be a basis to judge other people's (erotic) desires, needs, and fantasies.
Common sense, really – but I had to read this to finally, fully understand
I mean, I experience it from the other side as well: When your sexual desires, needs, and/or fantasies aren't exactly of the mainstream and vanilla variation, you become acutely aware of culturally inflicted taboos, of what makes people feel uncomfortable. Or hurt. I've long ago stopped apologizing for or justifying my desire (resp. the lack thereof) and my fantasies. But I do
know that some of them are potentially hurtful to others.
There's one thing, however, erotic fantasies are not, and don't have to be: political correct.
It's not about ignoring other people's discomfort or objections, not at all. It's about compassion. About realizing and acknowledging that human desires are complex and complicated.
Ah, yeah, there's a certain kind of irony in asexual me droning on about sexual desire...
Aaaaanyway, that's what I took out of The Tale of Fog and Granite
and The Mummer's Tale
, adding to what I already took out of other Delany-novels - while in fact the stories are about something entirely different: about the multilayer nature and ultimate impossibility of truth.
It also fucked with my memory, because I think
I remember certain parts from #1 differently. Which is, of course, the whole point here.
And I haven't even started talking about The Tale of Plagues and Carnivals
This story is fascinating on a completely different level, being, as Wikipedia informs me, the first novel-length fictional treatment of AIDS to appear from a major U.S. publisher. And the blending together of a fictional plague hitting Nevèryon, AIDS hitting New York, and a meta-fictional (parafictional) commentary on writing a fantasy-novel in the time of crisis, is worth reading in its own right. But other people here have already talked about it in great length, I don't have anything to add. Read here:
The intensity she quotes Delany talking about? That he achieves.
So, all this rambling and then just 3 stars?
First of, just like the first two Nevèryon stories, this book is special to me. The series will probably end up on my list of Most Important Things I've Read In My Life.
But that doesn't change the fact that it's all so goddamn heavy-handed.
I complain about Delany's lack of subtlety and his sledgehammer approach to getting his points across in about every review I write about his books. This time, I couldn't take it any longer.
Piling one tired literary device on top of another does not very enjoyable literature make. (Of course these literary devices weren't as tired back then as they are now.)
The series reads like trudging through wet cement, or quicksand, while someone hits you on the head with a hammer all the time, and goes on telling you: „See, this is how I got Foucault into my story. This is how I dealt with Freud. This is how I subverted the tale of Adam and Eve and gender roles. And so that you can't fail to notice what I'm trying to tell you, I've put all those smart-ass epigraphs in front of the stories. And then my stories will tell you the exactly same thing
It's all so glaringly obvious. This time, it got too much. This time, I had enough of trudging, enough of being hit on the head, enough of the author telling me in BIG, BOLD LETTERS what he did and how he did it.
Well, it's not like Delany – erm, K. Leslie Steiner didn't warn me in the foreword to Tales of Nevèryon
. And the constant meta-critique (para-critique?) running through the books makes it difficult for me, the reader, to criticize them.
Nevertheless, my patience has reached its breaking point here. It will reassemble itself again when I go on.