The Mad Man

Samuel R. Delany, Author
Samuel R. Delany, Author Richard Kasak Book $23.95 (501p) ISBN 978-1-56333-193-0
Paperback - 568 pages - 978-1-56333-408-5
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The latest novel from Hugo- and Nebula-winning science-fiction writer and critic Delany ( They Fly at Ciron ) reads like a pornographic reflection of Peter Ackroyd's Chatterton or A.S. Byatt's Possession. Precocious philosophy graduate student John Marr becomes increasingly interested in the short life and mysterious death of Timothy Hasler, a brilliant young philosopher murdered years before in New York. As Marr investigates Hasler through the 1980s and early '90s, the details of his life begin to parallel Hasler's, and as his sexual behavior grows more outlandish and extreme, it seems he's on a track that will inevitably follow the philosopher's descent into primal perversion and death. Marr muses on Hasler's life and thought, and on his own sexual habits and interests (including the lengthening shadow of AIDS), but the novel is dominated by graphic depictions of the graduate student's grungy sexual adventures (frequently involving excrement). The pornographic element, while overwhelming, becomes more than simple shock or titillation, though, as Delany develops an insightful dichotomy between Marr's two worlds: the one of cerebral philosophy and dry academia, the other of heedless, ``impersonal'' obsessive sexual extremism. When these worlds finally collide and Marr emerges more balanced and content, the novel achieves a surprisingly satisfying resolution--though the faint of heart or stomach will have fled long before. (May)
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