cover image Dark Reflections

Dark Reflections

Samuel R. Delany, . . Carroll & Graf, $15.95 (295pp) ISBN 978-0-78671-947-1

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. (May)