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Re: [delany-list] Just a little way into _Spiders_, and...

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  • Ron Henry
    This discussion reminds me of how non-science fiction readers talk about sf -- if it weren t for all the never-ending stuff about rockets and aliens and
    Message 1 of 15 , May 17, 2012
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      This discussion reminds me of how non-science fiction readers talk
      about sf -- "if it weren't for all the never-ending stuff about
      rockets and aliens and science and stuff, I could just enjoy the story
      and characters."

      I can't help but think this is (at least part of) Delany's point with
      this new book. Genre is about indulging fetishes, whether they be
      technological or sexual (or in other instances romantic or criminal,
      etc.)?

      --Ron Henry


      On Thu, May 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM, Jorge Rapalo <JRapalo@...> wrote:
      > I personally share your position.
      >
      > However, this begs the question, should literature have a "target audience"?
      >
      > Is the narrowed focus of such book, with its emphasis in mechanical
      > details, even if supported by a larger ideological intent, not
      > restricting it as "genre"?
      >
      > I always agreed with Chip's desire to do for pornography/erotica what
      > in a sense he and others did for space opera, but may this be actually
      > be reductive instead of expanding or challenging boundaries?
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > On Thu, May 17, 2012 at 8:16 AM, Dan'l Danehy-Oakes <katbarx@...> wrote:
      >>
      >> ...I've realized that I'm no longer (if I ever was) the "target audience" for Delany's fiction.
      >>
      >> I've only read one major sex scene -- the mini-orgy in the truck stop -- and I realized: this not only doesn't turn me on, it doesn't even turn me _off_! It doesn't bore me, exactly, but it has no emotional or erotic effect on me. Granted, I'm about as straight as they come, but some of Delany's previous scenes (I mind me of one in the third Neveryon book...) have done it for me.
      >>
      >> This one was ... mechanical? Perhaps that's too harsh; but certainly _choreographed_ would not be far off the mark. There is nothing that seems spontaneous about the scene, and nobody seems to be doing more than going through their motions -- even Eric, to whom this scene is new.
      >>
      >> I'm going to continue, but if the whole book is like this, I think I'm out of Delany's fiction (unless he miraculously produces _Splendor_). Which is a damn shame, because I thought his last few books, and especially _Dark Reflections_, were the best things he's ever written.
      >>
      >>
      >> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >>
      >>
      >>
      >> ------------------------------------
      >>
      >> == Posted to delany-list, hosted at yahoo groups ==
      >> == A mailing list for the discussion of the works of Samuel R. Delany. ==Yahoo! Groups Links
      >>
      >>
      >>
      >
      >
      > ------------------------------------
      >
      > == Posted to delany-list, hosted at yahoo groups ==
      > == A mailing list for the discussion of the works of Samuel R. Delany. ==Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
    • Dan'l Danehy-Oakes
      ... I have no argument with any of that. My point isn t that there s so much sex, or even that there s so much transgressive or fetishistic gay sex. I can deal
      Message 2 of 15 , May 17, 2012
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        Ron wrote:

        > This discussion reminds me of how non-science fiction readers talk

        > about sf -- "if it weren't for all the never-ending stuff about

        > rockets and aliens and science and stuff, I could just enjoy the story

        > and characters."

        >

        > I can't help but think this is (at least part of) Delany's point with

        > this new book. Genre is about indulging fetishes, whether they be

        > technological or sexual (or in other instances romantic or criminal,

        > etc.)

        I have no argument with any of that. My point isn't that there's so much sex, or even that there's so much transgressive or fetishistic gay sex. I can deal with that: I greatly enjoyed _The Mad Man_.

        My problem is that it's _boring_ sex: I am not _so_ straight (though I am, pretty damn, straight) that some of the scenes in his previous books -- I particularly mind me of one in _Flight from Neveryon_ -- didn't turn me on. The sex in _Spiders_, at least so far, seems as if it were more about mathematical combinatorics ("How many ways can we permute this many organs in this much time?") than desire.

        This disappoints the _hell_ out of me, particularly if/since (apparently) this is what a large part of the book consists of.

        In _Interviews with SRD_ -- it's quoted on the back cover -- he says that he's interested in characters only insofar as they allow him to write certain sentences. I came away thinking that was an exaggeration; certainly I've rarely read a more character-driven book than _Dark Reflections_--!

        But now I find myself wondering whether he wasn't speaking the literal truth. If so, then I'm at a loss for what kinds of sentences drove him to write this book. I'm not finding any, so far, that make me go "Wow" as they glitter before me...


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • vpoleganov
        I m 500+ pages in and so far it feels very... instructive. I don t know how else to describe all those moments where a character is teaching another something.
        Message 3 of 15 , May 17, 2012
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          I'm 500+ pages in and so far it feels very... instructive. I don't know how else to describe all those moments where a character is teaching another something. Also, at times it feels like a 19th century novel. Probably that's intentional.

          I can see that Delany is expanding his transgressive pursuits (remember that character in The Mad Man saying that snot eating is the thing he would not do? In TVNS projectile vomiting is passingly mentioned in the same manner as snot eating in The Mad Man: should this tell us something about Delany's next novel?), but some scenes are just too much and too tiring. I also don't like and care much about Dynamite. He's more a discursive tool than a character to me.

          There are moments of pure brilliance in TVNS, some of the scenes are heartbreaking, many are something only a Delany novel can offer (Delany IS a master of narrative tone). For me, that's enough. Of course, I'd be happy if his next work is pure SF or something in the vein of the lovely Dark Reflections, but I am glad that TVNS is now part of Delany's oeuvre.

          --- In delany-list@yahoogroups.com, Erich Schneider <erich@...> wrote:
          >
          > A short while ago I finished _Through the Valley of the Nest of
          > Spiders_. I have to say, it's not up there among my favorites of his
          > (those would be _Stars_, _Dhalgren_, _Triton_, and the
          > autobiographical works). The feeling I get is that the block of marble
          > needed some more chiseling to more clearly reveal the statue within.
          >
          > I find myself agreeing with a few of the specific points made in
          > this review (but I would stop short at saying it was "bad"):
          >
          > http://jwcampb.blogspot.com/2012/05/review-of-through-valley-of-nest-of.html
          >
          > I'm sure Delany could explain exactly why every one of the many sex
          > scenes was kept in at the length and level of detail it was, but I did
          > start to mentally say "oh, not another one" as things went on.
          >
          > The relationship of Eric and Shit did remind me of that between Marq and
          > Rat in _Stars_, only here, the question asked is "so you meet your
          > perfect erotic match... and then get to live with them for 70 years in
          > a milieu where sex is the primary way you spend your free time, at
          > least for the first few decades. What happens?" In _Stars_ I felt like
          > I got to get up and walk around Velm or Rhyonon a little, and when I
          > did, what I saw made my brain light up like a Christmas tree. There
          > was the potential for that here, but it largely didn't happen.
          >
          > The scene in the "Gay Friendly" men's room is the funniest scene I can
          > remember in all of Delany's fiction.
          >
          > I found the depiction of Eric and Shit as old men touching without
          > being mawkish.
          >
          > I read _The Mad Man_ once, when the first edition was published
          > (although I own the latest, as I have heard it is vastly improved
          > there, but I haven't been motivated enough to read it), and also
          > _Phallos_, and the statue depicted on the covers of those gets quite a
          > few pages devoted to it in _Spiders_. I don't remember what the
          > significance of it in the other works was, though. If any of you would
          > care to summarize for me, I'd be grateful.
          >
          > Who else here has finished it?
          >
          > --
          > Erich Schneider erich@...
          >
        • toddbehr60
          I ve been slowly working my way through Spiders since it came out. I m about 2/3 of the way through, and I m giving serious consideration to bailing. I read
          Message 4 of 15 , May 20, 2012
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            I've been slowly working my way through "Spiders" since it came out. I'm about 2/3 of the way through, and I'm giving serious consideration to bailing.

            I read a few chapters, then have to flee and read something less... unpleasant before returning. As one earlier poster commented, it's not the sex, it's the fact that the sex is boring. I mean, if Delany wants to bring pornography into the literary conversation, it somewhat behooves him to, you know, make the porno HOT!

            Sadly, it's not. I get more excitement out of a few minutes on xtube or the "nifty" erotic story archive. As a middle-aged gay man, I've participated in a significant percentage of the "transgressive" activities detailed in the book. Not in the volumes as the characters, and not with the dedication to plumbing the depths of dinge evidenced by Eric, Shit, Dynamite and their neighbors, but none of it is really shocking to me. Just kind of exhausting.

            So, OK, it's porno that's not meant to arouse. So then it must be trying to tell me something about the world, or at least about the world inhabited by Eric and Shit. I suspect Eric's attempts to read Spinoza are a clue, but I'm just not getting it. Do I need to stop reading "Spiders" and go read Spinoza before it will make sense?

            I keep waiting for something to happen that will connect with me as a reader. Instead, I get a torrent of the kind of stuff that, if you're not into it, just means nothing. I'm far more interested in an emotional connection that the mechanics of extreme fetishism.

            So, can someone tell me if there is ever any kind of emotional payoff? I'm starting to lose hope.
          • Eric Solstein
            I can t speak about the new novel at the moment, but the ongoing discussion brings to mind DeSade s Justine. It s a thick book with endless lists of abuses
            Message 5 of 15 , May 20, 2012
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              I can't speak about the new novel at the moment, but the ongoing discussion brings to mind DeSade's Justine. It's a thick book with endless lists of abuses practiced upon a sweet young girl (and many others, I seem to recall, as well), and it is not hot porn as far as I'm concerned. It felt endless and pointless until the immensely comic payoff at the end. Let me add, as an Eric who has made more than a few attempts at Spinoza, if you can pull off his Ethics, "Spiders" will be a breeze.

              -Eric Solstein
              For current work, archives & materials of interest, at YouTube:
              http://www.youtube.com/user/agentb27






              On May 20, 2012, at 4:16 PM, toddbehr60 wrote:

              > I've been slowly working my way through "Spiders" since it came out. I'm about 2/3 of the way through, and I'm giving serious consideration to bailing.
              >
              > I read a few chapters, then have to flee and read something less... unpleasant before returning. As one earlier poster commented, it's not the sex, it's the fact that the sex is boring. I mean, if Delany wants to bring pornography into the literary conversation, it somewhat behooves him to, you know, make the porno HOT!
              >
              > Sadly, it's not. I get more excitement out of a few minutes on xtube or the "nifty" erotic story archive. As a middle-aged gay man, I've participated in a significant percentage of the "transgressive" activities detailed in the book. Not in the volumes as the characters, and not with the dedication to plumbing the depths of dinge evidenced by Eric, Shit, Dynamite and their neighbors, but none of it is really shocking to me. Just kind of exhausting.
              >
              > So, OK, it's porno that's not meant to arouse. So then it must be trying to tell me something about the world, or at least about the world inhabited by Eric and Shit. I suspect Eric's attempts to read Spinoza are a clue, but I'm just not getting it. Do I need to stop reading "Spiders" and go read Spinoza before it will make sense?
              >
              > I keep waiting for something to happen that will connect with me as a reader. Instead, I get a torrent of the kind of stuff that, if you're not into it, just means nothing. I'm far more interested in an emotional connection that the mechanics of extreme fetishism.
              >
              > So, can someone tell me if there is ever any kind of emotional payoff? I'm starting to lose hope.
              >
              >



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Steve M
              I m glad I didn t read this thread until after I had finished the book. I think there s a reason that one of the only porn films actually mentioned as playing
              Message 6 of 15 , May 24, 2012
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                I'm glad I didn't read this thread until after I had finished the book.

                I think there's a reason that one of the only porn films actually
                mentioned as playing at the Opera is LA Tool and Die. The opening
                "Shack" sequence roughly mirrors the truck-stop orgy scene while the
                jackoff scene at the gas station later mirrors Eric's youthful
                experience watching his Greek neighbor.

                I too found myself often distanced from the sex scenes. It was, as
                one of the two big reviews said, like reading someone else's
                pornography--though I am gay and have done some of the things
                described. And I know men like some of the characters, in the sense
                of the sexual opennness and nonomogamy, the interplays between food
                and sex, the turnon around sweat and other smells, the sexual ease.

                You're right about the Nifty connection. I thought in particular of
                the "Bob Archman" Millennium Construction Company/Catfish series both
                for the idealized setting (rich benefactor for a blue collar utopia)
                and for the sexual ethics of openness and frequent desire.

                And yet there was something about the repetition of the sexuality,
                the slow change over time of acts and desires repeated and reenacted
                that in the end worked to reveal th relationship between the two men
                and their character. It was how they learned about one another; it
                was their shared language, and as age changes that watching the
                residue of character continue without that element was fascinating.

                One of the ways the book fights pornography is that
                pornography--especially writtren pornography--is almost always about
                newness: the first time, or the first time with that person, or the
                first time for that act. Pornography rarely sticks through the long
                haul of relationship, the doing the same things with the same person
                or people, the kind of joy of familiarity and repetition, of ritual,
                of knowing what turns this person on and doing it. So as the first
                half of the book wears on and it becomes more and more about Eric and
                Shit having sex again, it becomes almost anti-pornographic.

                These are just random thoughts.

                I do know that once time started accelerating I couldn't put it down.
                The new characters on the island, the ways the outside world
                intruded, and the way others tried to redefine Eric and Shit's story
                to fit it into the community narrative were all fascinating.



                At 8:16 PM +0000 5/20/12, toddbehr60 wrote:
                >I've been slowly working my way through "Spiders" since it came out.
                >I'm about 2/3 of the way through, and I'm giving serious
                >consideration to bailing.
                >
                >I read a few chapters, then have to flee and read something less...
                >unpleasant before returning. As one earlier poster commented, it's
                >not the sex, it's the fact that the sex is boring. I mean, if Delany
                >wants to bring pornography into the literary conversation, it
                >somewhat behooves him to, you know, make the porno HOT!
                >
                >Sadly, it's not. I get more excitement out of a few minutes on xtube
                >or the "nifty" erotic story archive. As a middle-aged gay man, I've
                >participated in a significant percentage of the "transgressive"
                >activities detailed in the book. Not in the volumes as the
                >characters, and not with the dedication to plumbing the depths of
                >dinge evidenced by Eric, Shit, Dynamite and their neighbors, but
                >none of it is really shocking to me. Just kind of exhausting.
                >
                >So, OK, it's porno that's not meant to arouse. So then it must be
                >trying to tell me something about the world, or at least about the
                >world inhabited by Eric and Shit. I suspect Eric's attempts to read
                >Spinoza are a clue, but I'm just not getting it. Do I need to stop
                >reading "Spiders" and go read Spinoza before it will make sense?
                >
                >I keep waiting for something to happen that will connect with me as
                >a reader. Instead, I get a torrent of the kind of stuff that, if
                >you're not into it, just means nothing. I'm far more interested in
                >an emotional connection that the mechanics of extreme fetishism.
                >
                >So, can someone tell me if there is ever any kind of emotional
                >payoff? I'm starting to lose hope.
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >------------------------------------
                >
                >== Posted to delany-list, hosted at yahoo groups ==
                >== A mailing list for the discussion of the works of Samuel R.
                >Delany. ==Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
              • Erich Schneider
                ... This was my experience as well. -- Erich Schneider erich@alumni.caltech.edu
                Message 7 of 15 , May 24, 2012
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                  Steve M <lists@...> writes:

                  > I do know that once time started accelerating I couldn't put it down.
                  > The new characters on the island, the ways the outside world
                  > intruded, and the way others tried to redefine Eric and Shit's story
                  > to fit it into the community narrative were all fascinating.

                  This was my experience as well.

                  --
                  Erich Schneider erich@...
                • vpoleganov
                  Towards the end we are told that Eric has read another book, besides Ethica, more than once. Is that supposed to be Barnes Nightwood? Finished it today and I
                  Message 8 of 15 , May 25, 2012
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                    Towards the end we are told that Eric has read another book, besides Ethica, more than once. Is that supposed to be Barnes' Nightwood?

                    Finished it today and I completely agree with what someone on the message board here wrote a while ago - TVNS is probably Delany's most satisfying novel since "Stars..."

                    --- In delany-list@yahoogroups.com, Steve M <lists@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > I'm glad I didn't read this thread until after I had finished the book.
                    >
                    > I think there's a reason that one of the only porn films actually
                    > mentioned as playing at the Opera is LA Tool and Die. The opening
                    > "Shack" sequence roughly mirrors the truck-stop orgy scene while the
                    > jackoff scene at the gas station later mirrors Eric's youthful
                    > experience watching his Greek neighbor.
                    >
                    > I too found myself often distanced from the sex scenes. It was, as
                    > one of the two big reviews said, like reading someone else's
                    > pornography--though I am gay and have done some of the things
                    > described. And I know men like some of the characters, in the sense
                    > of the sexual opennness and nonomogamy, the interplays between food
                    > and sex, the turnon around sweat and other smells, the sexual ease.
                    >
                    > You're right about the Nifty connection. I thought in particular of
                    > the "Bob Archman" Millennium Construction Company/Catfish series both
                    > for the idealized setting (rich benefactor for a blue collar utopia)
                    > and for the sexual ethics of openness and frequent desire.
                    >
                    > And yet there was something about the repetition of the sexuality,
                    > the slow change over time of acts and desires repeated and reenacted
                    > that in the end worked to reveal th relationship between the two men
                    > and their character. It was how they learned about one another; it
                    > was their shared language, and as age changes that watching the
                    > residue of character continue without that element was fascinating.
                    >
                    > One of the ways the book fights pornography is that
                    > pornography--especially writtren pornography--is almost always about
                    > newness: the first time, or the first time with that person, or the
                    > first time for that act. Pornography rarely sticks through the long
                    > haul of relationship, the doing the same things with the same person
                    > or people, the kind of joy of familiarity and repetition, of ritual,
                    > of knowing what turns this person on and doing it. So as the first
                    > half of the book wears on and it becomes more and more about Eric and
                    > Shit having sex again, it becomes almost anti-pornographic.
                    >
                    > These are just random thoughts.
                    >
                    > I do know that once time started accelerating I couldn't put it down.
                    > The new characters on the island, the ways the outside world
                    > intruded, and the way others tried to redefine Eric and Shit's story
                    > to fit it into the community narrative were all fascinating.
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > At 8:16 PM +0000 5/20/12, toddbehr60 wrote:
                    > >I've been slowly working my way through "Spiders" since it came out.
                    > >I'm about 2/3 of the way through, and I'm giving serious
                    > >consideration to bailing.
                    > >
                    > >I read a few chapters, then have to flee and read something less...
                    > >unpleasant before returning. As one earlier poster commented, it's
                    > >not the sex, it's the fact that the sex is boring. I mean, if Delany
                    > >wants to bring pornography into the literary conversation, it
                    > >somewhat behooves him to, you know, make the porno HOT!
                    > >
                    > >Sadly, it's not. I get more excitement out of a few minutes on xtube
                    > >or the "nifty" erotic story archive. As a middle-aged gay man, I've
                    > >participated in a significant percentage of the "transgressive"
                    > >activities detailed in the book. Not in the volumes as the
                    > >characters, and not with the dedication to plumbing the depths of
                    > >dinge evidenced by Eric, Shit, Dynamite and their neighbors, but
                    > >none of it is really shocking to me. Just kind of exhausting.
                    > >
                    > >So, OK, it's porno that's not meant to arouse. So then it must be
                    > >trying to tell me something about the world, or at least about the
                    > >world inhabited by Eric and Shit. I suspect Eric's attempts to read
                    > >Spinoza are a clue, but I'm just not getting it. Do I need to stop
                    > >reading "Spiders" and go read Spinoza before it will make sense?
                    > >
                    > >I keep waiting for something to happen that will connect with me as
                    > >a reader. Instead, I get a torrent of the kind of stuff that, if
                    > >you're not into it, just means nothing. I'm far more interested in
                    > >an emotional connection that the mechanics of extreme fetishism.
                    > >
                    > >So, can someone tell me if there is ever any kind of emotional
                    > >payoff? I'm starting to lose hope.
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >------------------------------------
                    > >
                    > >== Posted to delany-list, hosted at yahoo groups ==
                    > >== A mailing list for the discussion of the works of Samuel R.
                    > >Delany. ==Yahoo! Groups Links
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    >
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