Delany, Samuel. “In Search of Silence: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany, Volume I, 1957-1969”, (edited by Kenneth R. James), Wesleyan, 2017.
Private Journals, Private Thoughts
For fifty years Samuel Delany has charmed us with language and his works of fiction, criticism, and memoir. His newest book is the first in a series of a his private journals, beginning in 1957 when he was still a student at the Bronx High School of Science, and ending in 1969 when he was living in San Francisco and on the verge of writing the novel that would become “Dhalgren”.
We read his musings on the writing of the stories that established him in the genre of science fiction wunderkind, the early years of his marriage to the poet Marilyn Hacker, his performances as a singer-songwriter during the heyday of the American folk revival, travels in Europe, experiences in a New York City commune, and much more. We learn of his relationships with other writer who were them working in many genres, including poets such as Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, and Marie Ponsot, and science fiction writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, and Joanna Russ. Delany scholar Kenneth R. James presents the journal entries as well as samples of story outlines, poetry, fragments of novels and essays that have never seen publication as well as provides biographical synopses and an extensive set of endnotes that give contextual information and connect journal material to Delany’s published work.
We see Delany’s wit, sensitivity, penetration, playfulness and the incandescent intelligence that have come to will characterize Delany and his work. The journals clarify questions of the writer’s process, and his development. Near the end of December 1957, Delany began carrying around a spiral notebook and in which he noted his thoughts, observations, poetry, sexual fantasies, notes for stories, and many other things. It is very possible that he is doing so today as well.