06 September 2006

Delany in The Minnesota Review

The website of The Minnesota Review has posted a new interview with Samuel R. Delany by Josh Lukin, who has also written a new essay about Delany.

Minnesota Review is a journal that is quite hospitable to critical theory, so the topics and vocabulary are frequently abstruse, but it's a valuable conversation. I was interested to see that Delany engages with a few ideas from the Theory's Empire symposium that The Valve conducted last year, which leads him to one of the more concise and lucid summations I can remember reading of the difficulties of communication:
The words strike your ear, where, within your brain, the discourses that you inhabit guide them to the meanings you have associated with them. These meanings are thus called up in your brain. But my meanings never go directly into your brain and yours never go directly into mine. Communication, on that level, is simply an illusion, fostered by cultural and discursive similarities and congruences. Within the discourses you inhabit, the meanings have already struck up a desire to produce another meaning. Thus dialogue continues.
What Delany is talking about in the section from which I've pulled a small part are ideas he's been exploring for quite some time, and through continued refinement and reiteration he has developed what is, in comparison to most other writers on such topics, a notably clear way of expressing those ideas -- clear, but the ideas remain complex and difficult, which means no matter how careful the language, they remain challenging to comprehend. (Or, well, maybe it's just that I've read so much about these topics at this point that the language seems clear to me, despite how much I don't comprehend...)

I also particularly liked this passage from the last paragraph:
What I tend to find myself doing more and more is insisting on what we don't know--and that we would do ourselves a favor by ceasing to carry on as if we did. As a novelist, I move here and there and explore, looking largely for the fascinating pattern--for something that I might call form, or beauty, or sometimes even creation. As a non-fiction writer, I try to write about what I see and have seen here against what I see and have seen there—and what people have said about what is there, what is here, and to compare that to what I saw when I looked.
(Coincidentally, in the same issue is an interview with Donald Pease, who is head of the masters program I'm in at Dartmouth, and is the first reader for my thesis on Delany.)