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Black and White and the Color of the Cat at Night
on November 25, 2003
Samuel Delany has, through the years, greatly enriched the field of science fiction through his spectacular novels such as Nova and Babel-17 and short stories such as "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones". He has also done a great deal to bring the world of science fiction back into the field of recognized literature through essays and articles that have shown its richness, its ingenuity, its relationships with other forms of literature, and its ability to, at its best, illuminate the human condition in a fashion impossible in other forms.
This is an autobiographical rendering of his life from about age 14 to age 22. As might be supposed from his fictional writings, Delany is revealed to be both brilliant and highly unconventional. From his inter-racial marriage to Marilyn Hacker (who would later win a National Book Award for her poetry) at a time when such marriages where practically unheard of, to his awakening sexual predilections, this book is fascinating in its straight-forward directness, never avoiding describing events in detail regardless of how much the events were taboo or not mentioned in polite company.
Set with Delany's inimitable style, his ability to evoke pictures with words and seasoned with excerpts from some of Marilyn's (and his own) poems, Motion paints an indelible portrait of the tail end of the 'beat' era and the beginning of the 'hippie' movement. I found myself saying, yes, that is exactly how it was (even though Delany is six years older than me), as his work evoked some of my own memories of my early years away from home, living in a rat-trap with little income, the first experiences of actually living with a woman, the community of young people that wove around and over you, the passions and idealisms of youth.
On top of this, Delany lays forth the genesis of his early works, both their writing and his difficulties in getting them published. Some of the characters and situations of his novels take on a new light after reading this, seeing how much of himself Delany put into those characters. We find that Delany also has other talents besides writing: musician (once headlined above Bob Dylan), actor, and poet.
As they say in the movies: Warning: this book contains explicit sex scenes, both heterosexual and homosexual. Those who are offended by such should not read this book. But those who do read it will be rewarded with a great tale of life told with pin-point accuracy and all the emotion of great poetry.
This book took the 1989 Hugo for best science-fiction related non-fiction work, and it fully deserved it.
--- Reviewed by Patrick (hyperpat)