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Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (Sexual Cultures)

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814719190
ISBN-10: 0814719198
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An award-winning science fiction writer, esteemed professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and celebrated essayist and memoirist, Samuel Delany is one of America's keenest observers. He was also a longtime habitué of many of the sex theaters in New York City's Times Square, spending, by his own estimate, "thousands and thousands of hours" at the Capri, Variety Photoplays, the Eros, and the Venus. In the 1990s all of these theaters were shut down through new restrictive zoning laws, part of a combined effort by the Walt Disney Corporation and the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani to gentrify the area, replacing these seedily memorable institutions with antiseptic, innocuous architectural and cultural creations in the name of health safety. But as Delany reveals in his new book, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, the decision to clean up Times Square had little to do with public health, and everything to do with corporate greed.

In the two essays that comprise this eloquent, provocative book, Delany grieves for the loss of this strip of sexual release. Though he is careful not to romanticize or sentimentalize the peep shows and porn theaters, he does illuminate the way in which these venues crossed class, racial, and sexual orientation lines, providing a delightfully subversive utopia--and a microcosm of New York life. In the first essay, "Times Square Blue," Delany details his shared erotic and conversational encounters with working-class and homeless men in the theaters (which primarily showed straight porn films) and the genuine friendships that resulted; these immensely personal reminiscences also provide a social history of late-20th-century Times Square. Drawing on historical and theoretical resources in the second essay, "Three, Two, One, Contact: Times Square Red," Delany next builds a thoughtful and passionate argument against the gentrification of the area and the classist, characterless direction in which he sees New York heading. Read together, the essays of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue are both heartfelt homage to a beloved city and lament for a quirky vitality increasingly phased out by encroaching capitalism. --Kera Bolonik

From Publishers Weekly

In a provocative and persuasively argued cri de coeur against New York City's gentrification and the redevelopment of Times Square in the name of "family values and safety," acclaimed science fiction writer Delany (Dhalgren, etc.) proves himself a dazzlingly eloquent and original social commentator. In the first of two radically distinct but related essays, Delany, an Amherst college professor and native of Manhattan, writes frankly about his gay sexual adventures in the peep shows, porno movie houses and bars of Times Square. This personal history is juxtaposed with a detailed record of how the city's red light zones have changed over the past 40 years. The companion essay movingly details Delany's sociological and anthropological observations of the men who live, work and socialize in the area, and extols the virtues of a society that not only tolerates but values a public sexual culture. Drawing upon a wide range of historical and theoretical materialsAthe history of the pornographic film, Jane Jacobs's Death and Life of Great American Cities and Supreme Court discussions about homosexual activityADelany makes the case that because urban areas like Times Square promote relationships across class boundaries, they are not a blight but foster an environment of safety, empathy and social coherence. In his most dramatic argument, Delany charges that, despite City Hall rhetoric, Times Square's "Disneyfication" is not about public morality, safety or health but simply serves corporate and private economic interests. This bracing and well-calibrated blend of journalism, personal history and cultural criticism will challenge readers of every persuasion. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Sexual Cultures
  • Hardcover: 203 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814719198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814719190
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 6.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Samuel Delaney has done the near imposible - he has written a book that is both titillating and informing. Dividing his cogent 21st Century social philosophy into two parts is at first disconcerting: Why are we reading (buying) a book that lets us in on the gossip of firsthand observation of Times Square New York, then in a page turn becomes a sophisticated academic treatise on our current social problems, in the City, and in a Country? Once past this mirage of a hurdle Delaney makes it patently clear why he chose this format. If we are introduced to a problem in a seductive manner, we pay closer attention to the bigger issues. This superb little book is illuminating in its exploration of where we are in our interpersonal relationships, our interplay with those around us (street, neighborhood, city, country), and our current drive to homogenize our world. Beautifully written, immensely readable, and a very important contribution to our social perceptions!
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Chip Delany, the writer/critic with the eight-inch... beard, has done it again. Two books in one, and both will give you lots to think about.
The first ("warm") half is an account of the now-vanished culture of random sexual encounters that once flourished in the Times Square area, especially in the porno theaters: alternately funny and tragic, and quite authentic, as I can attest from my own visits to the Adonis in ancient times.
The second ("cool") half is (indirectly) on the same subject: it's an essay dealing with the difference between "contact" and "networking" (I won't try to explain... read the book). Even though it never mentions the Internet by name, it says a lot about what the Internet is about, and what it's doing to us.
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Format: Hardcover
A remarkable book, with both the frankest discussion of people's sexual desires and needs of any book I've read in years, and a compelling argument about the crucial role places like the old Times Square play in the life of a city. A paeon to America's cities and an intimate history of a culture being destroyed. Delany's masterful prose makes this brief book a treat to read. A great stocking stuffer for the intellectually and sexually adventurous.
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It seems like a lifetime ago, but before there was a Duane Reade, Starbucks, and TD Bank on every street corner, New York was a different place. Working class people could afford to live in the Village, Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen or Clinton. Your neighbors were not all bland finance types who went to Wharton (I went to Penn, and I feel this way). Native New Yorkers actually worked waiter jobs and tended bar! New York was filled with rough and tumble guys who spoke English with non-Rhotic accents, lived in Single Room Occupancy houses, and those people rubbed elbows with college educated residents of the Upper West and East sides. There was a gritty-ness to the urban feel of New York street life, which now only exists in fleeting pockets, and is quickly being suplanted by the shining marble lobbies and spotless glass vitrines of LEED-certified office towers and luxury condos. Did I mention the Starbucks on every corner?

In the 1990s a short-lived Disney Store opened on 42nd street next to the Disney renovated Amsterdam Theater. The efforts to "clean up" Times Square came to be known (perhaps unfairly) as the Disney-fication of the district, but Sam (Chip) Delany chronicles in time capsule-like fashion the lost micro-culture that was displaced in the process. 42nd street or the "Deuce" as it was called, was populated by a heterogenous intersection of rich, poor, white, black, able-bodied, and disabled who partook in the subversive sub-culture of adult movie houses and peep shows. Chip successfuly shows how the mixing of the classes in the underground gay sex cruising, straight prostitution, and sundry commerce that took place on the Deuce, brought together New Yorkers from different walks of life, thus serving a civic function.
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Samuel Delany is best known as the author of science fiction novels such as Dhalgren. He is also the author of a brilliant memoir , The Motion of Light in Water.This book is ostensibly about the transformation of Times Square but it's also an extension and updating of Delany's memoir. Delany is not a disinterested observer.He's a participant in the activities he describes.That gives the book a power it would otherwise lack.Delany's focus is narrow. He is not writing so much about Times Square as he is about what I'll call "Porn World".That is the pornographic movie theaters,sex emporiums and bars that served the patrons of these places.The HQ of this Porn World is Times Square but its substation was around 3rd Ave and 14th St.(If you never saw it in the flesh , you may have seen it in Taxi Driver).Delany a brilliant highly educated intellectual, apparently loved these places.They were always doomed.There was no way the powers that be were going to allow Times Square a transportation hub and the nations premiere theater district to forever remain the domain of Jack The Stripper and Teenage Nurses.As for 14th St, once the East Village became hip and trendy and NYU needed land, that was it for the unusual forms of entertainment that thrived on the east side(along with a very low life drug culture).

The book is made up of two essays .I enjoyed the first one more.It's basically a collection of musings and observations, usually interesting , sometimes funny.The second essay put me off at first.It is "theoretical ". However I had a slightly revelatory experience after I started reading it.I was looking at THE SPECTATOR and I came across an article where the author talked about meeting a former manager of Roxy Music and later one of the Sex Pistols through drinking in pubs.
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