I'm finally having time to read the last selection from the queer book group I was invited to join via internet dating site, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R. Delany. I mentioned this book a while ago, but life got so hectic that I simply was unable to find the time to get a good start on actually reading it until now.
The book consists of two extended essays; the first, Times Square Blue, is about the author's personal experiences interacting with people and places on Forty-Second Street, a notorious hotbed of sexual activity, pornography, peepshows, and movie theaters. It's something of a homage, since the area is quickly being cleaned up by the city of New York in order to increase tourism and improve its image. Delany writes, as something of a summation of why this book exists:
"With the rush to accommodate the new, much that was beautiful along with much that was shoddy, much that was dilapidated with much that was pleasurable, much that was inefficient with much that was functional, is gone. The idea that all that is going is ugly and awful is as absurd as is would be to propose that what was there was only of any one moral color. What was there was a complex of interlocking systems and subsystems. Precisely at the level where the public could avail itself of the neighborhood, some of those subsystems were surprisingly beneficent--beneficent in ways that will be lost permanently unless people report on their own contact and experience with their subsystems."
Much of the first essay consists of personal reminiscences of Delany's experiences, both in terms of sexual experiences and with the neighborhood as a whole. There are stories of shoeshine men and taxi dispatchers, and then there are stories of blow jobs in theater seats. There are histories of hustlers and buildings and homeless people. I appreciate authors who can talk about themselves explicitly in order to make a point, such as Juana Maria Rodriguez's discussion of cybersex in Queer Latinidad (well worth checking out), and Delany does so with a vengeance. He makes no bones (ahem) about his sexual activity, and why should he? "A glib wisdom holds that people like this just don't want relationships. They have "problems with intimacy." But the salient fact is: These were relationships... In... several, they were relationships that lasted years. Intimacy for most of us is a condition that endures, however often repeated, for minutes or for hours. And these all had their intimate hours. but, like all sane relationships, they also had limits." One of my favorite ideas from The Ethical Slut was that relationships, given time and space and attention, will reach their own level. If that level is semi-anonymous consensual and mutually enjoyable sex in a movie theater, is that such a bad thing?