The Polymath or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman

The Polymath or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. Delany is my favorite writer, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to hear him speak, so it was wonderful to see this film, which is made up almost exclusively of Delany talking about his life and writing. Although the film itself is rather amateurishly made–there is no sense of narrative, it uses a lot of mediocre stock footage, the production value is very basic overall–I was mesmerized by it; it felt much shorter than its hour and seventeen minutes. It is clearly a labor of love on Taylor’s part, for which he deserves applause. Delany is such a fascinating person!

A lot of what Delany says in the film he has also said in his nonfiction, but I still learned some things about him/heard him express some of his ideas in exciting new ways. Here are some of my favorite examples:

Early on in the film there is a shot of Delany sitting in his apartment, and it is almost completely covered in bookshelves (there seems to be hardly any space for walking) that are all stuffed with books.

In his 20s, Delany would have 12-15 sexual encounters (as Delany makes clear in his writing, virtually all of this activity consisted of giving and sometimes receiving oral sex) per day while still getting at least eight hours of writing done, and he explains how it was easy for any gay man to do the same at the time if they just knew where to look.

Delany says that he’s “always been drawn to the kinkier side of life,” which is easy to guess judging from his writing, but I wish he had said more about this. “Kinky” as in he enjoys BDSM? Or what?

He believes that heterosexual monogamy is “vicious” because of how close-minded it is, though he respects people’s freedom to make this choice.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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