Delany, Too, in The Paris Review

Continuing our marathon coverage of The Paris Review ‘s summer 2011 issue –there was also an  interview with Samuel Delany. (Remember, it’s always news to somebody.)

Delany begins with an anecdote about his Dad moving to Brooklyn in 1923:

Because Dad wanted to see the skyscrapers, someone told him he should walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Back then, of course, Brooklyn was nowhere near as built-up as it is today, and as he got to the other side, he saw a big cornfield—where Borough Hall is now—an immense cornfield stretching off into the distance. His first thought was, They told me Brooklyn was supposed to be part of New York City. But coming off the bridge here is like walking right back into North Carolina!

In 1993, when Dad was dead and I started to write my story, I realized that was the same time—year and season—that Hart Crane had moved into his new home at 110 Columbia Heights, in Brooklyn. The first thing Crane did was start writing the poem “Atlantis,” which became the final section of his poetic sequence The Bridge. There’s a reference in it to corn and another to fields. It struck me, That’s got to be the same cornfield my dad saw. It’s got to be!

When Crane looked from his window, he must have seen the same corn my dad saw when he crossed the bridge. So that’s what gave me the idea—and the title. Why, I thought, don’t I write a story about the two of them meeting each other on the bridge?

Warning: Gary Farber may have reported this on Facebook months ago. Verification coming in five, four, three, two…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

6 thoughts on “Delany, Too, in The Paris Review

  1. I wish you’d actually used what I sent you, which was that his dad seeing a giant cornfield where Brooklyn Borough Hall later came to be, can’t possibly be true. That building was built in 1846; the area you see coming off the Bridge has been heavily built up since the early part of the 19th century. My own building, several blocks southwest of the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge, dates from 1883, and there are nearby houses which date to 1820.

  2. @Andy: Why didn’t I run the entire excerpt you sent me? Well, Samuel Delany can publish the n-word. The Paris Review can publish the n-word. However, I doubt if the internet is prepared for me to publish the n-word.

  3. N3F? Neofan? NorwesCon? NovaCon? NASFiC?

    You just published that N-word, but you did it in such a way that everyone (well, almost everyone) knows what you mean. You could have done so in the article.

  4. @Andy: Be sensible. The only choice is to quote exactly what Delany wrote or to skip that part of the anecdote.

  5. Mr. Porter:

    It’s a fairly standard idea that only members of a particular group can use a derogatory name for that group. My last name is German in origin, so my cousins and I could call each other “Krauts” in a joking fashion, but it would be offensive for someone not German in ancestry to use that word.

    The same applies to what Mike did. His discretion in using an initial instead of using a word which Mr. Delany was able to use because of his ethnic background was perfectly appropriate.

  6. My friend Dr. Joseph Bentz just wrote an article, “Censoring a Classic”, about the new edition of Huckleberry Finn which removes all occurrences of the n-word and replaces it with “slave.” He uses the uncensored version in the classroom, but his article explores both sides of the argument.

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