EXCERPT: He took the pen from his pocket and began to click the point. (He hadn't put the orchid on . . . ?) After a moment, he stopped to take the weapon from his wrist and put it through his belt loop again: moving armed through the streets might be provocative . . . ?
He looked around again, opened his notebook, turned quickly past "Brisbain" to a clean page, halfway or more through.
"Charcoal," he wrote down, in small letters, "like the bodies of burnt beetles, heaped below the glittering black wall of the house on the far corner." He bit as his lip, and wrote on: "The wet sharpness of incinerated upholstery cut the general gritty stink of the street. From the rayed hole in the cellar window a grey eel of smoke wound across the sidewalk, dispersed before" at which point he crossed out the last two words and substituted, "vaporized at the gutter. Through another window," and crossed out window, "still intact, something flickered. This single burning building in the midst of dozens of other whole buildings was," stopped and began to write all over again:
Pen and crumpled paper in his hand; he was breathing hard. After a moment, he straightened out the paper, and on a fresh page, began to copy again: "Charcoal, like beetles heaped under the glittering wall . . ."
He folded the torn paper in four and put it back in the notebook when he had finished the next revision. On the back the former owner of the notebook had written:
. . . first off. It doesn't reflect my daily life. Most of what happens hour by hour is quiet and still. We sit most of the time
Once more he made a face and closed the cover.
Jewel-Hinged Jaw 1977
Delany's critical essays, many of which are collected in THE JEWEL-HINGED JAW (1977), are deeply concerned with what Delany calls the Language of Science Fiction -- "What are 'Bradbury,' 'Sturgeon,' 'Cordwainer Smith,' 'R. A. Lafferty,' 'Heinlein,' and 'Jack Vance' if not, essentially, the individual narrative tones with which their ideas are put?" Delany believes that SF, like poetry, is something that we must learn how to read. To that end, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw contains close, insightful textual analyses of writers such as Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Roger Zelazny, et al.
Richard M. Powers' cover painting for The Jewel-Hinged Jaw is one of his finest Surrealist landscapes, clearly inspired by the work of Yves Tanguy, but unmistakably a painting by Powers. Quiet prevails, a cool blue silence. It is though we are seeing for the first time Plato's world of forms in which Man has been reduced to his essence, an Eye (perception) and a Jaw (communication/speech). Unfortunately, this is the sole book of Delany's to have been graced with a cover by Powers.
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