Samuel R. Delany’s –Times Square Blue
“Other people have chronicled other facets of the neighborhood– the transsexual bars, the hard-core hustling scene (male and female), the heterosexual peep show life. But this was my Times Square. Along with the theaters on or around Fourteenth Street–Variety Photoplays, the Metropolitan, the Jefferson, the Academy of Music– and half a dozen others before them or contemporary with them for shorter or longer periods…these were the social institutions that have seem me this far through my adulthood…They have ushered me to the portals of old age, as much a part of my growth and maturation as any other institution in the city” (89).
Samuel R. Delany’s, Times Square Blue, was written in October of 1996. One of the reasons for writing this text was to bring forth the issues created by the Times Square Development Project. Delany laments that outsiders see this area as dangerous (for many reasons) and therefore, there has been insurmountable political pressure to transform 42nd street. Delany responds by reconstructing the Times Square that he use to know by conducting personal interviews. The persons that are the subjects of his interviews range from– Ben, the shoeshiner, to men he had formerly been sexually involved, to random hustlers still hanging around the area.
Thus, Delany produces numerous first hand accounts of personal experiences to create a theoretical framework for analyzing boundaries. Specifically and initially, he examines the way Ben, the shoeshiner addresses people. In particular, the way he addresses women. Delany is interested in Ben because of the way he jumps back and forth between boundaries. “What bothers me in Ben’s routine is where the boundary sits. Ben didn’t put it there. But does his witty and always slightly disorienting performance help erase it? Or does that performance inscribe it more deeply? Honestly, I can’t tell. Perhaps it does some of both” (5).
By utilizing this example, he organizes a rather humanized exploration of the area to analyze and question various boundaries.His argument eventually moves beyond the mere physicality of the development project and brings forth several platforms which challenge:
- Sexual relations and Sexuality (What pornography did for these)
- Space (Public versus Private)
- Women (Absence)
- Desire versus Pleasure and
Delany uses sex movie houses as the dominant platform for this investigation. I believe that Delany’s purpose in compiling all of these testimonies is to allow outsiders to understand how this community was integral to the development of many people’s lives including his own. He wants to break down the boundaries between the developers and those who have spent much of their lives shaping their identity as a result of all his Times Square had to offer. After all, not many people would have the courage to expose themselves in such a way. His honestly creates a space to have the types of conversations that many have fear and/or avoided. Delaney, once more, laments, “What kind of leaps am I going to have to make now between the acceptable and the unacceptable, between the legal and the illegal, to continue having a satisfactory sex life?” (108).