Times Square Red (Allen)

Samuel Delany’s book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue was not at all what I had expected. I am still not entirely sure why he used this title. The only possible explanation I could think of was that “Times Square Red” was so named because of the way Times Square changed that involved the stopping (and then the “red” would refer to a red light) of much of the activity described in “Times Square Blue”; the movie theaters that catered to Delany and his group closed down, and Times Square became a tourist attraction. However, this does not explain the title of the first essay in this book.

I was also very confused by the fact that the expanded essay “Times Square Blue” came before “Times Square Red” in the book. I was surprised by this, and was a little disappointed that I did not get to focus on the more fascinating section of Delany’s book.  That being said, however, the discussion that Delany had in “Times Square Red” with his readers seemed to be much more introspective because of the notation format used throughout this essay.

The focus on the notion of contact and the many different forms it can take was fascinating because of the examples given throughout the essay. At one point, Delany is describing the old-fashioned contact that landlords used to have with their tenants, which I find to be simultaneously terrifying and ideal. The cleaning and presentation involved with such visits would put a knot in the very pit of my stomach, as I would worry about the overall appearance of my place as well as whatever food I served. At the same time, though, I would love to have a more friendly relationship with my landlord, instead of the arguments I have when something needs fixing.

People need contact. This seems to be the underlying message presented in the essay “Times Square Red.” Without contact of various types (as friends, coworkers, sexual partners, and various power-based relationships like teacher/student and boss/subordinate), a person is alone. As many people have noted over the years, people are social animals. There has to be contact for people to really thrive; even introverts want contact of some sort sometimes.

One comment that Delany made was, “Contact is Jimmy Stewart; networking is Tom Cruise.” This notion puzzled me for a while, and I find even a few days after reading this essay, I am still struck by this comment. Why these two actors? I am still trying to figure that out. Is it the old-fashioned, hometown vibe that Stewart gives off in his films versus the odd persona that Cruise has? I’m not sure. I invite commentary on this notion.

Discussion Questions:

~Could anyone figure out why Delany used that particular title for this work?

~How did the definition of contact (as told to Delany by his friend on p. 141) feel to you?

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