memoir: life in an urban commune, 1967-68 NYC
Delany's rich prose does an outstanding job of illuminating the conditions the commune lived in: the four-to-a-bed, communal baths, kitchen arrangements for 15 or so, scrounging for food and dollars, personal hygiene, arguments, discussions, lover arrangements, drugs, and occasionally some working sessions for the band. For those who reached their maturity around this time, who felt the siren call of the counter-culture, every line of this book will resonate, will force memories of and the feel of that time. The character portraits he paints reek of authenticity; the dialogue is real; nothing is left out, no matter how filthy, degrading, lovely, exhalting, boring, unusual or commonplace.
Pieces of this experience clearly were incorporated in his massive Dhalgren, and this book and the earlier Motion of Light in Water will help illuminate much of the frequently obscure situations of that book.
Between the two books, Delany reveals himself as a man of great and diverse talents: songwriter/singer/guitar player, actor, author, poet (though he doesn't think much of his own work, preferring that of his then wife, Marilyn Hacker), critic, organizer, peace-maker. Rather oddly, though, Delany himself doesn't seem to be the forefront character of this piece, but more of an observer of the scene.
Heavenly Breakfast, perhaps because it is so short and covers only a single year of his life, is not as rich as Motion, but is still full of his intense images and great prose: "In the other room, the woman-voice wound its obstacle course through consonant-studded invectives." Not many would describe an argument that way.
A great trip down memory lane; a sure portrait of a time and place that may never come again.
The beauty of this book is the (mostly) non-judging way Delany percieves the world in that period.