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Phallos Paperback – 1 Apr 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press; Rev Enh edition (1 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819573558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819573551
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 22.9 x 1.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,363,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

SAMUEL R. DELANY teaches English and creative writing at Temple University and is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, most recently his novel Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. ROBERT F. REID-PHARR is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and author of Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Phabulous Phun 22 Dec. 2004
By Victor Cresskill - Published on
Format: Paperback
What a shame there's no image of the cover of this
book--it's quite handsome. Left of center is Delany's
mythical beast (which first appeared in 'The Mad Man') with a bull's head, a man's body, wings, and talons.

Visuals aside, I picked up this book
with a misgiving or two (after all, I'm a heterosexual male), but I must admit, I was delightfully surprised. Reminiscent of Borges, Delany opens with a missing text "rumored to have been in the possession of German classical antiquarian Johann Joachim Winckelman in 1768--an item that the 19-year-old murderer Arcangeli presumably made off with, along with the golden medals, after garroting the 51-year-old scholar in a pensione just outside Trieste."

From this point--the second paragraph--on, I was
hooked. A clever writer as intellectually
deft as Umberto Eco, Delany is a better wordsmith than Eco (judging from what reaches us in translation).

In addition to the multi-layered plot involving
a quest for the jewel-encrusted member of
an ancient deity (for which the book is named) this book is just a great deal of
postmodern fun involving two modern critics, the
internet, a young reader of homoerotic
fiction, and two male lovers navigating the
Mediterranean world during the reign of the Emperor
Hadrian. The back cover summary calls this book a
"Lacanian riddle to delight" and indeed it does. It
is one mirror reflected into another reflected into
another. One simple example: the search, in modern times, for an extant copy of the novel mirrors the search of Neoptolomus and his paramour, Nevik, for the fabled Phallos. But this is
not dry, academic, rarefied entertainment--far from
it. There are plenty of adventures, mishaps, escapes
and eventful twists.

Highly recommended reading for anyone who would like to see the convolute plots of Eco alloyed with the erudition and linguistic
splendor of Borges.

Don't miss it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A quest within a quest within a quest 1 Aug. 2013
By S. Maxey - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the original back in 2004, and this expanded edition is an even bigger tease: But that's the point.

According to rather stuffy essayist Randy Pedarson, somewhere out there is a lush, exotic picaresque gay pornographic novel named Phallos! Exactly who wrote it when is unclear (and is something Randy wished he knew, because it would increase his pleasure in what is already a favorite book.) The book is hard to find. Indeed, we are reading Pedarson's essay because a man named Adrian Rome twice briefly had possession of a copy and had it snatched from his grip, and this essay that recounts much of the plot and situation of the novel but teasingly leaves out all the explicit sex is all that Adrian has been able to find since.

As an enthusiast of Delany's work in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I experienced something similar around his pornographic novel The Tides of Lust [aka Equinox]. The book had been published briefly and withdrawn. University interlibrary searches showed a handful of copies--all of them housed in the noncirculating special collections sections of distant university libraries. Douglas Barbour teasingly discussed the novel in his book on Delany "Worlds out of Words." Finally I was in grad school at one of those libraries, and a little elf of a freshman I was sometimes flirting but not sleeping with who worked at the library promised to find a way to photocopy the book. It took him almost a year to do so. In that year, the anticipation for the always close but never present book was both frustrating and invigorating. And I sometimes started to doubt that it really existed at all, or that my delightful but fickle young friend would ever follow through on his promise. (That novel has since been republished twice and can now be obtained as an ebook, and besides the old well-worn photocopy, I have two official copies. Though I like the book, it is not nearly as wonderful as the unread text that tantalized me for half a decade and which I half suspect is still out there somewhere in some university library.)

So I empathize with Adrian Rome, and with fussy old Randy Pedarson.

And, in the novel within a novella (or at least the numinous glimpses we get of it through Randy's filter), I identify with Neoptolomus and his journeys in the second century AD that are driven by the secrets around a gold-encrusted phallus stolen from the statue of a nameless, naked, shrouded god (sketched on the cover within a cover of this edition of the book). What secrets it must hold! What lovers it puts into Neoptolomus's path. Early in the novel, Neoptolomus meets the emperor Hadrian and his young lover Antinous, And the novel within the novella spins a web of intrigue around the emperor and his lover--something it can do because so much of the real story of Hadrian and Antinous has been lost to history (or suppressed by those who found gay love unseemly).

I won't give away more. Suffice it to say, this is not a simple and straightforward book. It requires effort from the reader but rewards those labors with eruptions of joy, satisfaction and, yes, tantalizing teasing frustration. The accompanying essays helped enrich the text by throwing glimmers of light on the play of reflections, refractions and scrimmed suggestions scattered through the novella's text. And ultimately the play of desire (and its dark twin, dissatisfaction) throughout the book hints at a path toward finding a kind of life well lived--or at least suggests it is out there if you are willing to stop trying to capture it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
bumptious divertissement 30 Jan. 2006
By Furio - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr Delany enjoys a widespread acclaim by critics and common readers: with good cause, his mastery of the language is outstanding and he knows perfectly how to develop a good story.
Both qualities are to be found and appreciated in "Phallos" too but an author so esteemed must perforce keep his standards extremely high.

In this work he choses a literary topos: he feigns he has found an older work by an unknown author, a pornographical novel set in the late Roman empire and he engages the reader in a witty, cultured commentary on this novel, inserting erotic excerpts from the same.

Problem is, his "commentary" is not witty enough to stand on its own feet, and the excerpts, though teasing enough, are not so outright erotic as to give satisfaction at least in that way.

To read this work is just like reading an interesting literary essay (with some useless shows of erudition where the language is convoluted) about a work which does not exist.
Delaney at his best! 1 May 2015
By Ralphe Wiggins - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Samuel Delany is an amazing writer. He brings an enormous knowledge of history. He brings a deep understanding of how to tell a story. Even though he leaves out all the explicitly sexual, the book is all about sex, gay sex. My appreciation of Delaney is that he never backs away from a subject. He is out there investigating where a situation might take him. And, he makes it interesting.

The setup is that he is telling the story of a lost, highly sexual book but leaving out all of the sex scenes. It works. The book describes how the deleted sex affects the protagonists. Long descriptions of physical activity are not needed to appreciate the human interest.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Author/Reader/Narrator/Reviewer? 26 Sept. 2013
By Kenneth J. Haass - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are too many complicated references to others and their part in presenting this book. The sexual parts have been "sanitized" so that even the scatalogical parts are nowhere as disgusting as the de Sade classic. But, somehow, the approach and story line made me feel it was just too much effort to get to the end.
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