Delaney, Samuel. “Dark Reflections”, Carroll & Graf. 2007.
“Dark Reflections” is the story of Arnold Hawley, a gay African-American New Yorker who is a poet. The book looks at Hawley’s life in reverse. It is divided into three parts, “The Prize”, “Vashti in the Dark” and “The Book of Pictures”. The sheer honesty of the book is what makes it so special.
Book One begins when Hawley is fifty and he wins the Alfred Proctor Award for his sixth book of poetry. He has now risen to the height of his profession and has achieved a degree of literary success, Exactly eighteen years afterwards, Hawley published a new book which because of its lack of success causes him to be lonely and afraid to get any older. He breaks down when his aunt dies and he feels he cannot go to the funeral. Part One really deals with his fears, his mental condition, and his loneliness.
Part Two goes back to 1974 and Hawley’s unhappy marriage to Judy Haindel. It seems that his wife has problems which bring about emotional and physical catastrophic consequences. It is in this section that Hawley writes his third book.
In “The Book of Pictures”, Part Three of the novel we return to Brown And Hawley’s college days and his first sexual experience with a male.
The three parts taken together give a beautiful look at the life of a successful gay African-American in a way that I do not think it has been portrayed before. We look at social attitudes, loneliness and a sense of triumph. The book also has something to say about Delaney himself. Interestingly enough the name of Hawley’s prize winning book of poems is the same as the author’s most famous novel. Delaney, himself, wrote poetry until he gave it up for the financial rewards of writing science fiction and memoirs. Hawley and Delaney are both African American gay men and I can only question that if “Dark Reflections” is a fictionalized look at the author’s own life. Many different questions can be asked if this supposition is correct but the one thing above all else is deal with questions of loneliness and despair as one ages. The book is beautifully written and the story is complex. It is powerful in the way it deals with the issues it confronts and we can all be so much better off because of that. The honesty and truthfulness of the book makes this a sad story and is in opposition to what Delaney usually gives us—fantasy. But it is the out and on the button honesty of the book that makes it so rewarding.