2012 Challenges, Books

Book 103: After Delores – Sarah Schulman

If you have ever been spurned in love, then you know exactly what the unnamed narrator of After Delores is going through. And over the four months of the book she goes through a lot and most (if not all) of it is somehow connected to Delores. This book counts as number 10 of 25 for the 2012 Mount TBR Reading Challenge. This is also my 18th book of the year, meaning I have read 30% of my goal of 60 books this year putting me roughly 6%/4 books ahead of schedule allowing me a little flexibility over the next few weeks.

After Delores reminded me of how much one event can effect an individual’s life. Something as seemingly small as a break up (especially a bad break up) can be life defining. It is clearly a stretch, but this made me think about history and those epic events that happen in an era (think 9/11, any major war) and how the news media casts everything in either the pre- or post-event light. This is what Schulman does but on the individual scale.

Delores only makes occasional appearances, but each appearance only acts to further spur on the unnamed narrator into an agitated or obsessive state. At times I was often uncomfortable with the obsessive nature of the narrator. From the somewhat physical obsession with the gun she discovers early on to the completely neurotic obsession of finding Punkette’s killer. Each of these did provide a certain amount of suspense throughout the novel, but honestly they were a bit creepy.

In addition to the narrator and Delores, Schulman provides a colorful cast of characters most of which either annoyed me or made me smile. What she did a great job of doing was giving a true feeling of the grit and dirt of living in a big city (New York specifically). She also provided a unique, and I believe more powerful, view of what it was like to be a lesbian in a big city in the late 1980s and early 1990s. One particular passage brought this home,

“It’s too easy to be gay today in New York City. I come from those times when sexual excitement could only be in hidden places. Sweet women had to put themselves in constant danger to make love to me. All my erotic life is concerned with intrigue and secrets. You can’t understand that these days, not at all. Lesbians will never be that sexy again.” (57)

I have not read very much ‘lesbian’ centered fiction which is interesting considering how many female Women’s and Gender Studies professors I’ve had. I’m not sure why this is the case. This is definitely up there on the list of LGBT literature even with its somewhat heavy story line.

Recommendation: Check it out. It’s not a light read, but it does provide a great snapshot of LGBT life in New York City during the late 80s (in contrast to what Tales of the City does for the West Coast).

Opening Line: “I walked out in the snow trying to get away from Delores’s ghost. It was sitting back in the apartment waiting for me.”

Closing Line: “None of it meant anything to me. There was only one thing I really missed. I missed Delores.” (Whited out.)


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