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Ruin in Perfection

26 Mar


Where to begin?

If a literary work being something other than what it seems (or seeming to be other than what it is?) necessarily categorizes it as a queering influence, then Delany certainly hit the nail on the head with Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.  I prefer not to be prejudiced before I read something new, so I was about two-thirds of the way through the book before I read so much as the back-cover synopsis.  My copy, the 2004 Wesleyan edition, seems to indicate that the crux rests on the sexual compatibility of the characters Marq and Korga.  My reaction on being thus informed was… is that really how this boils down?

Another third of the novel, and another round of supplementary materials, and  a long reflection lead me to the surprising realization that it is, in fact, how the novel boils down.  It is simply a case of some astute editing that allows that information to be as queering as the subject to which it relates, for it does not lead where it seems it should, either.

The bringing together of two individuals who are a perfect fit for each other seems, on the surface, such a crazily practical solution for the need to provide a crutch for Korga, that it nearly obscures the obscurity of the motivation for the Web in needing to do so much for her.  It is not until the scene of preparation for the formal dinner that a shadow, doubting the wisdom of the Web enters the conversation.  Marq asks Korga what dishes she likes and discovers that while Korga has been educated about customs related to food, about their ingredients and appearance, that the aspect of taste has been overlooked.  As Marq observes, quizzically, the taste “is what food is all about” (284).  On the surface, this might seem self-evident, but it immediately calls to mind the earlier depictions of Korga in her degraded state, as Rat, dining from a nutrient trough.  This creates a dichotomy reflecting on food as a means of subsistence, and food as a sensual pursuit, with Marq and Korga on either side of that divide.  Marq perceives the absence of the information of taste as being lost among superfluities, but, in the scheme of survival, taste must fall within the superfluous category.  The Web, containing such a superabundance of information, must constantly make critical choices over what elements of information pertain to any given situation, and must occasionally overlook what is, in fact, important.

As the epilogue relates, the information overlooked in connecting Marq and Korga is that the essential drive of the human is in seeking utopian instances which encapsulate elements of the realization of perfection.  Providing Marq with actual perfection removes the impetus for that drive, since everything pales against the reality she has known.   The emotional effect on her sense of self, of her identity as the seeker of this unique perfection, is similar to the physical surgery performed on Korga by gamma lasers.