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I picked it up because, when I found out about the author, I read that Harper Collins paid him a million-dollar advance for his second novel.This made me very curious, especially since the (now abandoned) working title for my current project was , which shows more visceral knowledge of the city, but with the same intense awareness of its sounds and smells.

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It even taught me this delightfully un-Western pejorative for a Muslim: “landya”.

The consolations of literature: now when a coreligionist annoys me, I can mutter “Maderchod landya” and feel a little better about life. I like the end-of-days weirdness and bisexual abandon of Delany’s science fiction, which teeters on the edge of discomfort, but this was something else.

Most cucumbers are monoecious, which means they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant.

Under normal circumstances, the female flowers need to be pollinated by insects in order to instigate fruit development.

Neither novel has a black hero, although it seems to me both channel the public horror of racial oppression into the private predicament of fraught sexuality.

I hadn’t actually read any Baldwin when, exactly halfway through , I put away my Kindle and picked up this pretty little paperback, the Penguin Great Loves edition: a gift from my friend the literary wunderkind Noor Naga.

There is a tightly constructed plot line custom-designed to accommodate those two registers of discourse with the precision of a one-act play.

But most remarkably there is prose, incredible, transcendent prose, prose as lucid and adaptable as the variable focus of a bright 50mm lens exposing soul-sensitive film.

Now it is interesting to speculate how Baldwin might’ve approached a sex scene had he written one. There is tremendous sensual emotion and ruthless satire, people reduced to their ignoble roles in shame-filled personal dramas.

There is immersive lyricism, melancholy but seldom bitter, and sprinkled with bursts of joy.

Growers can take advantage of this anomaly to produce highly desirable seedless fruit – all they have to do is prevent pollination, either by removing the male flowers as soon as they appear or, for protected crops, by eliminating insects from the greenhouse or tunnel.