The Atheist in the Attic – Samuel R Delany

I have moaned on my sister blog about Amazon reviews and how they are pretty worthless on all fronts. I also argue that there is a lot of consistency in the star distribution of the reviews, enough so that I find the whole endeavor pretty suspect. So make what you will of the following:


Screenshot_2020-07-01 The Atheist in Attic (Outspoken Authors Book 20) - Kindle edition by Delany, Samuel Literature Fictio[...]

That’s difficult for me. While I love Delany (truly) I feel like it is against human nature that something should get 100% positive reviews. Even if it is great, someone will dislike it just to be contrarian.

That isn’t what this review is about.

The Atheist in the Attic is a historical novel that follows the 18th Century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz as he has an encounter with one of his contemporaries, Baruch Spinoza. Leibniz makes plans to visit him, does so, and they have a conversation. The novella then concludes.

Right there this book ticks a lot of my boxes. A philosopher as a protagonist, a vividly described historic setting, excellent writing in general, and enough background historic information to cement it all together. In many respects this small work is excellent, particularly as I only had a passing knowledge of Leibniz, Spinoza and the Rampjaar. And I really cannot emphasize enough to what extent Delany’s writing is just plain and simple my cup of tea.

Delany is my favorite author. Or maybe, I don’t have a favorite author anymore because I am in my mid-30’s and statements like that don’t make a whole lot of sense to me anymore. Delany was the favorite author of the man I was in my twenties, who in a ship-of-Theseus sense I no longer am, and maybe the last favorite author I will ever have. But I sometimes have doubts. I loved his books as a young man, but I have become increasingly weary of vaguetries and interpretive endings. And I did finish this book not entirely sure if I understood what I was meant to come away with regarding the brief interaction of these two men. I have read enough Delany to trust that is this is where this novel ended, than that is where he meant to end it, and I think he has the kind of industry clout that wouldn’t allow from any kind of editorial interference. But something about it didn’t feel complete to me. I just wasn’t sure I got the point of it all.

This isn’t new, particularly with Delany. This is what the detractors of his Magnum Opus, Dhalgren, said about that book.  And that makes me worried, more about myself than Delany. I am sure he will be fine.

Perhaps I am just dumb and needed things spelled out for me. Could be.

So now I am both confused and pained. I liked this book. But did I five star like it? I go out of my way not to say anything on this blog that could be construed as a quantitative rating. but if I were, would I blemish this perfect score?

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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