Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Delia’s Song is the first published novel of a well-established poet, but it is not a strong work. Lucha Corpi has gained critical acclaim for her Palabras de mediodía/ Noon Words (1980) and is well respected as a poet and fiction writer, with works appearing in numerous journals. Yet Delia’s Song, while fascinating in its efforts, fails to live up to Corpi’s artistic reputation.

Delia’s Song has much to recommend it, but as a fully grown, full-blown novel, it fails. One senses that it may have been hastily written, if gathered over three decades; one senses that the author may have been purging a past as much as creating a work of art. These speculations come to mind because the characters stay, for the most part, flat and undeveloped, even though the characterization of Delia does compel attention and respect.

The psychological complexity of Delia—even though she never quite becomes a flawed, endearing, human being—holds the key to the novel’s contribution to modern literature. The importance of the novel is its celebration of the intellect and sexuality of a Mexican (and, by extension, any) woman. In the description of Delia’s self-doubt, her tormenting concern about her talents, and her erratic (sometimes saintly, sometimes sexy) personal development, the novel indicates the jagged inner life of any young woman with a mind trying to maintain integrity in a world that is given to devaluing her.