Bellona is a city at the dead center of the United States. Something has happened there…. The population has fled. Madmen and criminals wander the streets. Strange portents appear in the cloud-covered sky. And into this disaster zone comes a young man–poet, lover, and adventurer–known only as the Kid. Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and groundbreaking work of American magical realism.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.19(w) x 7.97(h) x 1.32(d)|
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Prism, Mirror, Lens
to wound the autumnal city.
So howled out for the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.
All you know I know: careening astronauts and bank clerks glancing at the clock before lunch; actresses cowling at light-ringed mirrors and freight elevator operators grinding a thumbful of grease on a steel handle; student riots; know that dark women in bodegas shook their heads last week because in six months prices have risen outlandishly; how coffee tastes after you've held it in your mouth, cold, a whole minute.
A whole minute he squatted, pebbles clutched with his left foot (the bare one), listening to his breath sound tumble down the ledges.
Beyond a leafy arras, reflected moonlight flittered.
He rubbed his palms against denim. Where he was, was still. Somewhere else, wind whined.
The leaves winked.
What had been wind was a motion in brush below. His hand went to the rock behind.
She stood up, two dozen feet down and away, wearing only shadows the moon dropped from the viney maple; moved, and the shadows moved on her.
Fear prickled one side where his shirt (two middle buttons gone) bellied with a breeze. Muscle made a band down the back of his jaw. Black hair tried to paw off what fear scored on his forehead.
She whispered something that was all breath, and the wind came for the words and dusted away the meaning:
"Ahhhhh . . ." from her.
He forced out air: it was nearly a cough.
". . . Hhhhhh . . ." from her again. And laughter; which had a dozen edges in it, a bright snarl under the moon. ". . . hhhHHhhhh . . ." which had more sound in it than that, perhaps was his name, even. But the wind, wind . . .
Motion rearranged the shadows, baring one breast. There was a lozenge of light over one eye. Calf and ankle were luminous before leaves.
Down her lower leg was a scratch.
His hair tugged back from his forehead. He watched hers flung forward. She moved with her hair, stepping over leaves, toes spread on stone, in a tip-toe pause, to quit the darker shadows.
Crouched on rock, he pulled his hands up his thighs.
His hands were hideous.
She passed another, nearer tree. The moon flung gold coins at her breasts. Her brown aureoles were wide, her nipples small. "You. . . ?" She said that, softly, three feet away, looking down; and he still could not make out her expression for the leaf dappling; but her cheek bones were Orientally high. She was Oriental, he realized and waited for another word, tuned for accent. (He could sort Chinese from Japanese.) "You've come!" It was a musical Midwestern Standard. "I didn't know if you'd come!" Her voicing (a clear soprano, whispering . . .) said that some of what he'd thought was shadow-movement might have been fear: "You're here!" She dropped to her knees in a roar of foliage. Her thighs, hard in front, softer (he could tell) on the sides-a column of darkness between them-were inches from his raveled knees.
She reached, two fingers extended, pushed back plaid wool, and touched his chest; ran her fingers down. He could hear his own crisp hair.
Laughter raised her face to the moon. He leaned forward; the odor of lemons filled the breezeless gap. Her round face was compelling, her eyebrows un-Orientally heavy. He judged her over thirty, but the only lines were two small ones about her mouth.
He turned his mouth, open, to hers, and raised his hands to the sides of her head till her hair covered them. The cartilages of her ears were hot curves on his palms. Her knees slipped in leaves; that made her blink and laugh again. Her breath was like noon and smelled of lemons . . .
He kissed her; she caught his wrists. The joined meat of their mouths came alive. The shape of her breasts, her hand half on his chest and half on wool, was lost with her weight against him.
Their fingers met and meshed at his belt; a gasp bubbled in their kiss (his heart was stuttering loudly), was blown away; then air on his thigh.
They lay down.
With her fingertips she moved his cock head roughly in her rough hair while a muscle in her leg shook under his. Suddenly he slid into her heat. He held her tightly around the shoulders when her movements were violent. One of her fists stayed like a small rock over her breast. And there was a roaring, roaring: at the long, surprising come, leaves hailed his side.
Later, on their sides, they made a warm place with their mingled breath. She whispered, "You're beautiful, I think." He laughed, without opening his lips. Closely, she looked at one of his eyes, looked at the other (he blinked), looked at his chin (behind his lips he closed his teeth so that his jaw moved), then at his forehead. (He liked her lemon smell.) " . . . beautiful!" she repeated.
Wondering was it true, he smiled.
She raised her hand into the warmth, with small white nails, moved one finger beside his nose, growled against his cheek.
He reached to take her wrist.
She asked, "Your hand. . . ?"
So he put it behind her shoulder to pull her nearer.
She twisted. "Is there something wrong with your. . . ?"
He shook his head against her hair, damp, cool, licked it.
Behind him, the wind was cool. Below hair, her skin was hotter than his tongue. He brought his hands around into the heated cave between them.
She pulled back. "Your hands-!"
Veins like earthworms wriggled in the hair. The skin was cement dry; his knuckles were thick with scabbed callous. Blunt thumbs lay on the place between her breasts like toads.
She frowned, raised her knuckles toward his, stopped.
Under the moon on the sea of her, his fingers were knobbed peninsulas. Sunk on the promontory of each was a stripped-off, gnawed-back, chitinous wreck.
"You. . . ?" he began.
No, they were not deformed. But they were . . . ugly! She looked up. Blinking, her eyes glistened.
". . . do you know my . . . ?" His voice hoarsened. "Who I . . . am?"
Her face was not subtle; but her smile, regretful and mostly in the place between her brow and her folded lids, confused.
"You," she said, full voice and formal (but the wind still blurred some overtone), "have a father." Her hip was warm against his belly. The air which he had thought mild till now was a blade to pry back his loins. "You have a mummer-!" That was his cheek against her mouth. But she turned her face away. "You are-" she placed her pale hand over his great one (Such big hands for a little ape of a guy, someone had kindly said. He remembered that) on her ribs-"beautiful. You've come from somewhere. You're going somewhere." She sighed.
"But . . ." He swallowed the things in his throat (he wasn't that little). "I've lost . . . something."
"Things have made you what you are," she recited. "What you are will make you what you will become."
"I want something back!"
She reached behind her to pull him closer. The cold well between his belly and the small of her back collapsed. "What don't you have?" She looked over her shoulder at him: "How old are you?"
"You have the face of someone much younger." She giggled. "I thought you were . . . sixteen! You have the hands of someone much older-"
"-crueler than I think you are. Where were you born?"
"Upstate New York. You wouldn't know the town. I didn't stay there long."
"I probably wouldn't. You're a long way away."
"I've been to Japan. And Australia."
He laughed. His chest shook her shoulder. "One year at Columbia. Almost another at a community college in Delaware. No degree."
"What year were you born?"
"Nineteen forty-eight. I've been in Central America too. Mexico. I just came from Mexico and I-"
"What do you want to change in the world?" she continued her recitation, looking away. "What do you want to preserve? What is the thing you're searching for? What are you running away from?"
"Nothing," he said. "And nothing. And nothing. And . . . nothing, at least that I know."
"You have no purpose?"
"I want to get to Bellona and-" He chuckled. "Mine's the same as everybody else's; in real life, anyway: to get through the next second, consciousness intact."
The next second passed.
"Really?" she asked, real enough to make him realize the artificiality of what he'd said (thinking: It is in danger with the passing of each one). "Then be glad you're not just a character scrawled in the margins of somebody else's lost notebook: you'd be deadly dull. Don't you have any reason for going there?"
"To get to Bellona and . . ."
When he said no more, she said, "You don't have to tell me. So, you don't know who you are? Finding that out would be much too simple to bring you all the way from upper New York State, by way of Japan, here. Ahhh . . ." and she stopped.
"Well, if you were born in nineteen forty-eight, you've got to be older than twenty-seven."
"How do you mean?"
"Oh, hell," she said. "It isn't important."
He began to shake her arm, slowly.
She said: "I was born in nineteen forty-seven. And I'm a good deal older then twenty-eight." She blinked at him again. "But that really isn't im-"
He rolled back in the loud leaves. "Do you know who I am?" Night was some color between clear and cloud. "You came here, to find me. Can't you tell me what my name is?"
Cold spread down his side, where she had been, like butter.
He turned his head.
"Come!" As she sat, her hair writhed toward him. A handful of leaves struck his face.
He sat too.
But she was already running, legs passing and passing through moon-dapple.
He wondered where she'd got that scratch.
Grabbing his pants, he stuck foot and foot in them, grabbing his shirt and single sandal, rolled to his feet-
She was rounding the rock's edge.
He paused for his fly and the twin belt hooks. Twigs and gravel chewed his feet. She ran so fast!
He came up as she glanced back, put his hand on the stone-and flinched: the rock-face was wet. He looked at the crumbled dirt on the yellow ham and heel.
"There . . ." She pointed into the cave. "Can you see it?"
He started to touch her shoulder, but no.
She said: "Go ahead. Go in."
He dropped his sandal: a lisp of brush. He dropped his shirt: that smothered the lisping.
She looked at him expectantly, stepped aside.
He stepped in: moss on his heel, wet rock on the ball of his foot. His other foot came down: wet rock.
Breath quivered about him. In the jellied darkness something dry brushed his cheek. He reached up: a dead vine crisp with leaves. It swung: things rattled awfully far overhead. With visions of the mortal edge, he slid his foot forward. His toes found: a twig with loose bark . . . a clot of wet leaves . . . the thrill of water . . . Next step, water licked over his foot. He stepped again:
A flicker, left.
Stepped again, and the flicker was orange, around the edge of something; which was the wall of a rock niche, with shadow for ceiling, next step.
Beyond a dead limb, a dish of brass wide as a car tire had nearly burned to embers. Something in the remaining fire snapped, spilling sparks on wet stone.
Ahead, where the flicker leaked high up into the narrowing slash, something caught and flung back flashings.
He climbed around one boulder, paused; the echo from breath and burning cast up intimations of the cavern's size. He gauged a crevice, leaped the meter, and scrambled on the far slope. Things loosened under his feet. He heard pebbles in the gash complaining down rocks, and stuttering, and whispering-and silence.
Then: a splash!
He pulled in his shoulders; he had assumed it was only a yard or so deep.
He had to climb a long time. One face, fifteen feet high, stopped him a while. He went to the side and clambered up the more uneven outcroppings. He found a thick ridge that, he realized as he pulled himself up it, was a root. He wondered what it was a root to, and gained the ledge.
Something went Eeek! softly, six inches from his nose, and scurried off among old leaves.
He swallowed, and the prickles tidaling along his shoulders subsided. He pulled himself the rest of the way, and stood:
It lay in a crack that slanted into roofless shadow.
One end looped a plume of ferns.
He reached for it; his body blocked the light from the brazier below: glimmer ceased.
He felt another apprehension than that of the unexpected seen before, or accidentally revealed behind. He searched himself for some physical sign that would make it real: quickening breath, slowing heart. But what he apprehended was insubstantial as a disjunction of the soul. He picked the chain up; one end chuckled and flickered down the stone. He turned with it to catch the orange glimmer.
Some of them, anyway.
Others were round.
He ran the chain across his hand. Some of the round ones were transparent. Where they crossed the spaces between his fingers, the light distorted. He lifted the chain to gaze through one of the lenses. But it was opaque. Tilting it, he saw pass, dim and inches distant in the circle, his own eye, quivering in the quivering glass.
Everything was quiet.
He pulled the chain across his hand. The random arrangement went almost nine feet. Actually, three lengths were attached. Each of the three ends looped on itself. On the largest loop was a small metal tag.
He stooped for more light.
The centimeter of brass (the links bradded into the optical bits were brass) was inscribed: producto do Brazil.
He thought: What the hell kind of Portuguese is that?
He crouched a moment longer looking along the glittering lines.
He tried to pull it all together for his jean pocket, but the three tangled yards spilled his palms. Standing, he found the largest loop and lowered his head. Points and edges nipped his neck. He got the tiny rings together under his chin and fingered (Thinking: Like damned clubs) the catch closed.
He looked at the chain in loops of light between his feet. He picked up the shortest end from his thigh. The loop there was smaller.
He waited, held his breath even-then wrapped the length twice around his upper arm, twice around his lower, and fastened the catch at his wrist. He flattened his palm on the links and baubles hard as plastic or metal. Chest hair tickled the creasing between joint and joint.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Recombinant City: A Foreword by William Gibson,
I Prism, Mirror, Lens,
II The Ruins of Morning,
III House of the Ax,
IV In Time of Plague,
V Creatures of Light and Darkness,
VII The Anathemata: a plague journal,
A Biography of Samuel R. Delany,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dhalgren is a weird case for me, because when I was first reading it and people asked me how it was, I would say, "I really like it, but I'm not sure I would recommend it." It's a very punk novel, in a post-apocalyptic and forgotten city called Bellona, with a poetic and sex-loving wanderer simply named The Kid as the protagonist. The point of view varies from past to present, from first to third tense seemingly at random; punctuation and complete sentences aren't a constant occurrence. It's like nothing I've ever read. It stuck with me long after I'd finished it in a way most books do not, and I came to realize that the reason I liked it so much was this: if I were to live in any bohemian anarchic society, this is the one I would choose. If you want to work you can; if not, you don't. If you want to be part of a gang, they'll welcome you; if you want to pretend life still goes on as normal, move into a vacant apartment. When you want to get laid, there's always someone there for you; if you just want to hang out with friends, they're already there. It follows the life of a free-living writer without getting bogged down in drugs like so many similar novels predictably do. It's creative and different and downright weird. But if you're turned off by detailed and nontraditional sex scenes, this book is not for you. And don't expect all the freaky stuff that happens in Bellona to have a neat and tidy explanation. It doesn't. Dhalgren is straight up something way different and fun for the adventurous. It's definitely a unique read.
This book can be read at multiple levels. As a slow-moving adventure tale, as a post-apocalyptic novel, and as a deeper, philosophical treatise on where humans are moving. I'm sure there are levels of thought in this book that are far beyond my comprehension, but as I reread this novel every five or six years, I hope to continue pulling things out that have escaped my notice in the past.
I read this book when years ago when it first hit the shelves. I read and reread it and the pages started to fall out. My book was destroyed by a forest fire when my camping trailer burned up. Now to buy another copy and start the journey with The Kid agin.
The story begins with this cryptic passage: "to wound the autumnal city. So howled out for the world to give him a name. The in-dark answered with wind." This is Samuel R. Delaney's finest work. I originally read this book in 1974 as a teenager, and my expectation of what I might expect to encounter in the written word was forever transformed. This is not a book for the casual reader. The author playfully juggles expectations, creating a growing sense of patterns never finally realized, with ultimate mysteries never solved. Much like life! The story isn't about endings, or enlightenment, but rather about experiences and perspectives. Understanding is the booby prize--experience is everything. Delany has a knack for turning reader expectations against the reader to baffle and transcend. We are accustomed to storytelling in the first person--stories being told by a narrator who understands, and has grown from the experiences that he now unfolds in the storytelling. But what if the narrator has a skewed view of reality, was unhinged by his experiences, has become confused, or been ravaged by incomplete menories? All that was known is over. All that was familiar is strange and terrible. Stripped of literary conventions, Dhalgren is that experimental novel. William Gibson calls Dhalgren "A riddle that was never meant to be solved." At the level of plot, in these dying days of earth a young drifter enters the city of Bellona--a fictional mythical city cut off from the rest of the world by some unknown catastrophe. As he wanders through the social disorganizetion of the ruined city, distorted by unexplained temporal anomalies, he encounters a cast of archetypal characters, individuals and gangs, too numerous to mention, each uniquely rendered. But this story is not constrained by its plot. The story ends: "I still hear them walking in the trees: not speaking. Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland into the hills, I have come to... " The unclosed closing sentence can be read as leading into the unopened opening sentence, turning the novel into an enigmatic circle. Dhalgren is a unique experience. an unexpected journey. You will never read another book like it.
There isn't much that I can say about dhalgren without completely blowing it, but I guess some description of this puzzle is necessary to get people to read it.
Dhalgren is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel set in the American town of Bellona. Delany's nameless protagonist wanders through the streets of this burning, constantly shifting city, trying to make heads and tails of what is going on. There's a lot of sex, drama and violence, as well as holographic dragons and animals roaming through the streets like gangs in a metropolis.
There are seven "books" to dhalgren, each one diving heavily into metaphysics and producing passages that break its usual third-person narrative. It's definitely not a book for people who are fans of series novels and genre fiction. If you like to think about what you read, then I'd suggest you give this one a shot. You'll spend much of your time deciphering the overall theme of the novel, but once you get into it, dhalgren is an extremely well crafted labyrinth that easily could be read over and over again.
Many books ask "what is art?", and so does Dhalgren, but it then provides solid clues, visceral demonstrations, and hard-core intellectual answers even. This sort of frontal attack on "art" was a first and a last in my experience of the SF genre. One suspects of any prose that is this rich and detailed that it must be somewhat autobiographical, that the characters are in some way real people. Hands down, this is my very favourite SF fiction book of all time. I agree with other reviewers that "this book is not for everyone". Big time. But this book in not at all cryptic. Not to me, anyway. The allegory is straight-forward and easy to interpret; it's pretty obvious what the city of Bologna is and what's going on.
I read through the whole 800+ pages. I shrugged. I might have got more excited about all the Hidegger-- Lev-Strauss-- whatever references when I was young and felt like there was some deep meaning behind such play. I no longer feel so; the whole thing just felt like a formalistic exercise. Plus, the 70's hippy- or whatever it is- spirit with all the free love and no showers really grates on todays' germophobic sensitivities. I can see how the cosmos of my favorite author, William Gibson, might have some roots in the bleak despair shrouding Bellona, but it doesn't make Dhalgren any more interesting.
I was told that this was "the book" to read and never look for another one. I may be too old, or disenchanted, but I found this pretty boring and repetitive. Good writing though.
Many say that Dhalgren is near impenetrable to some people - I didn't find this to be the case at all. Delany's ability to build a world and shape characters around this world is amazing. The way these characters change and adapt through the novel is remarkable.This book is a bit of an older one for a science fiction novel - written in the 70s - which usually, in my experience, makes books in this genre feel heavy and outdated, but this book is aging very well.It's not a book for everyone, though, that's for certain.
Some say that the incomprehensible nature of this book is what makes it a masterpiece. I say "WTF, Delaney?" Read it if you want to say you have, but you must be up for the challenge that this book presents. Bring a flashlight.
Dhalgren was probably the most literary science fiction I have ever read. I suppose I say that because it had little to do with plot, in the sense that there really wasn't one. But the characters and their interactions are very interesting. Also, I really enjoyed looking at the way people try to assemble--not meaning--but some shape of a life from a society that has collapsed.Definitely a book that will challenge people's ideas on sexuality, as well as race, gender, and how to define art. Some of it was rather intense for me to read, so I would not recommend this book to anyone who is easily offended.
I find this novel extremely difficult to describe. Whenever I try to pin down just exactly what it's about, I realize that it's mirroring my own ideas back to me. It's an extremely rare example of an experimental novel that succeeds so completely that it's hard to imagine anyone actually writing it.
A very weird book that sticks with you. The book feels like what one might sit down and write after a long night of weird dreams. Just as dreams can seem to have meaning but make no sense, so goes this book. It's worth reading if you are up for that kind of experience.
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, like the city where the novel is set, is a great, shambling mess of a novel, a true baggy-pants monster of a book. As the novel opens, the unnamed hero finds himself on the road to the deserted city of Bellona. He has lost most of his memory; he does not know where he comes from nor why he is going to Bellona. Bellona itself is equally mysterious. The city has been deserted by almost all of its inhabitants. The few people who remain roam the empty streets living like parasites on what remains. Some have banded together to try to build a new community in the city's main park. Others formed gangs that extort whomever they can. A small handful hang on to civilization by walling themselves up in a large mansion or shutting themselves up in apartments, refusing to accept the changes Bellona has been through.Bellona has suffered a singularity. It's not clear why the city has become cut off from the rest of America; no television, no radio, no telephones. Strange things happen. A building catches fire and burns for days without being consumed. Two full moons appear on the rare day when the constant smoke clears. Landmarks appear to shift. A single bus route is still running, its driver going where and when he will.The unnamed hero, who becomes known as Kidd, never helps the reader solve the riddle of Bellona. He knows little of his past but it seems he was once in a psychiatric hospital. He suffers blackouts that jar the novel's narration several times leaving more holes in the story rather than filling any. The third person narration is so closely tied to Kidd, that it becomes as unreliable as he is.Though the bulk of Dhalgren takes place in a single location, it's essentially a road novel. Kidd moves from one set of characters to another as he moves through the city. He begins at the commune in the park where he meets Lanya, a girl he will form a close bond with as the novel progresses. He spends the night with Tak Lafour, an engineer who moved into the city after its fall and became a sort of wise old man, the guy others go to for advice. Tak knows the fallen city inside out. Kidd gets a job moving furniture for the Richards family who insist on maintaining appearances, pretending that everything is normal as everything around them slowly falls apart. Mr. Richard's leaves for work each morning, though no one knows where he spends his day. Mrs. Richard's runs the family's luxury apartment as she always did, serving empty soup bowls at dinner time in a strange charade of the family dinner.Kidd has found a notebook, filled with someone's diary about the city. He uses the blank pages and margins to write poetry of his own which is published in a small edition halfway through the novel by the city's main celebrity Roger Calkins who keeps a large, walled mansion filled with celebrity guests from the outside world. One of them, a poet, takes an interest in Kidd and encourages his writing. By the end of the novel, Kidd has fallen in with a street gang, the Scorpions, who wear mirrored disks that create holographic disguises. Kidd forms a family, reuniting with Lanya after the commune in the park breaks up, who becomes his girlfriend. The two are joined by Denny, a teenager who shares their bed.What to make of all this? Should on even try to make anything?Science fiction author and fan of the novel, William Gibson, has said that Dhalgren is "a riddle never meant to be solved." But it's human nature to solve riddles, even when there is no solution.Some possibilities:In the midst of this massive, post apocalyptic science fiction novel, Kidd is writing poems. Here Dhalgren becomes an extended meditation on the creation of art, how art works, where it comes from, how it suffers when it becomes a commodity, how the artists must finally face the reaction of the public. Not something I expected to find in a science fiction novel.Though published in 1975, Dhalgren is a product of the 1960's; the influence of the hippi
Wow. Either there is a fictional Midwestern city, Bellona, where some sort of environmental disaster has occurred and now space-time there is in flux, or there was a disaster in said city and the narrator has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and we experience things through his perspective. The narrator in question can¿t remember his name, but chances upon moniker ¿the Kid.¿ Also seemingly falling to place-time is Kid¿s emergence within the half-abandoned city as its de facto poet laureate and chief gang leader. The relationship between the upper classes and rebellious gangs is amorphous due to the necessities of survival. The city becomes a laboratory for social experiments about sexuality, gender, race, class, violence, and mental health. The novel is metafictional and the relationship between reader/author, signifier/signified, intention/perception is all on the table. The line between the author and characters are blurred. We are never sure if Bellona constantly geographically shifting or Kid¿s mind is shifting. We are never sure if things are happening by chance or whether Kid is willing them to happen. The novel is hyper-subjective, but I¿m not sure if the narrator is Kid or the city of Bellona itself. Dhalgren is a fantastical carousel of possible meanings that Delany places devilishly on the blurry edge between figure and ground.The length of this book intimidates some readers, but Delany brings it all home in the end with a satisfaction you'd rarely get from get from other ergodic texts. Not that all that much is resolved, but meaning impregnates the text retroactively. The final sections of the book justify the picaresque structure of first three fourths. Dhalgren has been wrongly classified by many into the science fiction genre. Dhalgren is surreal, but its images to do not emerge from the unconscious. Its images are the nightmare traces of the structures of power revealed. In this way, Dhalgren is not an unconscious work, but a hyperconscious one. dhalgrendhalgrendhalgrendhalgrendhalgrendhalgrendhal
A turning point book for me. This is the first novel I did not complete and the first novel I threw away to save other from wasting their time. I read this about 5 years ago and really don't remember many details but it boiled down some loser is wanding thru a hellish future world with no point or plot. Maybe the book developed some plot after 100 pages but it just was not worth the time. Now if a book doesn't catch me in 50 pages, good bye. Too many great books to read. So in that respect Dhalgren did served a purpose.
It took me about a month to read this 801-page volume. A sci-fi adventure that explores an imaginary city in mid-America after a localized catastrophe that is never explained, it daringly skews much of what one expects from fiction. We don¿t know the main character¿s name (nor does he), the writing style moves in and out of prose and poetry, the story ends where it began and one¿s questions, on the whole, are never answered. The protagonist experiences life in a stream-of-consciousness series of episodes, where both time and reality are suspect, and the object of the journey is never clear. The book reminds me of both [Ulysses] and [Gravity¿s Rainbow], in that it¿s a multi-layered, myth-like tale. The difference, for me, was that here the characters are human and compelling, very well drawn, and thus charming or fascinating enough to sustain my interest. I enjoyed the book, and continue to meditate on its issues: race, reality, mental illness, gender, sexual preference, the writing life, the arts, music, light, politics, space exploration, violence, the military, the future, time, and on and on. William Gibson said it best in his comment that it is the ¿city-book-labyrinth that has swallowed astonished readers alive for almost 30 years ¿¿ And I among them.
Why I love Dhalgren...I read it first in my 20's, when I read lots of scifi and fantasy. The last time I read it was when I first moved to Santa Cruz and was living in a communal household with a bunch of other witches. It definitely resonated. Evocative and haunting, with stunning imagery. Plus, decades before Jonathan Safran Foer, the plot is a mobius strip. (so there) The image of the tree woman still haunts my dreams and there are non-judgmental depictions of aspects of the counterculture that just don't get discussed. If you hate hippies, skip it, but if you want to understand the 60's from someone who was there, pick it up.
An excellent book, and one of the works of SF/F that is likely to stand the test of time. It's not an easy read. It is complicated metafiction. Delany isn't going to hold your hand, and you're either going to be able to follow it and 'grok' what Delany is doing, or not. And to be honest, Delany doesn't care which one it is. If you're in the former category, it's a rewarding read.
I love Hard Sci-Fi and was recommended to me as such although I would call this much more then Sci-Fi. It was difficult for me to start through, but when I thought I couldn't read anymore I kept reading and reading and reading. By the end I felt accomplished and happy I read such a unique read and very pleased with the journey this took me on. While I will not recommend this book to everyone it is in my opinion very worth reading if you are willing to give it a try and have an open mind.
If you come ftom another planet .
I read this book a long time ago (before Nooks were born for sure) and was engrossed from page one. Often I did not know what was happening or who was what, but the writing was so captivating, it didn't matter. I have since read it again and enjoyed it just as much the second time. Now here it is on Nook - I'll have to get it on this venue and read it again.