Dhalgren Hardcover – Jun 1977
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What is Dhalgren? Dhalgren is one of the greatest novels of 20th-century American literature. Dhalgren is one of the all-time bestselling science fiction novels. Dhalgren may be read with equal validity as SF, magic realism, or metafiction. Dhalgren is controversial, challenging, and scandalous. Dhalgren is a brilliant novel about sex, gender, race, class, art, and identity.
A mysterious disaster has stricken the midwestern American city of Bellona, and its aftereffects are disturbing: a city block burns down and is intact a week later; clouds cover the sky for weeks, then part to reveal two moons; a week passes for one person when only a day passes for another. The catastrophe is confined to Bellona, and most of the inhabitants have fled. But others are drawn to the devastated city, among them the Kid, a white/American Indian man who can't remember his own name. The Kid is emblematic of those who live in the new Bellona, who are the young, the poor, the mad, the violent, the outcast--the marginalized.
Dhalgren is many things, but instantly accessible isn't one of them. While most of this big, ambitious, deeply detailed novel is beautifully pellucid, the opening pages will be difficult for some: the novel starts with the second half of an incomplete sentence, in the viewpoint of a man who doesn't know who he is. If you find the early pages rough going, push on; the story soon becomes clear and fascinating. But--fair warning--the central nature of the disaster, of its strange devastations and disruptions, remains a puzzle for many readers, sometimes after several readings.
Spoiler warning: If you want to figure out the secret of the novel as you read Dhalgren, then stop reading this review right now! If you want to know the secret before you start, this is what the novel is about: the experience of existence inside a novel. Time passes differently for different characters. A river changes location. Stairs change their number. The Kid looks in a mirror and sees not himself, but someone who looks an awful lot like Samuel R. Delany. Central images include mirrors, lenses, and prisms, devices that focus, reflect--and distort. The Kid fills a notebook with a journal that may be Dhalgren, and is uncertain if he has written much, or any, of it. The characters don't know they're in a novel, but they know something is wrong. Dhalgren explores the relationship between characters and author (or, perhaps, characters, "author," and author).
The final chapter can be even tougher going than the opening pages, with its viewpoint change and its stretches of braided narrative--and the novel ends with the beginning of an unfinished sentence. But the last chapter becomes clear as you persevere; and when you get to that unfinished closing line, turn to the first line of the novel to finish the sentence and close the narrative circle. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
Published back-to-back in 1975 and 1976, respectively, these works involve an apocalyptic society on the verge of collapse and a utopian society at war with Earth. LJ's reviewer dubbed Dhalgren an "important novel" (LJ 3/15/75).
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Because we're dealing with a famous book here. It could just be that there is nothing there to get. That is possibly the unsatisfying truth behind the various shadows and games that this book throws at the reader.
I enjoyed the creative "difference" of this book, but found myself sometimes flipping through sections where it just read about as interesting as what I did today. An author like Zelazny would be smart enough to make this book, he would also be smart enough to do it in less than 500 pages, instead of bloating close to 1000.
And the sex scenes... oh the sex scenes. I gritted my teeth through them so many times I have to go to the dentist. Mr. Delaney, we get it. Your character likes kinky sex with everything that moves, and possibly some things that do not. Half of them could have been stripped out and still it would have been like bashing the reader over the head with it.
I would get through a few more pages and then groan, right back to having sex.
That is my major criticism with this book. The prose is wonderful, but through major sections I felt like I was watching a juggler who was purposefully showing me how many balls he can keep in the air. Clever sentence follows clever sentence follows clever sentence. If I had written this for my English teacher, she would have bopped me on the head and said, "Yes, I know you are clever, you don't have to keep showing me."
And that in the end was how this book was for me. It is too much of some very good things.Read more ›
Dhalgren is not a book for everyone; in fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's not for most people. Delany's work is definitely influenced by the fact that he is a gay black man, so if you're expecting normal sexual and emotional relationships, look elsewhere. It's also a dense book, which your average Grisham- or Crichton-reading person is not going to get, or even want to get. It's also long and slower-paced than most books I've read.
That said, it's also one of the most fascinating tales I've read to date. I have sincere worries I'll ever be able to look at, say, a Philip K. Dick book with quite as much reverence again.
It is a labyrinthine book, a sort of wandering narrative that somehow stays carefully focused as the tale weaves continually through its long tale. In his foreword, William Gibson said, "I have never understood it. I have sometimes felt that I partially understood it, or that I was nearing the verge of understanding it. This has never caused me the least discomfort, or interfered in any way with my pleasure in the text. If anything, the opposite has been true."
When I read those words before starting the text, I had my doubts, along with a few lofty - but misplaced - ambitions. How, I wondered, could you not "get" a book, yet still enjoy it? "Maybe I can figure its mystery out," I said to myself. How foolish I was.
In re-reading the foreword after finishing the book, I see now that Gibson was absolutely right. "Dhalgren," he says, "is not there to be finally understood.Read more ›
There is a lot going on in the book, but for me, the central conceit seemed very clear (SPOILERS FOLLOW), although brilliantly unorthodox:
The disaster that creates Bellona (a post-apocalyptic city) is the coming together of two equal and opposite forces - a black man (George) and a white girl (not a woman-- June). Each has an stereotypical aspect: George is the sexually insatiatiable rampaging black rapist, June the helplessly vulnerable innocent white victim. But each has a more hidden aspect that runs counter-stereotype. George is a hero who saves children from a burning building, while June is a hypocrite who murders her own brother to cover over her appetites.
They come together in an act that appears to be rape, but which may actually be an piece of playacting created for the pleasure of the participants. This transgression is what warps time and space in Bellona, setting off a series of events in which a white sniper kills black children, the black residents riot and burn the city, anarchy sets in and people flee, armed gangs take over the streets, middle-class residents take refuge in fortresses of delusion, June stalks George in a combination of attraction and repulsion and the entire cycle repeats over and over, endlessly.
In this way the book is a psychological portrait, not only of the Kid --a racially and sexually ambigious artist --but also of the American city --a racially and sexually-obsessed powder keg --during a certain moment in history.
Most recent customer reviews
This is literary work that is rife with subtexts. If you are one of the very few who are can extract most or all of what there is on offer in this novel than I can only say you... Read morePublished 13 months ago by cvn
This book is brilliant on soooo many levels. I hope people won't be put off by the fact that it is generally (probably always) found in the science fiction section of websites and... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Kalena
I buy every copy I find and pass it on. Some people get it. A young man searching for an identity? A place flawed by racism, corruption, a random reorganization of space and time. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2013 by Xplidosa
Dhalgren is a book I have read and re-read and I still feel like I missed a lot of its subtle whisperings. Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2004 by Sarris Delapore
A nameless drifter enters a ruined city, stuck in time, that civilization has chosen to ignore. Almost nothing that occurs is deliberate but seemingly pre-scripted by the... Read morePublished on Dec 18 2003
A friend asked, Does this get worth reading at some point? I read about a third before tossing it aside in frustration. Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2003 by Eric Parent
A word of caution to science fiction fans. Though the premise of this novel would appeal to any science fiction buff the book contains the authors personal exploration of his own... Read morePublished on June 11 2003
the novel ?? is dhalarghen A BIGONE.a BOGUS dslyctic cypher dicifer decibal DROLL thriLL RIDE /afflictioon/dicktion during nixon; drifter [its very earthy early seventies soaked]It... Read morePublished on June 3 2003 by david