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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.
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 25 days 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 3 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 15 months ago 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