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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
Vintage launches its new Delany series with this 1974 epic. In coming months the volumes Babel 17/Empire Star, Nova, and an expanded edition of Driftglass will also be reissued. Though pushing 30, Dhalgren features themes of racial identity, religious faith, and self-awareness revealed in a multilayered plot that will be right at home with today's audiences.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A classic. I read this in high school and, when my parents tried to donate my books to the local library after I went off to college, Dhalgren was refused by a scandalized and... Read morePublished 9 hours ago by RDM
There is some interesting imagery, like great writers. I couldn't finish it. I didn't find it that enjoyable, but who knows, maybe I'll pick it up again someday. Read morePublished 1 day ago by My name is (not for you)
one of the best, most unique, and wonderfully amazing pieces of literature that existsPublished 4 days ago by JB
Dhalgren by Samuel Delaney
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... Read more
I think this is the best written “awful book” I have ever read. It is very dated in its sensibility. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Fred Hopke
If you're a gay African American writer who's lived through the 60's you should love this book. Everyone else will just like it, at best, or more likely not understand it one bit. Read morePublished 1 month ago by M. Davies
I love this book. It's a postmodern masterpiece. If you are squeamish about sexual content, I'd avoid it though.Published 2 months ago by devin
I'm glad I missed this when it originally came out. Needed to learn a lot more about life to truly appreciate all its complex elements. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Tony Smith
I've read Dhalgren maybe a dozen times, and I still enjoy reading it today - I just bought the Kindle copy because my paperback wore out. It's a very strange book. Read morePublished 3 months ago by mike pellegrini