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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 is science fiction’s Ulysses. I have read some of the other reviews, and "Dhalgren", this beautifully complex book discussed here, inspires complex analyses; but I... Read morePublished 2 days ago by The O.S. Geek
Out of kindness and respect for Chip Delany's OTHER work I gave it two stars. I read it NEW and it is one of the few of the thousands of books that I ever threw across a room. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Lloyd McDaniel
Kept waiting for the story to have a meaning or direction. Ramblings more that a tale...Published 10 days ago by Jack
A hypnagogic landscape out of the last century that drags you through a brilliant cast and leaves you with mystery.Published 17 days ago by CHAD W SIMMONS
This book is too complex and involved to be analyzed here but the writing style and literary phrases and wording is extraordinary. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Robert F Milota
Read this book back in the 70s and loved it, then lent it to someone and never saw it again. It's great to have it back again and looking forward to reading it again.Published 3 months ago by Stephen L Gilligan
No redeeming value whatsoever. Eight hundred pages of a seriously disturbed author's mind running amok. Makes me wonder about the folks that gave this book good reviews. Read morePublished 3 months ago by George Rock
This is a brilliant, beautifully written book, I read it in 2014. It is not dated (yet), nor nostalgic. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Maxalbert
You'll either love or hate Delany's postmodernist style, but I really loved this book. I've never read anything like it, and once I put it down, I wanted to pick it up and read it... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Rochelle