Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

Dhalgren Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
to wound the autumnal city … I have come to

This is a difficult book to review, difficult to put one’s thought’s and feelings into words, the written word is perhaps insufficient to the task (a meme of this novel, I think). Following are some random thoughts.

Overall I found it engaging, for reasons I cannot express; I was compelled to get back to reading, as compelled, perhaps as The Kid was to writing.

I read Dhalgren from front to back, though one could open the book at random and just start reading without losing anything. It is like a large, deep, lake you can jump into anywhere and start swimming in any direction, enjoying the feelings and experience.

It is a circle or rather a sphere; one eventually returns to where they started, which looks and feels different each time, but is essentially the same.

Though the city of Bellona is set in a science fiction locus, it is not a science fiction novel. It is more like classical literature. I suspect those expecting to read a science fiction novel will hate it, throw it across their room, breaking their mirror. And, be less for their action.

There are many Classical references, Hellenic and pre-Hellenic, hidden throughout the novel, which may or may not have anything to do with anything, but provide a framework for one’s world-view, if recognized.

It is either one of the great American novels are a gigantic joke.

It makes me want to try, once again, to get through Joyce, Proust, Pynchon, Hofstadter … Perhaps enjoying this novel is a clue I have become experienced enough to enjoy their ‘difficult’ works.

The Kid is an engaging character. I want to read him, know him, join his nest, love him, be him.

I will likely read this again and perhaps read about the book.

William Gibson (the Father of Cyberpunk SF) wrote a new forward to this edition (the author’s favored edition), titled The Recombinant City. Read it! Several things stand out re-reading the Forward after experiencing Dhalgren. Most important to me are:

I place Dhalgren in this history:
No one under thirty-five today can remember the singularity that overtook America in the nineteen-sixties, and the generation that experienced it most directly seems largely to have opted for amnesia and denial

Reading Dhalgren is a cure for this disorder.

and the oft-quoted line from Gibson:

I believe its ‘riddle’ was never meant to be ‘solved’.

Its ‘riddle’ is meant to be experienced.

Leave a Reply