Audible DhalgrenAuthor Samuel R. Delany –

In Dhalgren, perhaps one of the most profound and bestselling science fiction novels of all time, Samuel R Delany has produced a novel to stand with the best American fiction of the s Jonathan LethemBellona is a city at the dead center of the United States Something has happened there… The population has fled Madmen and criminals wander the streets Strange portents appear in the cloudcovered sky And into this disaster zone comes a young man–poet, lover, and adventurer–known only as the Kid Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and groundbreaking work of American magical realism

10 thoughts on “Dhalgren

  1. Glenn Russell Glenn Russell says:

    Dhalgren - Samuel R. Delany’s maddening combination of, to name just three, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, South American magical realism and an American poetic rendition of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. One of the strangest, most bizarre, weirdest novels ever to rise to cult classic status - a kind of x-rated fairy tale covered in soot. Yet there something epic, even mythic running through its nine hundred pages that makes this work truly compelling.

    Delany penned five published novels prior to his twenty-third birthday and shortly thereafter was hospitalized having suffered a nervous breakdown. Lying in his mental health ward bed for days, his imagination molded and shaped vast charred sections of a hidden city. Reading Dhalgren, my sense is the novel’s post-apocalyptic Bellona was that city. And the author continued revisiting its smoldering precincts in the ensuing years as he wrote his massive work published in 1975 when age thirty-three.

    Not a conventional storyline so much as a series of images and events swirling up from the author's inner vision, a novel spun from the fantasies and daydreams of youth as if expressing the repressed desires of legions of stoned college sophomores combined with the steamrolling fury of angry 1960s counterculture, all heaped up into a colossal explosion scorching prim, prissy middle class, consumerist America into oblivion. No wonder Delany's radical, eccentric novel amassed a cult following both then and now.

    Our main character is Kid, age twenty-seven, and we follow his odyssey from the day of arrival roaming around burned out, isolated, cutoff, mostly deserted Bellona, a city located on a map at the epicenter of this futuristic, surreal America, far out and spaced out on the plains of a state that might be Kansas. Kid and author Samuel Delany share much in common: 1) mixed racial identity: Kid is half-white, half American Indian, 2) fluid, gender hopping sexuality - Kid has oodles of sex with both men and women, and 3) a past bout of mental illness resulting in hospitalization.

    Kid is also a drifter who suffers from partial amnesia – he can’t recall his own or his parent’s name although he remembers his mother was an American Indian. All-in-all, irrespective of a reader’s racial background, sexual orientation, intellectual acumen or mental stability, nearly anyone can identify with Kid both to their heart’s content and heartache's content.

    Similar to others gang members in Bellona, Kid wears an “orchid,” that is, seven curved blades, each about ten inches long held in place over hand and fingers by an adjustable metal wristband. Yet kid is a poet. The combination of hard and soft, violence and sensitivity is reminiscent of the sixties rock group Iron Butterfly - hard like iron, delicate like a butterfly. And the kid walks with one bare foot and a sandal on his other foot. Along with the widespread importation of yoga, meditation, chanting mantras and other Eastern practices, wearing sandals and going barefoot were very much part of sixties youth culture.

    Bellona is complete freedom – the ideas from Jerry Rubin’s Do IT! are taken to heart. Why not? This is a city without babies or toddlers or snot nosed kids, without spouses or parents or police, a city where nobody has to work for money since food can be stolen from abandoned houses and one can always sleep free in the park and have access to an unlimited supply of dope. Although somewhat forgivable since spawned from the imagination of author as young man, I myself found all the many sexual scenes both puerile and ungracious. Delany’s Bellona forms a fantasy world of perpetually healthy, sexually charged twentysomethings, where there is never any need for doctors, dentists or pharmacists, where women never have periods or get pregnant and sex is nothing more than the sheer pleasure and intensity of the act itself.

    Three of my favorite parts: 1) discussions on the nature of poetry, art and literature with Ernest Newboy, aged poet and Bellona’s version of Obi-Wan Kenobi; 2) the magical mystery tour aspect of the scorpions, those colorful, vivid, holographic images enveloping certain gang members; 3) the postmodern twists in the long concluding chapter undercutting, questioning and challenging any sense of normality in our perceiving the world and reading Dhalgren, the very novel we hold in our hands.

    I agree with a number of other reviewers - there isn’t that much middle ground; this is one novel you will either love or hate. Philip K. Dick complained it was trash and threw it away. Perhaps he was thrown off by the foul language and explicit sex scenes. Yet I can see how for many readers disgruntled with all the nasty, tawdry, overly judgmental, superficial crap thrown in their faces, reading Dhalgren is always a satisfying, joyful hit. Lastly, my advice: don’t give up on the novel too soon as it does get better the further you read. And if you get bogged down, play some good old sixties music like Kenny Rogers singing Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In or Santana’s Soul Sacrifice or, as a last resort, the long version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

    Michelle Phillips has that unmistakable Dhalgren hippie look. If the young ladies were all as beautiful as Michelle and I was twenty-seven and single, I'd take my chances and make a beeline to Bellona.

    Samuel R. Delany in his New York City apartment in 1983
    “Life is a very terrible thing, mostly, with points of wonder and beauty. Most of what makes it terrible, though, is simply that there's so much of it, blaring in through the five senses. - Dhalgren

  2. Ash Ash says:

    Dhalgren is a terrible work of genius. By that, I mean that the mechanical writing of the text is brilliant and falls into the category of masterpiece. It is also a terribly dull read.

    The structure of the novel is amazing: the narrative loops, the integration of mythology, the accurate portrayal of psychosis, the dazzling postmodern language, etc. Absolutely stunning work.

    Of course, the characters are unbelievably boring, the story is filled with lots of meaningless babble with no action, no one seems to have any real motivation to do anything (and when they do it is silly and pointless), and much of the content is social commentary on late-60s/early-70s culture but without any real bite. And this goes on and on and on for over 700 pages.

    If you can overlook the absence of an engaging story and want to experience a completely unique literary structure, then give Dhalgren a read. If you want to actually enjoy reading a book, I suggest a pass.

  3. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”I have to keep mentioning this; timelessness because the phenomenon irritates the part of the mind over which time’s passage registers, so that instants, seconds, minutes are painfully real; but hours--much less days and weeks--are left-over noises from a dead tongue.”


    Something has happened in the city of Bellona. It has been cut off from the rest of the United States; most of the citizens have fled, and now you can only reach the city on foot across a dilapidated bridge. In Roman Mythology, Bellona is a war goddess, the Waster of Cities. Samuel R. Delany sprinkles all kinds of mythology throughout the book. A woman turns into a tree. Daphne, Orpheus, Charon, Jupiter, Juno and many more show up personified in the strange characters still populating this destroyed city.

    Myth and reality entwine as the unreliable narrator and the reader have to puzzle out what exactly has gone wrong. Our main character Kidd/Kid, reference to the goat which led me to think of Pan, looks 16 but is actually 27. He wears only one shoe, preferring to leave the other foot unshod. He doesn’t remember his name. He doesn’t remember where he is from. He doesn’t remember the name of his parents. He only remembers that his mother is Native American.

    ”I’ve lost a name. So? If the inhabitants of this city have one thing in common, it is that such accidents don’t interest them; that is neither lauded here as freedom nor wailed as injury; it is taken as a fact of landscape, not personality.”

    There are no laws left in the city, and certainly there is some violence, but considering the conditions, people are still able to coexist at a reasonable level of safety. There are hippies in the park, a gang calling themselves Scorpions, and in some cases families, who go through the motions of going to work that doesn’t exist and acting like all of this is just a temporary blip that will soon be righted.

    Kid meets a girl named Layna, who mesmerizes people when she plays the harmonica, another reference to Pan and his pipes. He forms a sexual relationship with her that is intense and unrestricted. He adds a 15 year old boy named Denny to their bed, as well. One thing about a post-apocalyptic situation is morality is generally the first thing to go, quickly followed by any other inconvenient laws that once existed. Even one of the Scorpions says something to Kid about Denny and another girl of 17 who Kid had copulated with. Kid brushes this off by saying the teenagers were willing.

    When Delany was married to the poet Margaret Hacker, they experimented with polyamory. Communes in the 1960s also experimented with the communal sexual sharing of partners, but it works better in theory than in practice. Eventually, someone becomes possessive or green eyed with jealousy, and the “natural order” of things is reestablished. Delany and Hacker lasted 14 years with a series of lovers of both sexes, which allowed them to explore sex in a kaleidoscope of variations.

    As Kid says at one point as he is washing up after a night of debauchery: ”Pleasure is an appalling business.”

    The suspension of rules in Bellona would appeal to Delany.

    There are nude posters all over the city of this Godlike black man named George Harrison. Rumors rumble through the community that he raped a 16 year old white girl. Even in this unconventional setting where the rules of man have been suspended, the thought of a black man raping a white girl is still seen by this haphazard community as appalling, revealing the underpinnings of racism that still manage to survive despite the circumstances.

    Kid finds a spiral bound notebook with some writing in it. He begins to add his own poetry to the notebook. He meets another poet who wants to publish his poetry in a book. A newspaper is still being printed with news of the community and the date on the paper swinging from a day in the past to the next day a date in the future reinforcing the idea...does it really matter what day it is?

    Strange things start happening: two moons appear in the sky, the sun boils and seems to explode, and Kid begins to lose time not hours at a time, but actually days. He doesn’t want to go crazy again.


    Samuel R. Delany looking strangely like Orson Welles.

    I would read a hundred pages or so of this book and then set it aside to read other books. With 800 pages to conquer, I liked taking the time to process and then come back with fresh, wiser eyes. I agree with the assessment that this is magical realism and certainly an interesting look at an alternative society created under unusual circumstances. I think chaos is a natural reaction to a suspension of laws. Some of those younger or stronger will attempt to dominate the rest. Eventually laws must come back and be enforced for a semblance of peace to be maintained. This society, interesting enough, does not use money. There seems to be plenty of food and beer, so everything is free and everyone takes just what they need. This is a fantasy, after all, and Delany had other aspects that he wished to explore rather than the rampant violence that, in my mind, would have had to be contended with. A fascinating book and certainly deserving to be called a Masterpiece.

    If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit
    I also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  4. Bradley Bradley says:

    I'm sure this has been said before, but this is a very difficult book to review. So much is happening and very little of it has a straight-line plot unless you tackle this in seven sections and treat it as a mystery rite each time in the full awareness that Delaney is messing with us heavily.

    In what way, you ask?

    Ignore the fact that this reads more like a heavily-invested tome of mythic allusions in the style of the greats of traditional fiction and focus instead on the topics that Delaney holds closest to his heart: Sex and Literary Criticism. :)


    Well, this is a porn book. No doubt about it. Every other page has Kid getting it on with women, men, women and men, and the variety of perversions never made any single act the same as before. Kid loves his sex. Polyamory? You betcha. This novel is considered to be one of the quintessential classics of the sixties, but don't let that fool you. Delaney doesn't just go for the raunch, he's also bypassing class issues by the magical realism setting and tackling race issues instead. This takes up a lot of the novel and he has a lot to say.

    The second big part of this novel, in my opinion, has everything to do with Art and Criticism. Kid is a poet, but beyond that, he lives a magical life like Peter Pan, always looking young and acting young and not giving a crap about anything other than his pleasure for the most part... however, this is tempered by his craft in his poetry and the way he appears to grow up when he sets aside his words.

    This is kinda scary, actually, since Delaney himself gave up writing even though he is so well-beloved in the field. He, as Kid, grew up and didn't care when his poetry was burned, no matter how many people wanted to be outraged and demanded that he produce more. Ignore the long reasons for writing and the heavy lit-crit terms that Delaney has his main character use to meta his way through the creation process within this novel. Even Kid says that it'll dissolve in your stomach after you eat it. :)

    These are serious themes throughout, but let's not forget that this is SF and Fantasy in the biggest sense of the word. What's fantasy about it? Patchwork society, for one. There's always enough food, there's no law and order, big population pressure is out of the picture, and then there's a few unexplained weirdnesses usual with magical realism, too. The SF if mind-blowingly weird and it, too, is never explained. The sun is expanding and going red? What of the second moon? The unexplained time-effects? The disappearance of the biggest part of the population when they observed the initial event, leaving only those who missed it behind? Pretty fun stuff. We've even got ourselves an astronaut. :)

    And then, of course, it's a dystopia, but it's more an anarchic state that lets everyone toss the rules and do whatever they want rather than a focus on violence, which is kinda refreshing on that level for any kind of dystopia, however unrealistic.

    But is this novel unrealistic? No. Never in the writing. It's always down-to-earth and full of detail. It's easy to ignore the glaring plot holes or universe-holes or whatever is going on because someone is always getting off or trying to make sense of social issues. No one ever talks about what's happening in the big picture, or if they do, it's always, always incomplete.

    I think this novel is meant to be an experience rather than something to parse out. There's no grand design or plot to latch on to. It's all about the journey, and not always about the character journey, either, but rather an exploration of social mores when morals are thrown out the door, discovering what is left.

    It's very ambitious. So why don't I give it a 5 star? Because it also annoys me. I appreciate everything he's done in the novel, and yet it feels a bit too alien, a bit too disjointed. I couldn't get over the inconsistencies of the world or of human nature.

  5. Jeff Jeff says:


    Seinfeld was a show about “nothing”.

    Dhalgren is a book about “forgetting”.

    Forgetting your name.

    Forgetting what you did five minutes ago.

    Forgetting basic hygiene.

    Forgetting where you put your shoe.

    Forgetting to lay off the hard drugs.

    Forgetting the sixties are over.

    Forgetting what tense you wrote in the previous sentence.

    Forgetting what makes for good dialogue. Or plotting. Or characterization.

    I’ve briefly read some of the other glowing reviews for this book and I can appreciate the enthusiasm and passion in which they’re written; however, this book and type of reading isn’t for me. I do appreciate a well-crafted literary adventure or statement, but when a book gets compared to Ulysses, the reader has certain perceptions and ideas going into it and all too often it’s to figure out what the writer’s intent is to begin with.

    This isn’t a journey I should have taken and I apologize to my fellow buddy readers – le Ginger and Stepheny for even suggesting it to them.

    I don’t forget why I read books and the number one reason I do is to be entertained and not to be bored to tears or dread picking the book up every day and that's something.

  6. Marley Marley says:

    This book is a whole world, part of the constellation of works that help me navigate my intellectual life. It's about the 60s, but it's also about metafiction, about solitude, and about that strange feeling when the dull and the surreal merge (late, late at night. when life has gotten one step too strange. when one more trudge down the street puts you into a reverie where you feel utterly lost).

    In it, a nameless guy with a faulty memory (that's why he's nameless--though otherwise his recall is excellent, he forgets vast stretches of time and loses days, weeks, even years of his life) who gets called the Kid steps into a bizarre city where something has happened to bring its population down to 1,000 or so misfits who don't do much but gossip, the sky is covered in strange clouds and you never see the sun, two moons appear at night, and time sometimes runs differently for different people. He's searching for his name, and also something else, but his memory is so bad that he can't even remember that much. He finds a journal, snippets of which seem to tell his own story in advance, and starts to write his own story in the marginalia. He joins gangs, has lots and lots of unusual sex before and during his membership in a curious and sort of unsettling poly triad, becomes a poet but might just be plagiarizing the journal, and basically becomes the mythic center of everyone's life by sheer accident. Like Finnegans Wake, it has a sentence that wraps the end back into the beginning, and just like that book, there's a really strong reason to do so. As much as anything, though, it just has some gorgeous descriptions and an incredible mood, not to mention some musings on solitude, the mythologization of life, and the creation of art that are really cool.

    Not to be forgotten, and precisely the fulcrum where Delany was writing both in and out of the genre pigeonhole from every direction he could. Fantastic, and neither as sometimes clunky as his earlier work or didactic as his later work (not that I don't love both, in their own ways). This one, he's content to just let be, in all its 800 page glory.

  7. Algernon (Darth Anyan) Algernon (Darth Anyan) says:

    I struggled with this book, and I understand how polarizing such an experimental piece of literature can be. But somewhere along the trip something clicked right for me and I'm thinking now this is probably the best novel to come out of the flower-power movement. It captures the rejecton of consummer society, the free love craziness, the drug experiments, the confusion and the open doors of perception that seemed more important at the time than the bourgeoise conformism of an older genration.

    It also feels like an honest, courageous endeavour on the part of the writer. I think Delany immersed himself completely in the tale, not in the autobiographical sense, but in pouring out all his uncertainties and struggles and enthusiasms that made him choose a career as a poet. I feel this novel was written in blood, sweat and tears rather than ink of paper, and I am left with a recurring image of the main character (the Kid) compulsively picking up a notebook and a pen and trying to put down in words the crazy world he has been thrown in.

    Bellona - the city where every rule is broken, where every social convention no longer apply, where the laws of physics play hopscotch with the five senses and where people who have lost themselves seek refuge and an answer to the meaning of life. There are no answers here, but the questions one asks will maybe point to the way out. Or else he might remained trapped forever in this infinite loop of confusion:

    What do you want to change in the world? What do you want to preserve? What is the thing you're searching for? What are you running away from?

    and again:
    Have you been here long? Where are you from? Mildred? Mildred what? Why did you come here? How long are you going to stay? Do you like Japanese food? Poetry? He laughed. Silence? Water? Someone saying your name?

    the author has no mercy on the reader - he constantly throws curveballs, provocations and shocking twists in relationships. I never knew what would happen next, the rules of narrative progression are another thing that don't apply in Bellona. There are hours and days missing from the storyline, mixed timelines and pointless meetings. Trying to make sense of every metaphor and symbol in Bellona is I think a futile effort. Every reader will translate the words on the page according to his own personal experiences and baggage of social taboos.

    For example, the Kid always walks with one foot bare and one covered by sandal or boot. Why? It is never explained. I would guess it is his dual nature as part nature's boy feeling the need for continuous contact with the physical world, and part social animal - a product of his upbringing and of his education. But I'm probably wrong.

    He wears an optical chain made of prisms, mirrors and lenses. This one is easier to decode: the poet is the witness rather than the participant in the story. He will defract, reflect, magnify the life around him, purifying it in the cauldron of his suffering and distilling into new words the essence, the truth behind appearances. This is how the novel actually begins, with a quote about confusing the true with the real. For Delany, reality is in fact a poor instrument in revealing meaning. This is why Bellona is such an unpredictable and dangerous place - it's role is to shake the reader out of his comfort zone and force him to think over his positions on sex, racial hatred, politics, violence, art .. and much more. Nothing is worse in the author's opinion than to turn your back in fear and hide from life in the shell of middle class conformity. The scene where the Kid goes to work for the Richards family is in fact the point where I invested myself fully in the novel and in what the author is trying to do.

    Quite a few passages in the book are dedicated to literary theory and criticism, in various encounters with poets, critics and publishers. Delany, like in his other novels, seeks for a higher form of communication, one that transcends words and syntax structures and goes directly to emotions and experiences. He sees the poems as a careful, crystalline catalyst that will leave the reader changed and hopefully richer in understanding.

    To close my comments, I will quote from the excellent introduction given to Dhalgren by William Gibson:
    I distrust few things more deeply than acts of literary explication.
    Here is a book. Go inside.
    It's your turn now.
    Circular ruin.
    Hall of mirrors.
    Ring of flesh.
    The smoldering outskirts reconfiguring with each step you take.
    Remember me to them.

  8. Stevelvis Stevelvis says:

    Dhalgren, by Samuel R Delany, has been my favorite book since I first read it in 1979. I have read it twice more since then and every time I've read it I got something different out of it. I've given the book away as gifts to several people but I don't think any of them appreciated it (oh well).

    I recommend that y'all go to Amazon and read some of the reviews of Dhalgren there. It is interesting to read the long positive reviews by the smart people and it's also a laugh to read the negative reviews by the people who just didn't get it or who were offended by its explicit sexuality. It seems that everyone there either gives it a 5-star rating or a 1-star rating with a note saying they'd give it no stars if possible.

    I have found Dhalgren to be many things, mostly it's a search for self-identity by the main character, both in wanting to know his real name (other characters call him Kid or The Kid), and in finding out who he is through love, power and fame. It is an exploration of societal values, contrasting hippies in the city park to roving street gangs, each with their own hierarchy or power structure. It's an exploration of family with Kid and his triangle relationship with two lovers, a gay teenager and a straight woman, contrasted with an apartment building family for whom Kid does some work. And it's also a review of art, religion, friendship, sex, violence, and organization in the midst of anarchy. If New Orleans had simply been entirely walled off and forgotten after hurricane Katrina, then this is perhaps what it may have become. Add to that image elements of a disjointed acid trip through 1960s San Francisco and voila, you have Dhalgren.

    It is a lesson in different writing styles, from the psychedelic writing that begins the book to the uber-realism in the middle and the anarchic scribbling in the margins at the end of the book and finally returning to the beginning in a literary moebius loop. And with almost 900 pages of small font in paperback, there are a lot of words.

    Dhalgren is my favorite book of all time and I'm planning on reading it at least one more time before I die.... but there are so many books and so little time. If you like Dhalgren, you should definitely read Triton, which I have also read three times. Delany's autobiographical books Heavenly Breakfast and especially The Motion of Light In Water will show you how the author has actually lived a lot of what he has written. If you like his psychedelic writing style you should read Equinox although it is better described as a very kinky book of psychedelic pornography. His Neveryon series is of the fantasy genre and therefore doesn't compare to his science fiction writing style, although those books do continue his explorations of sex, sexuality, and power in social relationships. My favorite book in the Neveryon series was The Bridge of Lost Desire which was released during the very early years of AIDS and was the first popular novel to address the issue in its storyline. There are a few books written by Delany that I just don't like, for example Mad Man, but I do recommend absolutely everything he wrote from the early 1960s to the mid 1980s.

    Fans of Delany should also read Sherri S Tepper, Octavia Butler, James Tiptree Jr (real name Alice Sheldon), Ursula K LeGuin, Melissa Scott, Nancy Kress....

  9. Aubrey Aubrey says:

    Whatever request for complicity, in whatever labyrinth of despair, it made of the listener, whatever demand for relief from situations which were by definition unrelievable, these requests, these demands could only be made of the very new to such labyrinths, such situations. And time, even as he munched flat bread, was erasing that status.

    Today, however, art is about the only thing that can redeem religion, and the clerics will never forgive us that.
    When the canon comes crumbling down, who will survive? When the Powers That Be put a socioeconomic premium on creativity outside academia and plethora and marketing galore, how much of the by rote will be blown away in favor of the scarred underbelly below, a matter that shits and sweats and finds craze a lesser evil than gentrification? The literati tolerate blood far better than green edged gums, rape better than pleasure, money better than empathy, as if the English molded to the proper genuflections of grammar and punctuation weren't gate-keeping enough. When the traumas start losing out to traumatized in the halls of evaluation, our small world will either grow large in realscaped fiction or become another Sodom and Gomorrah.
    You begin to suspect, as you gaze through this you-shaped hole of insight and fire, that though it is the most important thing you own—never deny that for an instant—it has not shielded you from anything terribly important.

    What I have fallen from, perfected by memory into something only possible, I do not want to falsify any more than that.
    How much of you is human and how much of it is distance? I look at the King Lear presentation I'm supposed to be making for tomorrow's class and the itch only recently solidified by Dhalgren's ending comes back with a vengeance. One instinct clamors that it is a foolish thing to seek aches and lusts and an understanding of foreign others in paper and ink, another blinks at those well-endowed with brain chemistry acclimatized to spatially close verbalization and carries along. I grow tired of hitting the right notes for all the wrong reasons, as if my writing was a skill solely developed for reading out to others rather than my ability to breath. The slides for summary of scene and quote of importance and discussion of choosing will still be made, but it is the classroom audience I wish to make wriggle and squirm, and that would not befit our professional environment.
    When what terrifies is neither noisy, nor moves quickly, and lasts hours, then we become very different.

    Anyone sensitive to language, living in this mess/miasma, must applaud it.
    My most desired dissertation would be a study of metaphysics through the social constructs of canonical literature, a purpose I forever am honing my already well-regarded writing despite the probable impossibility of achievement. However, I may already be achieving it in the myriad of reviews along so called affirmative action trends that made me recently pick up anthologies of Native American fiction and Vietnamese poetry and a short story collection of Iraqi make. A simpler phrasing of the drive is boredom: bored of the English, bored of the rhythm of its ubiquitous squeakings and gaspings, bored of the fearful experimentation never born from social annihilation and always bred on white capitalistic supremacist jazz. I am a voyeur, and my taste does develop.
    Objectively? It depends on what you think of the way the rest of the world is living.

    In a society where they are on top, they cling like drowners to their active/passive, male/female, master/servant, self/other set-up not for pleasure, which would be reasonable, but because it allows them to commit or condone any lack of compassion among themselves, or with anyone else, and that (at least in this society, as they have set it up) is immoral, sick and evil; any madness is preferable to that. And madness is not preferable!
    We're so fucking terrified of female sexuality that we make rape fantasies the norm. A US white male could hoist a dead baby on a pike while shooting up an elementary school and we'd be wrapped around the scandal of a black person not catering to white fantasies on television instead. I find this work a piece of science fiction as I find Almanac of the Dead a work of political theory; neither are safe and neither pretend outside their pages is otherwise. Arguments in this are being hashed on Tumblr 40+ years after because if the mainstream did it, it would no longer be the mainstream. Paranoid fantasies are all very well, but that's what good writing is for if the cult masters in my Norton Anthology are anything to go by. In short, avoid works like this if you like, but a successful parasite is not the one that causes discomfort in the institutionalized eye. Parsing's a must with that prior, of course: anything beyond the pale of dead white males doesn't help much unless, perhaps, they happen to be on the menu.
    “Tarzan, I said, “ if my old lady wants to fuck a sheep with a dildo strapped to her nose, that is largely her concern, very secondarily mine, and not yours at all. She can fuck anything she wants—with the possible exception of you. That, I think, would turn my stomach. Yes, that, I think, I would not be able to take. I’m going to kill you.”
    I've never been very good at staying on-topic. As such, riddle me the face of the patriarchy, the insight of the condemned, and the vision of damnation, all in the mode of language we write. It's a new day, and those of us in power are slipping.

  10. Bill Bill says:

    to wound the autumnal city ... I have come to

    Dhalgren is the

    Unreal City
    Under the brown fog of a winter noon
    —TS Elliot
    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.