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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  4,538 ratings  ·  491 reviews
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 1970s" (Jonathan Lethem).

Bellona 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 po...more
Paperback, 801 pages
Published May 15th 2001 by Vintage (first published December 28th 1974)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michael Alexander
Jun 05, 2007 Michael Alexander rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pomos, queer theorists, 60s counterculture obsessees, open minded SF fans, joycean techno-dreamers
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 e...more
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 fro...more
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 rev...more
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 on...more
May 03, 2007 Ben rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the adventurous and not-easily-frustrated
Shelves: favorites
It's tough to review a favorite book, especially when it's a book that almost completely changed the way you view literature. But I suppose it's worth a shot.

Dhalgren is a glorious mess, but that's not to say that it lacks structure. In fact, I wrote my senior thesis in undergrad on the narrative structure of the novel, and upon close examination it's stunning just how carefully put together the whole thing is. Everyone knows that it's an imperfectly closed loop, but few really understand how De...more
*Available from KOBOBOOKS

I think this is a brilliant novel and I hated every moment I spent with it.

I struggled to get through this. Part of that was due to my own neuroses: I now know that I find vivid descriptions of dirty, smelly people who haven’t bathed for days having sex very very offputting. Part of that was due to the fact that, as many reviewers have already noted, nothing really happens in the novel. Incidents occur but by and large the plot rambles all over the place.

Delany appare...more
I read a lot of Samuel R. Delany's sci-fi when I was young, and all the way up through "Einstein Intersection" (aka "A Fabulous, Formless Darkness") and "Nova", I loved his work. Yet...somewhere around "Triton" he went badly off the rails. The same kind of thing happened to Piers Anthony and Roger Zelazny, but it their cases it was simply the lure of quick, large paychecks for Bad Fantasy Novels. Delany...fell into another trap. He positioned himself as the face of Black Queer High-Lit Quasi-Pol...more
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.

Nate D
Sep 01, 2009 Nate D rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nate D by: Kate, Lucy

This might turn out to be one of those reviews I write over and over.

Perhaps such a novel -- equal parts fine-focused lens, social/personal mirror, and harshly distorting prism -- just demands this endless rethinking.

So what is Dhalgren?

It is a deft cultural analysis, part perfectly current, part more dated 60s/70s scrutiny that is nonetheless perceptive and interesting.

It is a probing of time and perception laid out in dilating asymptotic fade contracting sudden into action. Or perhaps...more
I finished this book this morning, and I just haven't managed to find the words to write a proper review. I still can't quite decide between 3, 4, or 5 stars. I started re-reading the first few pages when I finished, and just now read some more of the book - this time at random places in the text.

I don't know what I expected when I started this, but purposely didn't get excited since the whole science fiction genre and I are so hit-or-miss most of the time. I also heard this is like the science...more
Mar 26, 2008 Dan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of sci-fi literature who I'm not worried will think I'm a pervert
Recommended to Dan by: Chris
I read this book because my home boy Buer from high school recommended it. And then my old roomie Jimbo gave me his copy of this book at his wedding. The conversation went like this:

Me: "I'll get this back to you when I'm done reading it."
Jim: "That won't be necessary. I never want to see this book again."

Quite ominous... The copy of the book I read had a forward by William Gibson. He is one of my favorite authors, and he cited this book as one of his favorites. So now, this book has a Buer and...more
Gerhardt Himmelmann
When a book includes a passage like:

Upstairs a woman was laughing, and the laughter grew, ghter grew, laughter: “Stop it! Stop it will you?” in Mr Richards’ harsh voice. “Just stop it.” op it, ghter grew ew.

and you have no immediate way of knowing whether it’s an OCR error when the ebook was put together, a typesetting error when the original printed book was put together, or whether it was meant to say that, you know you’re dealing with no ordinary text.[1]

Dhalgren is a long, cryptic, and weird...more
Jenia Sukhan
The greatest literary litmus test of the 20th century, Dhalgren is not simply "not for everyone" (read: pretentious) - it is a work of poor, lazy, and ultimately insulting craftsmanship.

Story, structure, characters, clarity be damned, the prose at least was supposed to be spectacular. One-of-a-kind. If nothing else did it for me in this alleged "love it or hate it" novel, the language, at least, should have left me in awe. What I found inside was a heinous and uninspired repetition of images, i...more
Ben Babcock
I tend to read books one at a time in quick succession. I have to, for the same reason I am so assiduous in writing reviews: I have a poor memory for these types of details. However, every so often I'll have a "project" book that takes me weeks or months to read, in parallel with my other books. I tend to do this with lengthy anthologies; I've been doing it with the Iliad. In retrospect, Dhalgren would have made a good project book. It's lengthy and difficult to read, and if I had invested the t...more
Dhalgren, a book with a reputation that precedes it...kind of. More on that in a moment.

The book is more of an experience than a story. For me, it was a memorable and mixed affair I'm happy to have had but also happy to move on from. For others it's one they'll return to again and again trying to understand exactly what it was they read. In a way this echoes what the protagonist of the book goes through. If you do intend to read it I would try to go into it knowing as little about it as possible...more
I just don't know.

So, picture Lost meets Burning Man. Seriously. Imagine a bunch of bohemian hippie types having lots of sex in a weirdly cut-off place that has weird phenomenon and is out-of-time. Not like time's run out, but weird stuff happening with time itself.

Can't picture it?

Also, you should throw in a bit of:
Wizard of Oz (for the man-behind-the-curtain)
The Postman (for the lone-wolf lead character who becomes legend)
Fight Club (for the violence)
And some more books/stories/movies that thr...more
Wow. Either there is a fictional Midwestern city, Bellona, where some sort of environmental disaster has occurred and now space-time there is in flux, or there was a disaster in said city and the narrator has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and we experience things through his perspective. The narrator in question can’t remember his name, but chances upon moniker “the Kid.” Also seemingly falling to place-time is Kid’s emergence within the half-abandoned city as its de facto poet laureate an...more
It is difficult to approach a book as widely praised and remarked upon as Dhalgren.

The cover has quotes from William Gibson and Jonathan Lethem, for God's sake. Luxurious praise surrounds the work like a corona: It's baffling, prescient, postmodern, premodern, an enigma, a sexual challenge, and on and on.

Many reviews compare it to David Foster Wallace, or Borges, in terms of length and circular structure.

So, in short, I came to the work with many preconceptions.

What I admire, is that Dhalgren...more
Sep 17, 2007 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Serious SF or Modernist Lit Readers
It's a tough call as to whether this is a 4 or 5 star book (rating things in such restrictive terms is hard enough to begin with...). While this book does have some flaws, it is nonetheless a remarkable meditation on a multitude of themes and has many passages of absolutely amazing prose. The first page contains one of my favorite paragraphs written in English. It is also the quintessential example of the application of techniques of (high) modernism to SF material.

The Kid(d) and Ernest Newboy,...more
I thought about quitting this book many times, but something interesting would happen and I would continue on. None of these interesting things led to anything plot worthy. They just sort of petered out. By the time I learned this, I was about done with the book and thought I should finish it. Towards the end, I did a lot of skimming.

Perhaps I'm just not intelligent enough to get this book. I couldn't really tell you what the plot is. For a city that has faced something like an apocalypse, the...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Up on top of the ice-cream swirl (raspberry) of recommendations from Friends Aloha and Jonathan (others certainly, too; announce yourselves!) sits the chocolate topping of one Garth Risk Hallberg, famous for driving up the price (that's appreciation!!! thank you, sir arthor danto) of the now overly infamous and still mostly unread Women and Men, his--Sir Garth's, that is--review and recommendation (which I've still not read, indeed) of Samuel R. Delany's really very long and apparently difficult...more
I passionately hated this book. The additional star is for some neat Greco-Roman allusions, but that's pretty much the only saving grace. This book has been called a "riddle that was never meant to be solved" and that pretty much sums up what makes it so awful. It's stream of consciousness drivel without a consistent direction. It is Joyce without the writing skill and Keats without the poetry. In short, you've been warned.
Buck Ward

I wish I had read Dhalgren when it was first published. It has a certain relevance to the times back then, and to my cultural attitudes as a college hippie. In a conversation with the Kid, retired astronaut Captain Kamp says, "It’s better than all those discussions where they ask you whether, as an astronaut, you believe in long hair, abortions, race relations, or the pill.” Those were issues of the day. The length of one's hair was a political statement. I recognized some of the characters as b...more
a behemoth. Certainly there are much longer novels out there, but rarely does one see a creature matching this degree of size and power. Dhalgren is the first novel that I’ve read that manages to effectively transform the reading process itself into an experience of culture. In other words, Delany’s construction and style make this a metanovel where the reading of it, in all its nonstandard ways, creates the sensations of Dhalgren’s characters and settings a reality in the reader. Just as ‘The K...more
Almost 100% incoherent. The book as a whole doesn't make much sense and sentence to sentence it doesn't make a lot of sense either. I'm not usually the kind of person that has a problem with books that don't have a point, but this just wasn't good. Bummer.
Feb 15, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tosh, W
The great gay hippie masterpiece. A vision of urban life as an alternate universe. Seductive. Drug-like. Perfect.
Dhalgren, so much to like about this book. If you spell the title backwards it sound like some kind of nerd-valhalla. The opening chapter is stupid, but thereafter Dhalgren contains a masterpiece, in the way that every fat person contains a thin person struggling to get out. Or a block of stone containing a sculpture, to put it less emotively.

The story revolves around a few - a very few - striking ideas. There are very few ideas in this story, which is an excellent thing. Unfortunately, this sto...more
I really loved the language, some of the characters, and the strong sense of setting in this book. Delany draws you in and is absolutely captivating with his style but holy crap was this book brutally pointless. Just wandering around with no real structure or reason for being. There's lots of grime, gloom, violence, and sloppy sex (both gay and straight). All that's fine, I suppose, but you have to give us a reason for staying with it.

I actually went twice as far as my "100 page rule" and read...more
Shirari Industries
Oct 23, 2010 Shirari Industries rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in sexual identity and race politics circa 1974
Shelves: gender, scifi
Dhalgren has an unusual structure and a high level of violence. I had a difficult time getting through it. Even so, I'm glad I hung in there - the book holds an important place in the sci fi canon and it's justified. It was a very unusual read, experimental and interesting. Delany does a lot of things that I haven't seen before.

As in Nabokov's Pale Fire, Dhalgren plays with the line between character and author. The mental state of the this unreliable narrator is in constant question, as are the...more
I struggled with this book. I can see why Jonathan Lethem and William Gibson have raved about it -- it's an ambitious book and I love ambitious books. I can also see why Harlan Ellison reportedly threw it against the wall (though I am guess Harlan Ellison's walls are pockmarked from the books he's thrown against them.)

It's a frustrating book in an ultimately (for this reader) unsatisfactory way (as opposed to frustrating books that ultimately deliver the goods.) And in many ways, Delany brillian...more
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SciFi and Fantasy...: Dhalgren as ebook woo-hoo!! 2 36 Jul 14, 2014 05:59PM  
to wound 1 15 Mar 22, 2014 10:59AM  
What's The Name o...: Looking for a science fiction book about an amnesiac who becomes a poet... [s] 7 213 Nov 10, 2013 07:25PM  
Discussing the Autumnal City 5 60 Jan 31, 2013 02:12PM  
#AutumnalCity: Discussion of pages 401-500 6 13 Dec 20, 2012 09:16PM  
#AutumnalCity: Discussion of pages 301-400 8 9 Oct 20, 2012 11:55AM  
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Samuel Ray Delany, also known as "Chip," is an award-winning American science fiction author. He was born to a prominent black family on April 1, 1942, and raised in Harlem. His mother, Margaret Carey Boyd Delany, was a library clerk in the New York Public Library system. His father, Samuel Ray Delany, Senior, ran a successful Harlem undertaking establishment, Levy & Delany Funeral Home, on 7t...more
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“You meet a new person, you go with him and suddenly you get a whole new go down new streets, you see houses you never saw before, pass places you didn't even know were there. Everything changes.” 62 likes
“But I realized something. About art. And psychiatry. They're both self-perpetuating systems. Like religion. All three of them promise you a sense of inner worth and meaning, and spend a lot of time telling you about the suffering you have to go through to achieve it. As soon as you get a problem in any one of them, the solution it gives is always to go deeper into the same system. They're all in rather uneasy truce with one another in what's actually a mortal battle. Like all self-reinforcing systems. At best, each is trying to encompass the other two and define them as sub-groups. You know: religion and art are both forms of madness and madness is the realm of psychiatry. Or, art is the study and praise of man and man's ideals, so therefore a religious experience just becomes a brutalized aesthetic response and psychiatry is just another tool for the artist to observe man and render his portraits more accurately. And the religious attitude I guess is that the other two are only useful as long as they promote the good life. At worst, they all try to destroy one another. Which is what my psychiatrist, whether he knew it or not, was trying, quite effectively, to do to my painting. I gave up psychiatry too, pretty soon. I just didn't want to get all wound up in any systems at all.” 23 likes
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