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3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  6,368 Ratings  ·  700 Reviews
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 ...more
Published (first published December 28th 1974)
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May 18, 2007 Ash rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi
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
Jun 05, 2007 M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 17, 2008 Stevelvis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
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 wil
May 03, 2007 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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

The Tunnel
Gravity’s Rainbow/Mason & Dixon
The Recognitions/JR
The Public Burning
Take Five
Women and Men/Lookout Cartridge
Miss Macintosh My Darling
Take it or leave it

If the above list means anything to you, then so should the inclusion of this deeply impressive, deeply ambitious, deeply experimental text. It is big, transgressive, meta-fictional, and intelligent. It also loops round on itself like the Wake (and loops again internally or, at least, reaches back and forward with man
I am limited, finite and fixed. I am in terror of the infinity before me, having come through the one behind bringing no knowledge I can take on.

What an odd, warped achievement. Delany provides us a reimagined Ellisonian treatise on Invisibility and Impermanence. He paints a city of possibility and then wipes his creation into a blotchy blur. This is Bellona. Delany also eviscerates the idea of the homo faber.

While the depicted poet lacks a shoe, it is hands which reign in Dhalgren. They are mo
*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
Jul 24, 2011 DoctorM rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sentimental Surrealist
Jan 24, 2016 Sentimental Surrealist rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who need sci-fi to believe in
Recommended to Sentimental Surrealist by: the jacket flap, Aubrey's enthusiasm
Let us now, so as to avoid the dreaded trap of "well let's not think too hard about what we read, let's just read fun books and have fun with them," confront the issue of sci-fi. The issue of sci-fi, to my vision, looks a little like this. Sci-fi fans claim that it's an unfairly marginalized genre, especially when compared to more serious literature. Indeed, works by Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, and others (ignore the overwhelming dudeliness of these names at ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, favorites
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.

Jenny (Reading Envy)
First attempt: Will write longer review later.

"Sometimes when I don’t understand - or even when I do, I just wanna fuckin’ cry, you know?" (pg. 615)


Second attempt: Let's see if I can make heads or tails about my thoughts on this book. First you should go read articles on i09 and Tor (Jo Walton) about why you should read this book.

The i09 article quotes Jeff VanderMeer who says that reading it is a lot of work, and sometimes we don't like to work. He also says Dhalgren "signaled a marshaling
Nate D
Feb 27, 2015 Nate D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jenia Sukhan
Jan 20, 2013 Jenia Sukhan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
Probably 2.5 stars....

There is a lot going on in this novel—lots of references to mythology, I think there are deliberate parallels to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and a lot of exploration of what it means to be an artist and to live an artistic life.

Our unnamed protagonist begins the adventure when he encounters (and has sex with) a woman who turns into a tree, a dryad. It is she who ensures that he receives the chains that will mark him as special in the place where he is goi
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
Tom Mathews
May 06, 2016 Tom Mathews rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hard-core sci-fi lovers
Dhalgren is one of those books where I was left wondering if it was a 'literary marvel and a groundbreaking work of American magical realism' or a literary version of the emperor’s new clothes. Based on hundreds of glowing reviews and its placement high on most must-read sci-fi lists, there are many who believe this is a classic. One reader in my discussion group said “It's enough to me that odd and interesting events happen, characters have interesting conversations/insights, and there are occa ...more
Jan 08, 2014 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
No. No no no. What? No.

Get a second shoe. Take a shower. Stop sleeping with everyone. Simultaneously.
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
Mar 26, 2008 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ruediger Landmann
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
Simon Fay
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
Stephanie Sun
to reconstruct the autumnal city. The city is Bellona. The time is not too long after man has landed on the moon.

Structured like a simultaneously left- and right-facing Necker cube, Dhalgren is not your mom’s Great American Novel.
The ambiguous Necker cube
"...the moon and something called George…”

Not just because of the sex, drugs, and discordant harmonica that Delany recounts with fondness, humor, and the occasional eye-popping detail, but also because this is a book that knows that it’s a book. In fact, this is a ver
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
Leo Robertson
Re-read made me subtract a star.

Some books are so into themselves that they defy reading. (This is a bad thing.)

Unbelievably repetitive to such an extent that it can't be excused away with that all-grace-saver, "That's the point."

I have five pages in this that I really enjoyed: one of them is pg 285. I can't remember the others.

I didn't read this all the way through this time. I did the first time, but it didn't do that much good because I don't remember any of it.

Delany is hit-and-miss: why thi
Mar 20, 2011 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, own, whack-a-doo
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
J.M. Hushour
Feb 17, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Philip K. Dick famously threw this book at the wall after reading 361 pages. I read about 300 and couldn't stand another page, so Phil is one up on me. Don't get me wrong, I seriously love me some goddamn meta- speculative fiction/what-have-you. I consider Pynchon to be the pinnacle of American literature and "Gravity's Rainbow" (to which Dhalgren is often compared) one of the great American novels. This book is nothing like that. It's a meandering, dull and crappily written novel-that-is-the-no ...more
I had never heard of this book, or read anything by Delany before but a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in reading it for a book club. I did some investigating and saw that it had "difficult prose" and "wasn't really sci-fi" so decided I would either love or hate it and give it a try. Thankfully I ended up loving it. This was a post-apocalyptic beat book. The guy arrived in town and went around talking to everyone and writing poetry. It was the least violent or dangerous post-apoca ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 23, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Philosophy and anarchy, apocalypse and heresy, disarray and creativity: such is a universe of Dhalgren.
“Clouds out of control decoct anticipation. What use can any of us have for two moons? The miracle of order has run out and I am left in an unmiraculous city where anything may happen.”
A city of chaos and entropy is an ideal place for a daydreamer – the lack of reality provides a perfect freedom to dream.
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Reading the Chunk...: Dhalgren by Delany, Discussion Thread 28 45 Aug 31, 2016 07:40PM  
Each chapter has its own voice 1 11 Oct 19, 2015 11:03AM  
  • The Long Tomorrow
  • 334
  • Greybeard
  • Arslan
  • The Female Man
  • Floating Worlds
  • Drowning Towers
  • Dr. Bloodmoney
  • Life During Wartime
  • Riddley Walker
  • Of Men and Monsters
  • Last and First Men
  • R.U.R. & War with the Newts
  • The Mount
  • Stand on Zanzibar
  • The Complete Roderick
  • This Is the Way the World Ends
  • The Rediscovery of Man
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
More about Samuel R. Delany...

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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.” 95 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.” 43 likes
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