tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Dhalgren

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
534016
's review
Jun 24, 08

bookshelves: sf
Read in July, 1984

What did I learn from this bk?! Probably nothing.. but it's still one the greatest SF novels I've ever read. On the back-cover of my smoke-damaged copy there's a ball-point pen created arrow pointing to the publisher's blurb. This blurb consists of 10 lines. I scratched out the 1st 9. I can barely make them out:

"THE SUN
HAS GROWN DEADLY
THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD; SOCIETY HAS
PERISHED; SAVAGERY RULES
OVER ALL. ALL THAT WAS KNOWN
IS OVER, ALL THAT WAS FAMILIAR IS
STRANGE AND TERRIBLE. TODAY
AND YESTERDAY COLLIDE WITH TOMORROW
IN THESE DYING DAYS OF EARTH;"

Those are the lines I scratched thru. You'd think they were describing "Planet of the Apes" or something. The line I left is:

"A YOUNG DRIFTER ENTERS THE CITY..."

That's more like it. This back-cover blurb tries to sensationalize a bk that's anything but. It tries to sell it as a disaster novel - but what is it really? Yeah, the sun has changed & that's a vague pretext for what's changed socially. I must've read this around 1984 (24 yrs ago) & my memory of it's pretty vague too but I do remember it as being close to a description of urban decay (or is it just urban change?) in the mid-late 20th century - in an only slightly alternate universe. There's the middle-class white family trying to hold their old world together in the face of a new society where all the support mechanisms just aren't there anymore. Like so many of Delany's novels, lawlessness prevails.. but w/ the sensitivity of an anarchist (& I have no idea whether Delany IS an anarchist) 'lawlessness' doesn't necessarily mean "savagery": it means the characters who want to keep their delicateness intact have to adapt, they have to be clever & alert. They can be KIND, they can be GENTLE, but they can't necessarily rely on an externally imposed 'order' to protect them.
1 like · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Dhalgren.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

Geoffrey Dow Perfect! I mislaid my copy(s) of that edition more years ago than I care to remember and am "stuck" with the current Vintage and/or Weslayan Press edition.

But the back cover copy always amused me for the precise reasons you set out here and I've been hoping to get a hold of it again simply to have it as an example of advertising the completely mis-represents a book.

Glad you posted this and, if I may, I heartily recommend that you re-read it if you haven't done since 1984. It's a hell of a trip, when the best novels I've ever read.


Geoffrey Dow


Michael I realize that this is an old review, but I thought you might be interested in what the author himself had to say. From his perspective, it sounds generally more existentialist than anarchist: "Delany was now 32 and a father. His eight-hundred-seventy-nine page science fiction novel, Dhalgren, from Bantam Books, had been the product of five years’ labor. The novel deals with the disaffected young, black and white, and the tensions between them, unto interracial rape — yet always with an uncharacteristic take. Its hero is an amnesiac half-breed American Indian, who hitch-hikes to the burned-out city of Bellona, where talent, celebrity, and even the performance of laudable and praiseworthy acts others might call heroic turn out to be largely a matter of chance, mistake, or social misapprehension. These socially created images — illusions, really — are wholly apart from, and sometimes in direct opposition to, the will of the characters. Easily the most controversial SF novel of its decade, Dhalgren portrays graphically — and sympathetically — both homosexual and heterosexual behavior. Rather than spaceships and interstellar travel, many of its images come from the burned-out inner city of the sort Delany’s old neighborhood Harlem had become, back in New York, and which now blighted block after block of most major American cities."
Quoted from http://www.pseudopodium.org/repress/K... Steiner is a pseudonym for Delany.


tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE Michael! Thanks for that! Excellent!


back to top