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Dhalgren

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  7,829 ratings  ·  913 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
Kindle Edition, 836 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (first published January 1975)
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Mech_aaron Drop it if it's not for you. The book doesn't rely heavily on plot. It's more of a character study, social thought experiment, literary experiment,…moreDrop it if it's not for you. The book doesn't rely heavily on plot. It's more of a character study, social thought experiment, literary experiment, statement on mental health, and exploration of the author's sexuality.

The experience of the book comes from the character interactions and the structure of the novel itself.

I think it's excellent for what it is, but it won't take you to Mordor.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.78  · 
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 ·  7,829 ratings  ·  913 reviews


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Glenn Russell
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition



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 hi
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”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.”


 photo dhalgren_zpslrkc60dw.jpg


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, B
...more
Ash
May 18, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
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
Bradley
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
...more
Jeff
DNF!!

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 enthus
...more
Marley
Jun 05, 2007 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
...more
Stevelvis
Jan 25, 2008 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
...more
Aubrey
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
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
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
...more
Bill
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
Jonathan


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
Dhalgren

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
...more
Ben
May 01, 2007 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
...more
Whitaker
*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
DoctorM
Feb 21, 2010 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
Nate D
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: Kate, Lucy
Revision.

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
Jonfaith
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
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Jul 31, 2013 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
Tom Mathews
Apr 19, 2016 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
Jenia Sukhan
Jan 19, 2013 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
...more
Sean
This parched evening seasons the night with remembrances of rain. Very few suspect the existence of this city. It is as if not only the media but the laws of perspective themselves have redesigned knowledge and perception to pass it by. Rumor says there is practically no power here. Neither television cameras nor on-the-spot broadcasts function: that such a catastrophe as this should be opaque, and therefore dull, to the electric nation! It is a city of inner discordances and retinal distortion
...more
John
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scorpions, come out and plaaaay!

description

I don't recall much about The Warriors (saw it a long time ago and was probably drinking at the time) but that screenshot could easily be a scene from Dhalgren: The matching vests! The hairstyles! The unbridled homoeroticism!

Dhalgren doesn't have much plot to speak of; most of the action is character-based. The protagonist does a lot of urban exploration whilst getting into the occasional gang fight and/or sex orgy. The lack of overarching plot is the only reason
...more
Elizabeth
Nov 08, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No. No no no. What? No.

Get a second shoe. Take a shower. Stop sleeping with everyone. Simultaneously.
aPriL does feral sometimes
''Dhalgren' is pure top-drawer, high-end Great Books Literature, but it also is an annoying Post-Modernism takedown of EVERYTHING regarding humanity and our creative and architectural conceits (in ALL definitions of the words!). So, the novel is horrendously fricking looooonnnnngggg because the author, Samuel Delany, takes us readers on a slow-moving, if vivid, literary and mythological magical mystery tour of ALL of the decaying fruits of civilization when generative forces go missing. A disast ...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
Manuel Antão
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1998
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.



Pollyanna Principles: "Dhalgren" by Samuel L. Delany



“Really? Samuel Delany has written "unreadable garbage"? Would you care to share with us the precise nature of the stories or novels which qualify as such, or have you not, as I strongly suspect, actually read any of his work? I presume this is the same Samuel Delany who has been a professor of English and writing at numerous American universities, who was named a GrandMaster of the f
...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
...more
Wanda
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
...more
El
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
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Dystopian Society: September/October Classic read #2 1 14 Sep 02, 2017 06:52AM  
Reading the Chunk...: Dhalgren by Delany, Discussion Thread 28 65 Aug 31, 2016 07:40PM  
Each chapter has its own voice 1 15 Oct 19, 2015 11:03AM  

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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
“You meet a new person, you go with him and suddenly you get a whole new city...you go down new streets, you see houses you never saw before, pass places you didn't even know were there. Everything changes.” 117 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.” 55 likes
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