STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, then DUNE and now, the major novel of love and terror at the end of time: DHALGREN, by Samuel Delany, four-time Nebula award winner (ilx book club #Y8554)

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what better book to start reading on valentine's day. anyway, i look forward to this becoming my samuel delany blog.

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 14 February 2014 09:02 (five years ago) Permalink

looking forward to reading the blog!

rashly thought i wld be finished w/ proust by the time this rolled round, but find myself still deep in The Captive, so will only be cheering on from the sidelines. harold pinter read the whole of In Seach of Lost Time in three months, which seems good going.

this was pretty much Martin Skidmore's favourite book btw, and was even mentioned at his memorial service. So I'm silently dedicating this thread to him.

Ward Fowler, Friday, 14 February 2014 09:13 (five years ago) Permalink

I got nine hundred pages deep into Proust in a couple of weeks the summer before my second year of university but then my parents started nagging me to get a job.

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:13 (five years ago) Permalink

Sometime in my life I want to be able to use the phrase "balls deep in Proust."

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:13 (five years ago) Permalink

Which is funny, because the book Dhalgren, see, has a lot about balls, but its concern with the value of memory or recollection is decidedly anti-Proustian--

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:14 (five years ago) Permalink

"balls deep in Proust."

that's unhygienic

j., Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:26 (five years ago) Permalink

Which is funny, because the book Dhalgren, see, has a lot about balls, but its concern with the value of memory or recollection is decidedly anti-Proustian--

― ♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, February 14, 2014 6:14 PM (28 minutes ago)

I don't know about anti-Proustian, but Kidd's "search for lost time" is a big part of his character and one of the things that makes the book so unsettling.

WilliamC, Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:47 (five years ago) Permalink

so i read this last five years ago and i'm 60 pages in this time round but, yeah, i agree with that. my assertion about proust, which i am not committed to particularly earnestly, as perhaps mb is indicated by its proximity to the phrase "balls deep in proust", was based in the idea that one could hardly imagine the Kid being prompted into reverie by anything at all; that it seems outside the constraints of this particular fiction

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 15 February 2014 01:08 (five years ago) Permalink

anyway, if anyone wants to follow along at home, i plan on finishing the first two sections this weekend; then the 'the house of atreus' section (which, if i remember correctly, is the odd interlude with the nuclear family with the incest drama who Kidd is the handyman for, while the rest of dhalgren keeps on dhalgrening outside their windows) next week. this seems like a good schedule for this reading group.

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Saturday, 15 February 2014 01:10 (five years ago) Permalink

Brill to see this thread.

Was reminded that I never did start it when I saw and picked up Fall of the Towers trilogy 2nd hand.

Looking forward to reading any impressions - might buy this monday if I see it at Waterstones or something. Otherwise try to contribute any crap when I can.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 15 February 2014 10:08 (five years ago) Permalink

Always found Delany's style a bit maddening and thought Nova was kind of dated and overrated, but did indeed enjoy Babel-17 and its twofer companion Empire Star. A diverse group of smart people in various corners have been recommending this one so I am willing to give it a go, heck, it's got to be better than Ada.

In Walked Sho-Bud (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:42 (five years ago) Permalink

Yeah, both those covers are great. I've owned 5-6 copies of the Bantam paperback over the years, now down to 2. One of these days I'll get a copy of the Vintage trade paperback since it incorporates a lot of text corrections.

WilliamC, Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:48 (five years ago) Permalink

I always find it kind of charming that you and Martin Skidmore seemed to like a lot of the same books, William.

In Walked Sho-Bud (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:52 (five years ago) Permalink

The flap of a butterfly wing could have diverted me into a life more resembling Martin's, I think.

WilliamC, Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:55 (five years ago) Permalink


In Walked Sho-Bud (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 15 February 2014 16:00 (five years ago) Permalink

OK, read the first section yesterday and right now in the middle of the second. The vibe is a cross between Hair and The Omega Man. More interesting than I thought it might be, although I don't know if I will make it farther than Harlan Ellison® did . thomp's comments on the other thread about Chip turning his weakness into strengths seems accurate.

In Walked Sho-Bud (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 16 February 2014 16:27 (five years ago) Permalink

ha. which other thread was that, james

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 16 February 2014 18:41 (five years ago) Permalink


In Walked Sho-Bud (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 16 February 2014 19:17 (five years ago) Permalink


In Walked Sho-Bud (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 16 February 2014 19:22 (five years ago) Permalink

ah, about triton. i was going to say something about the prose in dhalgren in re weaknesses-into-strengths; i'm glad i wouldn't have been repeating myself.

i notice i said this before:

plus also the odd high fantasy trope: there's something leiberish or conanish about the kid's coming to the city and being granted all these artifacts of power: talisman, weapon, spellbook . . .

― thomp, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 11:43 (4 years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

having forgotten by the end of the book that the kid notices in the first part that he's been granted 'weapon, armor, title'. it's interesting how delany wants to make over-overt symbols a part of his aesthetic project -- i think it's arguably sort-of democratic, maybe? or ____cratic where '___cracy' denotes the utopic social state he's always doing shards of.

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 16 February 2014 19:32 (five years ago) Permalink

i think triton might be more interesting than dhalgren because triton's project is (sort of) 'invent the society i think is ideal, and then empathise with the people it fails to serve'; i'm not sure what dhalgren's project is, to be honest, i was going to try and define it in comparison to triton's but i can't.

partly this is because the metafictional framing in triton stands outside the narrative in a way that allows the reader to take or leave it, which (i guess?) fits with the work its doing ~in the utopic tradition~. -- that the reader can to some extent disentangle her thoughts about the book's social claims and its aesthetic achievements. whereas dhalgren is a lot more "hey! i'm a book! look how my status as an open text prevents resolution!"

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 16 February 2014 19:36 (five years ago) Permalink

on the over-determined symbols front -- given that throwing emphasis on descriptions of invented combat paraphernalia is not something that normally falls front and centre in the postwar american realist tradition -- why is kid's weapon what it is? why is his armor what it is?

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 16 February 2014 19:38 (five years ago) Permalink

is there also a mythical parallel for the moment when, the morning after their sexual encounter on the rooftop, the kid flees at the sight of tak's eyes?

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Tuesday, 18 February 2014 22:06 (five years ago) Permalink

- plenty more quasi-rhetoric al questions where that came from

- I'd forgotten the notebook they read with a remixed version of the books first paragraph: but not the list of names.

- I'd forgotten and don't remember ever having not forgotten the kids childhood memories at the start of the second part : whereas with the notebook at least i thought : ah, this bit.

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Tuesday, 18 February 2014 22:09 (five years ago) Permalink

Many, how tiny is the type in that Bantam edition?

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Wednesday, 19 February 2014 22:03 (five years ago) Permalink

9 pt. (Nova and Triton is 10 pt.)

needs more garlic → (WilliamC), Wednesday, 19 February 2014 22:15 (five years ago) Permalink

Wow. My Gollancz paperback is the size of a brick.

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Wednesday, 19 February 2014 22:26 (five years ago) Permalink

when are we gonna go back to mass-market printing books like that

i had an old gravity's rainbow 'pocket' before someone i loaned it to never returned it

there's something correct about being able to read like not just 'popular' writing in that format

j., Thursday, 20 February 2014 01:52 (five years ago) Permalink

move to europe

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 20 February 2014 07:43 (five years ago) Permalink

not the english-speaking bit

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 20 February 2014 07:43 (five years ago) Permalink

god france really?

j., Thursday, 20 February 2014 14:07 (five years ago) Permalink

Delany writing het sex in the 70s is,hm, less convincing than when he writes queer sex in the 90s and 00s

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 20 February 2014 19:44 (five years ago) Permalink

actually i think it was just this description of cunnilingus:

"He mapped the folds that fell, wetly out, with his tongue; and the grisly nut in the folded vortex, and the soft granular trough behind it."

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Friday, 21 February 2014 07:53 (five years ago) Permalink

i took a bit of a break while i read hilary mantel. i sort of wonder whether i have that much to say about this book, or whether it's a book that invites saying much about (other than the usual comments about how long and how avant-garde it is, to which the answers are fairly straightforwardly "very, but not incredibly" and "not very, really")

it seems like it both does and doesn't hold some kind of potential for a reading in the wake of what's happened to new orleans or what's happened to detroit, but not one that i can make, really

i like that the blurb states it's a "major novel of love and terror at the end of time": because it suggests there might be minor novels of same

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 23 February 2014 17:35 (five years ago) Permalink

nah, i mean, it's okay, i liked it a lot when i was in high school, but

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 26 February 2014 11:14 (five years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

i think what has kept me reading this novel is the sort of effortlessly idiosyncratic perspective he has on physicality. it feels like native soil to him. the more literary elements are not as impressive to me, with the exception of newboy's monologues which so far have wowed me (i'm about 250 pages in). his writing as such can be gripping when he attaches it to a certain focused character / viewpoint. the opening section of stars in my pocket comes to mind. i appreciate his drive to experiment beyond these episodes but i don't always enjoy it.

i think i'm going to have to read hogg at some point.

shakey, do you remember what book were you talking about above?

mattresslessness, Thursday, 16 April 2015 18:41 (four years ago) Permalink

oh it showed up, nm

mattresslessness, Thursday, 16 April 2015 18:42 (four years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

good thread

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 16:41 (seven months ago) Permalink

Stranger In A Strange Land : C or D?

i'm going to bump this thread rather than the one above because i like this one better

so ... should i bother reading this book? i have never read it before, but our school was throwing away a library bound edition so i snagged it. opened to a random page and got this

"In the Tennessee legislature a bill was introduced to make pi equal to three; it was reported out by the committee on public education and morals, passed without objection by the lower house and died in the upper house. An interchurch fundamentalist group opened offices in Van Buren, Arkansas, to solicit funds to send missionaries to the Martians; Dr. Jubal Harshaw made a donation but sent it in the name (and with the address) of the editor of the New Humanist, rabid atheist and his close friend."

seems ... suitably strange? but i heard it's very sexist.

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 16:46 (seven months ago) Permalink

also funny to see shakey's post about moorcock above because just yesterday blogger (!) emailed me to tell me that i would no longer be receiving comment notifications for my blog "AN ALIEN HEAT" (which is started and abandoned in 2005)

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 16:49 (seven months ago) Permalink

It’s Heinlein at his most nakedly didactic. I havent gone back to it since high school, not sure what I would think of it now.

Οὖτις, Saturday, 1 September 2018 17:52 (seven months ago) Permalink

Also just want to reiterate how shitty Delany’s writing is, Heinlein’s no prose master but he never penned anything as awful as this:

"He mapped the folds that fell, wetly out, with his tongue; and the grisly nut in the folded vortex, and the soft granular trough behind it."

Οὖτις, Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:00 (seven months ago) Permalink

delany's writing can be rough

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:01 (seven months ago) Permalink

sometimes his writing is really good though

i think dhalgren is overrated and trition and (especially!) stars in my pocket are underrated

i think delany is at his worst when he tries to do transcendent ... he invents an art form called "micro theatre" in triton, and his attempts to describe how mind-blowing it is are ... not great

i find though that when delany writes about prosaic stuff in triton (like going out to dinner, or playing boardgames, or office politics) he's really great and entertaining

that's why i like "stars in my pocket" so much ... it's really a slice-of-life novel, just set in the future

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:08 (seven months ago) Permalink

similar dynamic at work in dhalgren for me, the part where the kid and denny and lanya are jamming out and playing musical poetry or whatever i remember particularly hating

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:13 (seven months ago) Permalink

There is some kind of jamming in Nova that bugged me as well.

The Great Atomic Power Ballad (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:15 (seven months ago) Permalink

haha yeah! i remember that bad-ness

the one novel where i thought the music/poetry thing was executed well was "the einstein intersection"

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:20 (seven months ago) Permalink

Babel-17 is a wonderful book, I think: a young man's book, probably, but full of verve and imagination and vibrant cleverness and ploymorphous sexual shenanigans.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 2 September 2018 07:09 (seven months ago) Permalink

^^^^ on this. My favorite Delany and the only one I've read more than once.

Elvis Telecom, Sunday, 2 September 2018 07:31 (seven months ago) Permalink

Just the other day re-read 'Aye, and Gomorrah' for the first time in many years, and it still struck me as one of the greatest of all science fiction short stories - says so much about difference, isolation, the alienation of desire in just a few pages, and its total effect is overwhelmingly sad.

I once read an interview with Delany where he said his initial project in SF was to 'do a Bester', or update Bester, or some such - and you can definitely see that in things like Nova, and the brilliant short story 'Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones' - that same kind of ceaseless invention and slam-bang narrative action combined with, yes, more 'prosaic', here-and-now material that is effective counterpoint to the out-there cosmic purple prose stuff.

As for Stranger In a Strange Land, I also read it many years ago and can remember next to nothing about it, just a vague sense that it really is anticipatory of free love hippiedom. Reading a fair bit of American New Wave SF recently - Ellison, Delany, Zelazny etc - I've been struck by how much stylistically these guys owed to the Beats, rather than Beckett, or Kafka, or 60s experimentalists like Coover, Gass, Pynchon etc. For better or worse, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't very 'beat' at all - it's a strange thing all of its own. But I would say that there are other, more entertaining Heinlein novels that aren't nearly so long, or so humourless.

Ward Fowler, Sunday, 2 September 2018 22:25 (seven months ago) Permalink

six months pass...

first 25 pages in (i'm reading the Vintage ed)

"This parched evening seasons the night with remembrances of rain." (p. 14) -- lovely

the heroic journey trinity (armor, weapon, Name) is evocative despite or esp bc of the anachronistic feeling it has (esp in this apocalyptic setting) and weirdly reminded me of the Dungeon Quest books. the chain was particularly confusing for me, lot of almost free floating lack of clarity about things, what they are (inc the protagonist, or who they are).

one thing i'm wondering about is who the "i" is that interjects occasionally. at some pts it seems like the protag thinking to himself such as when he finds the loaf of bread - "I'm not hungry." (p.15) but then in other places it seems like the I might be someone distinct the narrator going through something while retelling the story such as "From this play of night, light, and leather, can I let myself take identity? How can I recreate this roasted park in some meaningful matrix? Equipped with contradictory visions, an ugly hand caged in pretty metal, I observe a new mechanics. I am the wild machinist, past destroyed, reconstructing the present." (p. 24) this could be the protag tho in what way is he obliged to "recreate this roasted park in some meaningful matrix" (a task more for an author i feel like), tho the concerns with taking an identity are germane to the protagonist. my impression is that the ugly hand caged in pretty metal is referring to the protag (his hand is badly damaged) so to use it as a sort of ersatz metaphor also confuses my impression of who is talking.

another relevant passage (these slippages into first person when otherwise the protagonist is depicted in third seem to sometimes be poetic + hermeneutical), "It is not that I have no past. Rather, it continually fragments on the terrible and vivid ephemera of now. In the long country, cut with rain, somehow there is nowhere to begin." (p.10) More considerations vis-a-vis time and its lack of stability, "somehow there is nowhere to begin" also struck me as a concern of the author as the protag has already begun his "quest" but there is a sense of trying to establish a beginning to the story maybe.

* Another reason I'm unsure is that the protag does think in third person at times as well, eg, "He nodded, while his mind accelerated, trying to decide: him? her?" (p.25)

the text alternates between some really gorgeous prose sometimes with some really clunky and poor prose. sometimes it's hard to pin down what is happening even with lavish description (this is surely somewhat intentional and somewhat my fault reading when i'm tired). also some stuff is dated esp re gender + sex politics. "You show me a place where they tell women to stay out of at night because of all the nasty, evil men lurking there to do nasty, evil things; and you know what you'll find?" "Queers." (p.21), a brief description a few pages later: "A girl on a blanket, with no shirt and really nice breasts..." (p.24). - i'm imaging the depiction of women in this is going to continue to come up as an issue, already they mostly appear as victims or somewhat stock characters.

sorry if any of this is unclear (or dumb) i'm just trying to jot down some notes before i go to sleep. curious if we're following a schedule?

Mordy, Wednesday, 27 March 2019 03:58 (three weeks ago) Permalink

- to start in on Dhalgren on the bus this morning.

one thing i'm wondering about is who the "i" is that interjects occasionally

I think there might be one than one 'I'? Sometimes the kid, sometimes the author, sometimes...?. I see upthread that I banged on about the Bester-Delany connection, but this switching between first and third person couldn't help but remind me of Bester's 'Fondly Farenheit' - again, that's probably deliberate, this is a text that already seems of a piece w/ mainstream early 70s po-mo self-aware lit fic in the way it's obviously v. concerned w/ inter- and extra-textuality, referentiality, semiotic self-criticism, mythological symbolism, all that good stuff. It seems as close to Giles Goat Boy as it does to Stranger in a Strange Land.

Agree w/ Mordy about the clumsiness of the sex stuff, the language used ("nice breasts") - a common flaw in early 70s 'progressive' American SF, but a bit surprising coming from Delany, who was clearly not the regulation horny hetro SF daddy. And yes, some of the writing is clunky or downright poor, but I sort've like the way that that still roots Delany in pulp even while he's pulling off some pretty exciting, sophisticated metatextual whizbang.

So yes, I'm enjoying the first four chapters that I've read - picturesque surreal journey novel w/ all the post-apocalyptic trimmings - v much my kind of thing.

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 27 March 2019 20:29 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Interesting to read upthread about the Fred Pohl-Dhalgren connection, btw. Read Pohl's novel Man Plus not that long ago, published same sort of time as Dhalgren, and it also uses the narrative trick of suddenly switching to un-identified first person narrative (though Pohl reveals his workings at the end, something I'm p sure Delany isn't going to do...) Pohl, like Bester, definitely feels like a plausible source of inspiration for Delany (and Pohl's much anthologised and very clever short story 'Day Million' also has a grotesque use of the word 'queer' in its opening sentences...)

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 27 March 2019 20:35 (three weeks ago) Permalink

So much is left uncertain starting with the date that the events are set. When the Kid ("Kit?" she asked. "Kid." "K-y-d-d...?" (p.24) <-- lol yes the very common Kydd) first says he was born in 1948 and is 27 I quickly checked the date that the book was published -- 1975, which would match the Kid's description. He's instantly contradicted tho by the woman ("I was born in nineteen forty-seven. And I'm a good deal older than twenty-eight." (p.5)). And then later in the park the newspaper has been printed with the date 1995. which is maybe also false because "That's just Calkins... the dates are just his little joke." 1995 from the perspective of 1975 would make some sense considering this obviously happened in the "future" so it would be the proper science fiction date maybe, whereas 1975 is the real publishing date (and somehow the date the Kid is stuck to somehow) maybe developing this idea that the protag is shifting between the author / narrator and the Kid? Or just the general uncertainty that extends throughout (not just to the Kid's own personal history and name but also to things like which direction the sun rises from (p.36).

a lot of this reminds me of Fallen London and i wonder if alexis kennedy has read dhalgen. "But what do you do if it gets light in a different place tomorrow?" -- not lovecraftian but just kinda the terror of nature acting uncertainly something we can certainly relate to even if not quite as dramatically as the sun rising from the wrong direction.

the uncertainty of the very architecture of the city: "The whole city shifts, turns, rearranges itself. All the time. And rearranges us..." (p.36) of course cities/urbanity have been rearranging us (and being rearranged by us) for all of history. the insinuation here is that it's happening unguided by human hands but isn't that how it feels for us too? i work in a construction related field and despite having hands on close experiences of being involved with changes in a city they're so tiny and my perspective is so small that the way a city becomes rearranged is totally hidden to me it might as well be unguided by human hands for how overdetermined it is.

"'Dad was a little ballsy, blue-eyed Georgia Methodist ---' that memory's vividness surprised him too --" (p.38) ok understandable he is so vague about so much of his own life and existence that i get why he is surprised. what i'm wondering if who else is surprised? "too" me? the author? probably not Tak. it could be a delaney stylistic thing tho -- i thought maybe to read it as "surprised him in addition to the previous thing that surprised him," but couldn't find any likely contender and then just two pages later "That sounded funny, too; so he laughed." again no clear other funny thing to 'rhyme' this one with. it's disorienting and i wonder he's using it to try to create a sense of repetition.

"Rhythm is the only thing secure. In this darkness, rising, I recall the Pacific stars. This ritual ascendance goes on in a city that has erased them and blurred its sun out altogether. Iron Wolf has something. I want it without the bother of definitions. The dangerous illumination, the light in the exploding eye, is not for this other city." (p.40) -- he thinks of Tak by the name he doesn't prefer, maybe because Tak's preferred names "Red Wolf" + "Fire Wolf" have evocations of light and this is a place of darkness? What is it that he feels Tak has that he wants without the bother of definitions? Could be so much; community, knowledge, an identity? Maybe just being fixed in some way and not untethered. What is the dangerous illumination - what is the other city? The real city that Delaney is sitting in writing this book?

Tak had a swastika tattoo removed and his walls are covered with photos of adolescent youths with "huge" bared genitalia. uh oh. He also owns a lot of books about motorcycles, Keats, and some sci fi. The Kid is judgey about the motorcycle books. Weekend in Hell, a TRue Story of the Angels as Told by Millicent Brash -- he read the first paragraph of ill-lined type, shook his head, and put it down." or maybe just the typeface was hard to read? hard to tell.

"At the pungence of thyme and fennel, the space beneath his tongue flooded." (p.44)

"trying to pick the next date for the Times could be the Bellona equivalent to playing the numbers." (p.46 lol so apparently Calkins dates really cannot be trusted or maybe he's just noting the rapidly shifting time?

"Jesus Christ, man! What's the matter with you -- that stuff all over your dick!" [...] "That's not dandruff. I was with a woman. Just before I met you. Only I didn't get a chance to wash." "Was she sick?" (p.49) O_O

not totally sure what the Kid discovers about Tak "Without white or pupil, the balls were completely crimson." red eyes? some kind of cybernetics? "With darkness in his eyes, the red memory was worse than the discovery." (p.52)

"he felt the frown, from inside; a twisting in his facial flesh he could not control" - feelings of disassociation that echo Tak's non-human eyes maybe? then a little later, "Tears were on his cheek" -- he experiences dissociation from his very real body parts exposing a kind of deficiency in his response to Tak's eyes I feel like the text is suggesting. assuming Tak's eye is a cybernetic sitch or at least I think it definitely suggests something augmented or Other than natural eyes but here that kind of distinction is collapsed even the natural things about natural eyes can still feel external / uncontrollable / alienated.

"The street sign on the corner lamppost said Broadway." (p.53) but we know Bellona isn't NY bc he discusses NY with the girls who give him the orchid earlier.

Mordy, Thursday, 28 March 2019 01:38 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Wow, that post is almost as long as Dhalgren itself.

Theorbo Goes Wild (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2019 01:43 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Sorry, couldn’t resist

Theorbo Goes Wild (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2019 01:43 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Mordy, is this your first time reading Dhalgren?

I picked it up and started a distracted rereading today and caught a detail I'd missed before — the first appearance of the red eyes is in Muriel the dog (Bantam edition, p. 18). The "stuff all over your dick" line has always bugged me -- I can't imagine having sex and not giving my dick at least a cursory wipe afterward.

16 Historic English ILXors You Must Explore Soon (WmC), Thursday, 28 March 2019 02:07 (three weeks ago) Permalink

my first time yeah

Mordy, Thursday, 28 March 2019 02:09 (three weeks ago) Permalink

“Rather what we know as real is burned away at invisible heat. What we are concerned with is more insubstantial.”

Mordy, Thursday, 28 March 2019 03:25 (three weeks ago) Permalink

0 pages in and so far it's less impenetrable than advertised. Ok it starts with an encounter with a naked woman who has sex with our hero then turns into a tree, but nothing too challenging happens after that. When he sees the dragons and scorpions in the park I thought the city might be something like the Zone, altered by ineffable alien presence; when he finds out they are holograms his disappointment echoed mine. People and dogs with red eyes though...

The textbook containing the novel itself seemed too easy, maybe hinting at the same thing as the end of The Man in the High Castle, but there it seems profound and well earned after what has gone before, here it seems like a throwaway gimmick.

The 3rd/1st person perspective shifts, while maybe somewhat postmodern in intent, don't seem to be in danger of destabilising the narrative.

All that said, I'm enjoying it! It's just not (yet?) as weird as i expected.

(Mordy wrote:)
"The street sign on the corner lamppost said Broadway." (p.53) but we know Bellona isn't NY bc he discusses NY with the girls who give him the orchid earlier.

Earlier on Tak tells the kid "the street becomes Broadway as soon as it leaves the waterfront". There can't be only one Broadway in the US?

Minor pedantic details:
There's maybe a thousand left out of a city of two million: only one out of a hundred homes should be occupied.

This doesn't really compute; maybe Tak isn't good with numbers but that doesn't square with his profession/interests.

Thyme, fennel seeds, rosemary and garlic: pretty fancy seasoning for a breakfast of ham eggs and bread.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 28 March 2019 12:47 (three weeks ago) Permalink

0 pages in make that 80.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 28 March 2019 12:48 (three weeks ago) Permalink

All that said, I'm enjoying it! It's just not (yet?) as weird as i expected.
Wasn’t one of the original objections that it wasn’t sf enough, or so I seem to recall

Theorbo Goes Wild (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2019 12:57 (three weeks ago) Permalink

(not sure if i'm allowed to interject as i'm not actually rereading it right now myself but bellona is often identified as oakland -- which also has a broadway -- tho i don't recall if SRD himself has sanctioned this identification)

mark s, Thursday, 28 March 2019 13:28 (three weeks ago) Permalink

xp i wasn't expecting spaceships (since the introduction in my edition said "you'll wait in vain for the spaceships") but was expecting more cryptic writing. Oh, one thing it says in my introduction re: the less than progressive gender politics:

Delany who makes a point of transforming his own life into art, made certain decisions when it came to the final cut, and it seems he chose to present his younger self as he was: unreconstructed, a rebel without a cause [...] The Kid doesn't want to identify himself politically as Gay he just wants to get laid.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 28 March 2019 13:38 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Always get confused between Bellona and Belladonna and then think of the Only Ones song "Deadly NIghtshade."

Theorbo Goes Wild (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:26 (three weeks ago) Permalink

less impenetrable than advertised.

just a lack of clarity and lots of questions left open -- who was the woman? what was her deal at the end of their interaction? why did she send him into the cave? what was the deal with the chains he found? etc. and the questions keep piling up but it's not really posed like a mystery there's no hook to find out what it all really means so i can why ppl would be repelled by all the uncertainty and intentional confusion.

Mordy, Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:29 (three weeks ago) Permalink

it's not difficult to decipher at all on a syntactical level if that's what u mean by impenetrable it's no finnegan's wake

Mordy, Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:30 (three weeks ago) Permalink

There are definitely paragraphs that I can't immediately make sense of when they occur in the narrative (they might become clearer later) and which seem to exist mainly for poetic or atmospheric effect - eg this one right at the start of the second section:

Here I am and am no I. This circle in all, this change changing in winterless, a dawn circle with an image of, an autumn change with a change of mist. Mistake two pictures, one and another. No. Only in seasons of short-light, only on dead afternoons. I will not be sick again. I will not. You are here.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:37 (three weeks ago) Permalink

That's true but they're not frequent or long enough to be off-putting - that may change. And yes there are those unanswered questions, I suppose at the beginning it's easy to assume that answers will be forthcoming and not worry about it. That too may change.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:49 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I appreciate this thread, I think I read this at the right time in my life and have been afraid to re-read (in case it doesn't hold up and I tarnish the memory). But I was thinking about it a lot as a favorable comparison when reading that new Marlon James.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:58 (three weeks ago) Permalink

William Gibson's quote about Dhalgren - "A riddle that was never meant to be solved" - makes me think answers (within the text) might never be forthcoming. And that's OK.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 28 March 2019 15:02 (three weeks ago) Permalink

After 6 or 7 readings, I'm most interested in the references to Greco-Roman mythology and theology, despite Delany's caution not to get too hung up on them. I never studied any mythologies in school, so I didn't get any of the references until I found an expansion of the book's Wiki page that provided a partial key. I won't link to it unless asked because SPOILERS. But having that extra textual level available made my most recent reading hella fun.

16 Historic English ILXors You Must Explore Soon (WmC), Thursday, 28 March 2019 17:34 (three weeks ago) Permalink

It’s easy, he thought, to put sounds with either white (maybe the pure tone of an audio generator; and the other, its opposite, that was called white noise), black (large gongs, larger bells), or the primary colors (the variety of the orchestra). Pale grey is silence.

Classic synaesthesia.

"It does not offer me any protection, this mist; rather a refracting grid through which to view the violent machine, explore the technocracy of the eye itself, spelunk the semi-circular canal. "

Maybe the city is his mind, his damaged psyche, which he is exploring to (re) discover his identity. Echoing an earlier passage when he's describing his mental illness to Tak:

But the real mind is invisible: you’re less aware of it, while you think, than you are of your eye while you see … until something goes wrong with it. Then you become aware of it, with all its dislocated pieces and its rackety functioning, the same way you become aware of your eye when you get a cinder in it. Because it hurts …

He's mentioned discovering the source of the smoke that blankets the city, this could be the trauma that cost his memory.

Delany, of course, is The Kid, grown up. So it's his mind, his memories. The notebook just is the novel, simultaneously complete and a work in progress.

Just a thought.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Saturday, 30 March 2019 20:08 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I've been thinking along similar lines, ledge - and also that Delany is not just Kidd, but Bellona too - the author as city, an impossible space of constant, disordered, shifting invention and fancy - architecture of mind and place, etc.

Ward Fowler, Saturday, 30 March 2019 21:06 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Yes, definitely.

Another minor detail I forgot: so he goes over in fine detail how the orchid was on his hand after leaving Tak's even though he absolutely did not stop to pick it up; later on there's something similar that passes without mention - he is definitely holding the notebook, then a page later Lanya gives it to him.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Saturday, 30 March 2019 21:38 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Happy 77th birthday to SRD today.

16 Historic English ILXors You Must Explore Soon (WmC), Monday, 1 April 2019 14:47 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Newboy is a bit of a bore.

This is fine, not very avant garde as thomp says above. There are puzzles - what's up with The Kid, what's the deal with the chains, the red eyes - but it doesn't seem as purposefully cryptic as e.g. The Book of The New Sun, where it seemed the real themes only became apparent if you solved the puzzles. Here the themes are pretty obvious.

so I didn't get any of the references until I found an expansion of the book's Wiki page that provided a partial key

Will be interested to see this when I'm done though.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Friday, 5 April 2019 09:46 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Newboy is a bit of a bore.

Heh, I am in the section with his long monologues just now - can't tell if his boorishness is deliberate, or if he's yet another SRD alter-ego (this time as 'major poet'). The preceding George Harrison monologue about rape and female desire was - surprise - even more problematic, though some of the implicit feminist critique embedded in it feels extremely #metoo relevant, even prescient.

This comment upthread from late great has definitely resonated with me while reading Dhalgren -

i find though that when delany writes about prosaic stuff in triton (like going out to dinner, or playing boardgames, or office politics) he's really great and entertaining

Like, I really enjoyed the long sequence at the Richards' dinner table, where routine domestic chat is undercut by all sorts of familial strife.

Also enjoying the curiously (post-sixties) benign vision of apocalyptic living. Bellona is smouldering, in crisis, but money, employment and status are no longer very important (the Richards clinging to the prestige of a good job and a nice home are clearly delusional/hysterical), and almost everyone that Kid encounters (apart from some of the scorpions, maybe, and even then...) offers to share food, living spaces, bodies, wisdom etc with him. This kind of relaxed communal vibe comes at the expense of fast narrative momentum, but I can live with that - it's a trip, as they say.

Ward Fowler, Friday, 5 April 2019 10:03 (two weeks ago) Permalink

The preceding George Harrison monologue about rape and female desire was - surprise - even more problematic, though some of the implicit feminist critique embedded in it feels extremely #metoo relevant, even prescient.

I got that vibe, but there's a danger of course of thinking this is the first time in history when our eyes are truly open to the reality of sexual assault. Either way it definitely swings wildly between 'right on' and 'er, nope...'. (Also, curious name to pick for the guy.)

Also enjoying the curiously (post-sixties) benign vision of apocalyptic living

Yes, I see it as the revolution realised/explored through the lens of post apocalyptic fiction. The traditional power structures (The Man) have disappeared, The Kids have moved into the gap and it's the squares (the Richards) who now seem out of joint with the times. It's not exactly the dawning of the age of aquarius, it's less optimistic/more realistic than that, but they're doing ok.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Friday, 5 April 2019 10:37 (two weeks ago) Permalink

(Also, curious name to pick for the guy.)

In The Einstein Intersection, The Beatles have become the stuff of myth and legend (Ringo especially!) - fab four definitely one of SRD's obsessions.

Ward Fowler, Friday, 5 April 2019 10:47 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Almost exactly halfway through now, and my main question is - what's a Dhalgren?

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 9 April 2019 11:29 (one week ago) Permalink

For one thing, the children run by, calling Grendal Grendal Grendal Grendal

dow, Tuesday, 9 April 2019 15:23 (one week ago) Permalink

Thanks dow, don't think I've got to that bit yet - but one thing I'm noticing more and more is how Delany's storytelling mirrors the idea of the shifting city, as experienced by someone with memory loss and a history of mental illness; the book is deliberately repetitive, contradictory, opaque, circular, without event, filled with acres and acres of slangy, discursive, abbreviated, random chatter, so the overall effect is of a 'story' where narrative detail/coherence, the order (never mind meaning) of events constantly slip through yr reading mind - if you can even be sure that 'story' is happening at all. Parts of it are very bad just at the level of the sentence - yes, most ruinously in the many sexual encounters in the book - but the overall effect is - something. It really isn't like any other novel I've read, for good and bad, and as you go on there is this very powerful, cumulative feeling that things are happening deep in the book's subtextual undergrowth - and as of page 430 we haven't even gone underground in Bellona yet. I like what Henry James said about reading Proust - “inconceivable boredom associated with the most extreme ecstasy which it is possible to imagine”.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 9 April 2019 18:11 (one week ago) Permalink

I'm going to have to start marking up my copy with sticky tabs or something -- I looked for a crucial scene that addresses Ward's question last night for 20 minutes but the damn thing is so long I couldn't find it. Kid's haywireness with time is forced onto the reader -- the last time I read the book in full, I was especially keen on getting to a particular scene, which I remembered being about halfway through. Turns out it was in the last 60 pages.

ILX Halftime Shows Ranked — Which Was the Best? (WmC), Tuesday, 9 April 2019 21:46 (one week ago) Permalink

Hah this morning I'd reached page 549 and was feeling p good abt myself for doing so, when I moved from left to right page and found that approx the next 50 pages were simply missing from my copy of this UK paperback edition:

At first, without noticing the page numbers, I genuinely thought Delany had just abruptly time-shifted between one segment and another, but no, this was a printing error, an extreme example of the editorial carelessness which seems to attend a lot of these mammoth modernist novels - it's perhaps Dhalgren's strongest link to Ulysses.

For me, reading these huge things is all about momentum - no stopping! - so this evening I bought a replacement copy of the most recent UK edition. It's bigger, and better presented on the page, but I really hate the cover on this one:,204,203,200_.jpg

Ward Fowler, Monday, 15 April 2019 20:29 (six days ago) Permalink

The Right Rev. T-Bone Burnett! Looking resentful, as usual. How the Hell did the artist make this connection?

dow, Monday, 15 April 2019 22:22 (six days ago) Permalink

uggghhhh, every single one of those Gollancz SF Masterworks covers is a crime against their author.

The Carjackers Quickly Dumped ILX Once They Saw What Was Inside (WmC), Monday, 15 April 2019 23:10 (six days ago) Permalink

I'm still surprised at how readable this book is; aside from the odd bad sentence ('bare breasts joggling jingling links' is currently my favourite), and the sex scenes (pretty matter-of-fact but way too long), the prose is very easygoing, and even though it's not exactly narratively compelling there's something pulling me along. And every now and then there'll be something startlingly quotidian and human, even amusing, like the bit i've just read where Lanya visits The Kid's new nest and lightheartedly tells him what a shithole it is, then Bunny turns up and does an amazing camp turn.

It also reminds me of Ishiguro's The Unconsoled. Stylistically they're completely different, but both are about someone with a memory problem entering a strange city with dreamlike shifts in space and time, on some kind of quest or mission that's never defined, where they seem to get pulled along by events out of their control.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Tuesday, 16 April 2019 07:52 (five days ago) Permalink

The Right Rev. T-Bone Burnett! Looking resentful, as usual. How the Hell did the artist make this connection?


Theory of Every Zing (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 16 April 2019 09:17 (five days ago) Permalink

The Gollancz Masterworks covers for Stapledon's Star Maker are really nice. One exception I've found so far.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Friday, 19 April 2019 18:26 (two days ago) Permalink

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