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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four 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 (four years ago) Permalink

"balls deep in Proust."

that's unhygienic

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

Ha.

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

ha. which other thread was that, james

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

dhalgren

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

Can
...you
......remember?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

move to europe

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

not the english-speaking bit

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

god france really?

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

oh it showed up, nm

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

three years pass...

good thread

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

delany's writing can be rough

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


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