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

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

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

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

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 (six years ago) link

move to europe

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

not the english-speaking bit

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

god france really?

j., Thursday, 20 February 2014 14:07 (six years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

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 (six years ago) link

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) link

oh it showed up, nm

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

three years pass...

good thread

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 16:41 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

delany's writing can be rough

the late great, Saturday, 1 September 2018 18:01 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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

Elvis Telecom, Sunday, 2 September 2018 07:31 (one year ago) link

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 (one year ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

- 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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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

Theorbo Goes Wild (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2019 01:43 (ten months ago) link

Sorry, couldn’t resist

Theorbo Goes Wild (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 28 March 2019 01:43 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

my first time yeah

Mordy, Thursday, 28 March 2019 02:09 (ten months ago) link

“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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

0 pages in make that 80.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 28 March 2019 12:48 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

(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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link

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 (ten months ago) link


the late great, Tuesday, 23 April 2019 15:33 (ten months ago) link

according to delany:

“I wrote out hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sentences at the top of notebook pages,” he remembers. “Then I would work my way down the page, revising the sentence, again and again. When I got to the bottom I’d copy the sentence out to see if I wanted it. Then I’d put them back together again. It was a very long, slow process.”

and after all that we get a grisly nut in a folded vortex :/

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Tuesday, 23 April 2019 15:38 (ten months ago) link

I get a strong autobiographical vibe from just about everything of his. I loved Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand enormously and couldn't wait for the sequel. Eventually came to learn that much of the autobiographical part of that book was his relationship with Frank Romeo, which broke up I think in the mid 80s. Delany has written enough about Romeo's problems that I'm not surprised and don't blame him for never wanting to go back to Marq and Rat.

The Mod Who Banned Liberty Valance (WmC), Tuesday, 23 April 2019 16:15 (ten months ago) link

"stars in my pocket ..." is really his masterpiece, isn't it

i read that he didn't want to go back to it because he'd based many characters on real life acquaintances who later died during the AIDS epidemic

the late great, Tuesday, 23 April 2019 16:39 (ten months ago) link

is it OOP?

... and the crowd said DESELECT THEM (||||||||), Tuesday, 23 April 2019 16:52 (ten months ago) link

"My life here more and more resembles a book whose opening chapters, whose title even, suggest mysteries to be resolved only at closing. But as one reads along, one becomes more and more suspicious that the author has lost the thread of his argument, that the questions will never be resolved, or more upsetting, that the position of the characters will have so changed by the book's end that the answers to the initial questions will have become trivial." (page 755 of the Burnett edition)

- and finished on this bus this morning.

Making the last section a series of texts that have been recovered long after the fact casts a retrospectively melancholy air over the whole book - a sense of times passed, people long gone, a way of being that can no longer be accessed, or even imagined outside science fiction. I often experience a sense of loss when finishing a very long novel, and this was no exception. The vividness of feeling that Delany has for people and places is clearly autobiographical, which gives the book a lot of its cumulative power, and makes it an affecting memorial for an era that no longer exists, if it ever did.

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 24 April 2019 09:05 (ten months ago) link

Something of an ambivalent memorial though, for the culture if not the people. If Bellona is meant to represent the revolution triumphant, it's certainly no utopia. The squares (the Richards) are terrified; the elites (Calkins et al) are comfortable but isolated and also scared; It's not entirely clear what happens to the commune but it's not good; even the scorpions, free to do what they want to do, apparently want to mostly sit around being bored and having petty fights - and ultimately Bellona chews them up and spits them out.

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 25 April 2019 08:40 (ten months ago) link

Yes, interesting to compare it to Le Guin's The Dispossessed, published round about the same time and also concerned with an imperfect 'free' society, and what happens after revolution.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 25 April 2019 09:17 (ten months ago) link

I do need to read that again, given that Le Guin is in my all time top 5 authors & it's one of her most famous, but it had little impact on me. I suspect it's a grower.

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.

link plz!

what if bod was one of us (ledge), Thursday, 25 April 2019 09:41 (ten months ago) link

(ppl looking for other things by delany to read shd also consider his non-fiction!)

mark s, Thursday, 25 April 2019 09:45 (ten months ago) link

( yeah, kind of prefer that tbh)

Theory of Every Zing (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 25 April 2019 09:57 (ten months ago) link

Would def like to read that Wiki link that WmC mentions - and also Delany's own critical essay on Dhalgren, written under the pseudonym 'K. Leslie Steiner'.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 25 April 2019 10:01 (ten months ago) link

Some of yall's recent responses go much deeper than my dimly recalled take, from the early 80s---one of the specifics in residue is when the clouds part and the citizens, inhabitants, are like oh wow, two moons---my thoughts were: city has moved to Mars/was always on Mars, but they've forgotten that they are descendants of Earth, have no sense of historical time or place, just a foggy notion, habitual expectation, of things as they are, didja see that, so here's this.

dow, Thursday, 25 April 2019 18:56 (ten months ago) link

But the author and the Kid are walking around and around the declivities of the surface, tour guides and not--hey Virgil, Beatrice, sorry bout that let it all hang in.

dow, Thursday, 25 April 2019 18:59 (ten months ago) link

Famous long ago

dow, Thursday, 25 April 2019 19:03 (ten months ago) link

Well I guess the oh wow two moons would be a jolted stump sense of historical etc but it's in that fog of expectations, one of them little breadcrumb kicks for characters and readers (and author, who said he wrote the book intermittently, over a long period of time: was no surprise to read this comment.)

dow, Thursday, 25 April 2019 19:22 (ten months ago) link

Yeah, it has this note at the end of the text:

San Francisco, Abaqil, Toronto, Clarion, Milford, New Orleans, Seattle, Vancouver, Middletown, East Lansing, New York, London
January 1969/September 1973

Of course, that could finally be one of The Kid's poems, or

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 25 April 2019 19:58 (ten months ago) link

one month passes...

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.

He saw a man lying in his tracks, and a little girl standing in the snow. And he heard a man cry.

He saw one body after another, so many that his imagination did not rest upon his own sight; and he did not hesitate but to place everything on the spot where they lay. A man was still alive, with a terrible wound above the right shoulder of his breast, and a gaping wound on the left of his back; a young girl was lying face downwards to the ground, her body half buried; with her lifeless breast she wore a long black nightgown, torn from a girl's dress, which she was so proud of that she was about to cover her face with it, but which she was already covering.

At last he saw her faint and go on her hands and knees, while a soldier, leaning toward her, stood behind her, his mouth open, his fingers still holding one finger from her left wrist. Then another, with one arm, raised a rifle. With such a sound the girl's face split open. "Oh, it was the one with the gun," said her mother, "the one with the gun that shot her! And

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. 'What do you know of it?' the woman asked, frowning suddenly.

'I've been looking at it for years, actually,' he said. 'I've got a map that they use. I've found the whole back ground on it.' He opened the map again in his hand, showing what appeared to be a valley, with a flat plain beside it.

'Oh, they put it in before they got it into place,' the woman said, looking at the hand in front of her, 'a few years ago. They knew it had to be made, I bet.'

As the woman shook her head slightly, Harry saw her eyes narrow a little.

'I bet it was,' he said.

'They had to have, I think they got rid of the others. But don't think they put it together on purpose, because there are some things where the surface of the earth isn't in line. The lines don't exactly line up. I just can't figure out how they got it done. I've found it's got traces. It's a very old thing - ' He paused. 'All of it - ' He shook

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. For it was all to him, and he knew, he knew what he could do by it, he could do everything, he could see it coming all night by the faint shadows on the rocks, with everything else that was there before him in the dark—there and behind and across him by the darkness, so much, so much, was there already, waiting for him in that tiny spot, as if there had been another person there with them, one who should get it all, who should get it, who would feel it, and make a thing out of it all. And yet he knew it would come. He knew in the dark he had something to hold him back; in the glow, just as he wanted it, with this dimly perceptible light, if he could hold it. He had made no head way when that thing crawled to his knee. He knew it was coming, as he said. So did every man who had ever seen those things. They came, they crawled. And it would not come. He had found that the dark had to come again from some other time, but it would not come at night, as in the daytime, for it was far more than that.

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. He could see from the distance the hollow of a hole, in the middle; and the dark-green surface, that fell, as far in front of him as the hollow it encompassed. A dark-brown cloud rose into the sky behind him, and it touched his eyes. He took out one of the pailfuls that held his food. It was an old tin can, with a flat top, and another in the hollow in the middle. He put a teaspoon into the can in the socket, and dropped the can upon the floor, just as he had done it on the second occasion. When the food floated, he placed the can in the hole behind to take it with him. He was not entirely sure that it did not come away with the can; in part, it drifted down to the surface above. His companion, the one who had been waiting for him, looked at him with wonder. And the cat, after the first time, seemed to have forgotten all about him in all his years of living. All things went back to their old state. No one had changed. It was the old animal that was suddenly changed; and the cat that had been waiting for the can must have

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. He was sure it lay inside a body, that the brain was still there at the bottom of an ocean, and perhaps some of that ocean had been sunk by the sea and by the river and the riverbank and that the brain was there, as the man had said.

He wondered at the way it had been shaped. It had been built to a strange shape, and then it had broken at least three times. The cracks had been deep enough to hide anything. One morning, when he went to use the elevator and found his way shut off inside the structure, the structure did not shut off again. In fact, it kept on shutting down with one of the crackings. After a while, if the machinery stopped there as it must be because it had begun to work in an altered state, the structure would take again, and it would take again until it fell apart, until some strange little worm-like creature moved inside it. The worms, in turn, would eat off the brain and, eventually, all the brain. And then, suddenly, the whole thing would collapse, collapse in an incredible heap about three thousand feet tall. He saw it again and again—and each time, like a

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. The dark greyish fluid filled the small hole in the wall of the basement with the dark greyish fluid.

"You must not enter, but you must not exit. You are now under curfew. You have done wrong. Now come back to the kitchen by eleven at lunchtime unless you wish to remain there tonight, in which case you will have to do so immediately." The words were still on the air from the speaker. He waited and watched to see if he heard any change, but nothing.

"And you are to continue to talk to those in charge while I take a moment to examine the machine and the apparatus that holds the people down in here," said the voice. He listened quietly and waited. He knew what it meant, but did not know whether to react. In fact there was nothing for it. No idea, then, what to do. He waited.

"Well," said the voice, on cue, "you are a boy." The words were still on the air, and he heard his own voice behind him saying, "You are a boy, sir."

The man's voice stopped again. He was sitting up in bed, watching with a slight

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. The wind was up and he had the wind. And then, on to the rest. He traced it, in the dark, as if to feel.

They grew, he counted, to three thousand. A thousand and seven years and two hundred and sixty-six seconds. He felt his fingers twitching in their sockets. It had come to an end.

"What do you think?" someone asked him.

"The cat's dead," he said. "No more. And the dragon has vanished, too."

"That was good."

"Not yet," another said. "And the cat and the dragon both die."

And he felt things rise again--the air was cold, even.

And then he felt the sun rising again. And then it set.

"You're right," he said. "Now the dragon's here to pick up what you left here. And the cat has gone as far as it can go. It'll be nice to get back to this."

He got out of his seat and walked to the desk. He felt his shoes slide. He opened his hand to the book, sat with his feet

The Pingularity (ledge), Monday, 3 June 2019 09:33 (eight months ago) link

a collection of terribly composed sentences

Οὖτις, Monday, 3 June 2019 15:06 (eight months ago) link

what do we need Delany for when we have ridiculous AIs

Οὖτις, Monday, 3 June 2019 15:07 (eight months ago) link

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