Discussion:
Dhalgren by Sam Delany - why is this considered a classic?
(too old to reply)
a***@webtv.net
2007-04-23 02:58:44 UTC
Permalink
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
.
The first chapter ends with a woman turning into a tree. Why? No clue.
Any
hint why? No. Actually why the man who doesn't know his name and the
woman he just meets in a field suddenly have sex seemed like nonsense.
Really when was the last time you were walking in a field see a pretty
woman and then withen seconds do the nasty with.

This story is suppose to be set on Earth yet there is a mention of
"moons" and sun rising in various directions..

The writing seems a bit schizoid. He shifts almost randomly withen one
page from writing in the first person to writing in the third person.
Why? No clue.

Delany also uses dialogue almost lazily. He will sometimes do the
following for dialogue - Name of person: "quote".

The story is about a man who doesn't know his name but seems to have
excellent recall of what he has done with his life going to a city with
major problems called "Bellona".

Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
Splicer
2007-04-23 03:38:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
If you're bored you can always put it down. If you do and don't care about
spoilers, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhalgren
Don Bruder
2007-04-23 05:38:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
<snicker>

Who was it here on the group recently, that said something along the
lines of "name three things nobody will ever achieve: A two minute mile,
world peace, and page 50 of Dhalgren"? :)

But seriously - it's a weird-trip. REALLY weird. Wade on in if you're so
inclined, but be aware that you're going to be left with a lot more
"Huh?!?" than anything else by the time you're done.

Personally, I find it fascinating, for no reason that I can specify -
It's been one of my favorite re-reads for years - I pick it up, open it
at random, and find something else I missed. I've worn out three copies,
lost four to people I've loaned it to, and just plain misplaced two more
since first discovering it at the tender age of 11 or so.
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
Long and short of things when it comes to Dhalgren: You either love it,
or it bores you to tears and/or pisses you off and/or frustrates you
into giving up. There's really no middle ground to be had when it comes
to Dhalgren. It's one of the few "all or nothing" books I've ever
personally encountered.

Personally, I'm in the "I like it - a lot" camp. It sounds like you're
stuck in the "frustrated/bored/pissed" camp. A bit of advice if you're
going to try to continue: *DON'T EXPECT ANY ANSWERS*, and above all,
don't think you're getting into a linear story - You aren't! Cause and
effect don't necessarily apply - events can and do come before the
actions that cause them. Just go with it. That's the best I can tell you.

There *IS* a story in it - Or rather, several. the problem is figuring
out what it is, and knowing when you're reading part of it - and which
part of shich story! Some have said that the whole "story" is actually
about how the characters cope with the insanity that seems to be going
on around them. Maybe that's right. Maybe it's not. But it's one way of
looking at the book. Personally, I think that it's a tale of insanity as
told from the viewpoint of the insane person. But that's as likely to be
(in)correct as any other interpretation I've seen over the years.

Spoiler (rot-13-ized) ahead.
Gur bar guvat V *JVFU* gung jr nf ernqref jrer noyr gb "frr" vf Ynaln'f
fbat, "Qvssenpgvba", juvpu jr "frr" orvat znqr, ohg fvapr vg'f n obbx,
abg n erpbeq, jr arire trg gb urne vg. Vg fbhaqf yvxr vg pbhyq or dhvgr
vagrerfgvat sebz gur qrfpevcgvba bs gur "znxvat bs" cebprff.
--
Don Bruder - ***@sonic.net - If your "From:" address isn't on my whitelist,
or the subject of the message doesn't contain the exact text "PopperAndShadow"
somewhere, any message sent to this address will go in the garbage without my
ever knowing it arrived. Sorry... <http://www.sonic.net/~dakidd> for more info
Thomas Lindgren
2007-04-23 14:00:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don Bruder
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
<snicker>
Who was it here on the group recently, that said something along the
lines of "name three things nobody will ever achieve: A two minute mile,
world peace, and page 50 of Dhalgren"? :)
Hah, I've read DHALGREN, Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, and Burroughs
NOVA EXPRESS for that matter. (I liked NOVA EXPRESS far more than
DHALGREN.) However, I've never made it past p.50 of Joyce's FINNEGANS
WAKE. Be warned.

Best,
Thomas
--
Thomas Lindgren "Too jaded to question stagnation"
Bill Patterson
2007-04-23 14:47:23 UTC
Permalink
Jon Schild
2007-04-23 16:14:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don Bruder
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
<snicker>
Who was it here on the group recently, that said something along the
lines of "name three things nobody will ever achieve: A two minute mile,
world peace, and page 50 of Dhalgren"? :)
I read it all the way through. It is weird, yes, but that is just the
way it is. It isn't right or wrong, it just is. And if you keep
expecting a nice linear narrative, it will never make any sense. Just
read and enjoy, and let if flow over you.
--
An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
Steve Harclerode
2007-04-23 06:50:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
.
[SNIP]
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
I didn't like it either. The only novels by Delany that I could read and
enjoy were the Einstein Intersection and Babel-17 (not that I tried them
all).

I also recommend avoiding Nova and Triton.

- Steve
GSV Three Minds in a Can
2007-04-23 09:49:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Harclerode
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
.
[SNIP]
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
I didn't like it either. The only novels by Delany that I could read and
enjoy were the Einstein Intersection and Babel-17 (not that I tried them
all).
The _Fall of the Towers_ trilogy is good too.
--
GSV Three Minds in a Can
8,307 Km walked. 1,561Km PROWs surveyed. 28.4% complete.
Steve Greenland
2007-04-24 22:47:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Harclerode
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
.
[SNIP]
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
I didn't like it either. The only novels by Delany that I could read and
enjoy were the Einstein Intersection and Babel-17 (not that I tried them
all).
I also recommend avoiding Nova and Triton.
Interesting. I'd group _Nova_ with _Babel-17_ and such, rather than
_Triton_ and _Dhalgren_. Not because I like it, since I also like
_Triton_ and _Dhalgren_, but because it's a fairly straightforward read,
with a real plot and everything.

A different Steve
--
Steve Greenland
The irony is that Bill Gates claims to be making a stable operating
system and Linus Torvalds claims to be trying to take over the
world. -- seen on the net
Mike Schilling
2007-04-25 01:33:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Greenland
Post by Steve Harclerode
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
.
[SNIP]
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
I didn't like it either. The only novels by Delany that I could read and
enjoy were the Einstein Intersection and Babel-17 (not that I tried them
all).
I also recommend avoiding Nova and Triton.
Interesting. I'd group _Nova_ with _Babel-17_ and such, rather than
_Triton_ and _Dhalgren_. Not because I like it, since I also like
_Triton_ and _Dhalgren_, but because it's a fairly straightforward read,
with a real plot and everything.
Me to, though I'd stick TEI with T and D as "difficult if not impossible to
enjoy as a straightforward read", so Mr. Harclerode must be using a
different axis entirely.
Steve Harclerode
2007-04-25 05:14:42 UTC
Permalink
I wish *I* knew what axis it was! There are times (not this time though)
when I think I'm being objective, only to find out that few others agree.

In this case though, the criterion is that I didn't like the books enough to
finish them. That's damn subjective.

- Steve
Post by Mike Schilling
Me to, though I'd stick TEI with T and D as "difficult if not impossible
to enjoy as a straightforward read", so Mr. Harclerode must be using a
different axis entirely.
Don Bruder
2007-04-25 04:45:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Steve Harclerode
I wish *I* knew what axis it was! There are times (not this time though)
when I think I'm being objective, only to find out that few others agree.
In this case though, the criterion is that I didn't like the books enough to
finish them. That's damn subjective.
- Steve
Post by Mike Schilling
Me to, though I'd stick TEI with T and D as "difficult if not impossible
to enjoy as a straightforward read", so Mr. Harclerode must be using a
different axis entirely.
Delaney seems to be pretty "hit or miss" for me...

Dhalgren was one heck of a "wade" for me the first time through it, but
I came away liking it enough that it's one of my periodic re-reads - In
fact, it's coming up on time for me to pull it out again, I'm thinking.

Later on, I tried Nova, figuring "Delaney - He Did Dhalgren, I liked
that, so I might like this". I remember reading it, but to this day, I
can't tell you anything about the book beyond its title. Does this mean
it was good? Bad? Indifferent? Beats me! I can't remember anything about
it!

Triton - Same deal. Tried it 'cause it was Delaney. Put it down about
20-30 pages in, and never picked it up again - It's one of about 10
books in my life to have that (rather dubious) "honor" bestowed upon it,
and I've managed to wade through some SERIOUSLY crap books. (Wizard's
First Rule would be one of the more recent of those that particularly
stands out in my mind - Why I forced myself to finish that steaming pile
is something I'll never figure out - And people say Dhalgren has a lot
of kinky sex in it, and goes nowhere! Compared to WFR, Dhalgren is
practically "plain vanilla", and has a crystal clear plot that actually
achieves something!
--
Don Bruder - ***@sonic.net - If your "From:" address isn't on my whitelist,
or the subject of the message doesn't contain the exact text "PopperAndShadow"
somewhere, any message sent to this address will go in the garbage without my
ever knowing it arrived. Sorry... <http://www.sonic.net/~dakidd> for more info
David DeLaney
2007-04-25 05:26:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Don Bruder
Delaney seems to be pretty "hit or miss" for me...
hey!

Dave "no relation, REALLY" DeLaney
--
\/David DeLaney posting from ***@vic.com "It's not the pot that grows the flower
It's not the clock that slows the hour The definition's plain for anyone to see
Love is all it takes to make a family" - R&P. VISUALIZE HAPPYNET VRbeable<BLINK>
http://www.vic.com/~dbd/ - net.legends FAQ & Magic / I WUV you in all CAPS! --K.
Don Bruder
2007-04-25 13:20:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by David DeLaney
Post by Don Bruder
Delaney seems to be pretty "hit or miss" for me...
hey!
Dave "no relation, REALLY" DeLaney
Oops - finger-fart.
--
Don Bruder - ***@sonic.net - If your "From:" address isn't on my whitelist,
or the subject of the message doesn't contain the exact text "PopperAndShadow"
somewhere, any message sent to this address will go in the garbage without my
ever knowing it arrived. Sorry... <http://www.sonic.net/~dakidd> for more info
Michael Grosberg
2007-04-23 09:16:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
The best answer I can give is that this novel is meant to be enjoyed
on a more emotional level. Think of it as an abstract painting, if you
will, meant to be appreciated for its composition, not for its success
in depicting real life scenes.

I remember enjoying it when I was around 18 years old. I can't say I
understood it, but I liked the atmosphere and relished the strangeness
for its own sake. I started rereading it a couple of years ago - that
was after I read some more recent Delany such as Neveryon and Stars in
my Pocket Like Grains of Sand. But this time around, the sex scenes
turned me off - I discovered I've read enough gay BDSM for a lifetime
and switched to something more palatable.
Mark
2007-04-23 12:49:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
.
The first chapter ends with a woman turning into a tree. Why? No clue.
Any
hint why? No. Actually why the man who doesn't know his name and the
woman he just meets in a field suddenly have sex seemed like nonsense.
Really when was the last time you were walking in a field see a pretty
woman and then withen seconds do the nasty with.
This story is suppose to be set on Earth yet there is a mention of
"moons" and sun rising in various directions..
The writing seems a bit schizoid. He shifts almost randomly withen one
page from writing in the first person to writing in the third person.
Why? No clue.
Delany also uses dialogue almost lazily. He will sometimes do the
following for dialogue - Name of person: "quote".
The story is about a man who doesn't know his name but seems to have
excellent recall of what he has done with his life going to a city with
major problems called "Bellona".
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
Firstly, it's largely based on Greek myth--women (and men) changed
into many things with little explanation, but usually connected to
eroticism.

Secondly: Bellona is mentioned in another novel (Triton, I believe) as
being on Mars, but Delany doesn't make it clear here because it is a
city cut off from everything.

Thirdly, it is largely an homage to Joyce's Ulysses.

Fourthly, it is one of the genres best examples of metafiction
(fiction about fiction and/or philosophy).

Fifthly, the apparent randomness that occurs within imitates life,
albeit ramped up to a pitch.

On and on. It is not an adventure novel, though there is adventure in
it. It is not an erotic novel, though it has a lot of sex in it. It
is not a novel of science, although the setting and surround can be
seen as macro examples of quantum effects.

If you get off on well-turned sentences and poignant serendipity,
Dhalgren can be great. If you want the plot to make sense, it can be
torture.

Mark
author of:
THE SECANTIS SEQUENCE
REMAINS
www.marktiedemann.com
Bill Patterson
2007-04-23 14:49:05 UTC
Permalink
Alistair Tyrrell
2007-04-23 18:39:58 UTC
Permalink
wrote...
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
Give it a chance, I'd say. Press on with it, losing any expectations of
finding a sensible story or a beginning, middle or end.

I love it. If my house was on fire it's the one book I would grab on the
way out.

Alistair
Mike Schilling
2007-04-23 19:38:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alistair Tyrrell
wrote...
Post by a***@webtv.net
Why is this novel a classic? Or do I have to read more to understand.
This novel is dreadfully boring.
Give it a chance, I'd say. Press on with it, losing any expectations of
finding a sensible story or a beginning, middle or end.
I love it. If my house was on fire it's the one book I would grab on the
way out.
If you lived in Bellona and your house were on fire you could just wait
until it hadn't ever have been on fire.
William December Starr
2007-04-23 22:40:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alistair Tyrrell
I love it. If my house was on fire it's the one book I would grab
on the way out.
Wouldn't it be better to grab something that cost a bit more to
replace?

1. Dhalgren
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (Paperback - May 15, 2001)
Buy new: $18.95 $12.89 81 Used & new from $3.00
Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping.

2. DHALGREN
DHALGREN by Samuel Delany (Paperback - 1974)
8 Used & new from $0.01

3. Dhalgren
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (Mass Market Paperback - 1978)
4 Used & new from $2.00

4. DHALGREN
DHALGREN by SAMUEL R. DELANY (Paperback - 1979)
8 Used & new from $2.15
--
William December Starr <***@panix.com>
Alistair Tyrrell
2007-04-24 19:08:32 UTC
Permalink
William December Starr wrote...
Post by William December Starr
Post by Alistair Tyrrell
I love it. If my house was on fire it's the one book I would grab
on the way out.
Wouldn't it be better to grab something that cost a bit more to
replace?
Probably, it depends how you define 'better'. Put it another way - if
all my books were burned to ashes, that's the one I'd be most sad to
lose. A brand new copy, or someone else's secondhand copy, wouldn't be
the same somehow.

Alistair
Jacket Dust
2007-04-24 20:29:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@webtv.net
I bought this book at a thrift shop Friday. Started it today. I am now
on page 50. It makes little sense
Entertainment Weekly - June 2001
http://snipurl.com/1hqcq

..Delany's vision sprang from the sudden transformation of the
American inner city in the late '60s and early '70s. "There was an
exodus from Harlem that left the once-thriving neighborhood an
abandoned shell. It looked like a species of malevolent black magic. I
just postulated a city in which whatever strange thing was happening to
neighborhoods all over America suddenly took over an entire city."

Amid the rubble, men and women, men and men, blacks and whites engage
in sweaty, urgent couplings. When the book was first published,
conservative readers bristled at what the author refers to as the
novel's "polymorphous perverse sexuality."

Not only was Delany writing openly and unapologetically about sex, his
characters were all antiheroes, squatters living on scraps on the
fringes of society. At a science fiction conference, a disgruntled
academic leaned over and demanded of him, "Why are you writing about
these people?" "Because they exist," he responded.

Delany promises that there's another boundary-crossing novel knocking
around in his head. But his immediate concern is a five-city book tour.
On his first stop in Chicago, more than 150 hardcore fans filled 57th
Street Books to welcome him back to the shelves. "I'm humbled," says
Delany of Dhalgren's second life. "I had really assumed that once the
books were out of print, that was it. Because this happens to writers
all the time, you have your moment in the sun and then you go on."

Here comes the sun.
htn963
2007-04-25 03:29:46 UTC
Permalink
It is not a classic. One of the most putrid, nonsensical and
self-indulgent books ever written, and overlong to boot. Your time is
better spent trying to read the book that it paid homage to: Joyce's
_Finnegans Wake_.

The only ones who would claim it a classic are those grasping for
candidates to make SF "respectable." And I doubt most of *those* ever
finished it.

--
Ht
David DeLaney
2007-04-25 05:25:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by htn963
It is not a classic. One of the most putrid, nonsensical and
self-indulgent books ever written, and overlong to boot. Your time is
better spent trying to read the book that it paid homage to: Joyce's
_Finnegans Wake_.
Eh. I finished Dhalgren (though I don't own it; I read it from the library,
long ago when other people's libraries were still larger than mine); I never
got more than 100 or 150 pages, or so, into FW. Bounced _hard_ every time
I tried.

Dave
--
\/David DeLaney posting from ***@vic.com "It's not the pot that grows the flower
It's not the clock that slows the hour The definition's plain for anyone to see
Love is all it takes to make a family" - R&P. VISUALIZE HAPPYNET VRbeable<BLINK>
http://www.vic.com/~dbd/ - net.legends FAQ & Magic / I WUV you in all CAPS! --K.
htn963
2007-04-26 05:36:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by David DeLaney
Post by htn963
It is not a classic. One of the most putrid, nonsensical and
self-indulgent books ever written, and overlong to boot. Your time is
better spent trying to read the book that it paid homage to: Joyce's
_Finnegans Wake_.
Eh. I finished Dhalgren (though I don't own it; I read it from the library,
long ago when other people's libraries were still larger than mine); I never
got more than 100 or 150 pages, or so, into FW. Bounced _hard_ every time
I tried.
Well, both are a waste of time, but at least the latter doesn't
have too much tiresome kinky porn and can claim to have more universal
relevance. _Finnegans Wake_ is one of the few books that really need
to be read with a guide (like _A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake_) to
catch all the references. But with that said, that's not what
"reading" is really about.

--
Ht

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