Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: "Dhalgren" by Samuel R. Delany

During this second half of 2016, I challenged myself to read three of the hardest books that I have attempted within a certain time span. My first book was Norman Mailer’s Harlot’s Ghost, the second longest book I have read. I found it boring and long winded and far from Mailer’s best. I then read William Gaddis’ The Recognitions, a book I had been curious about for some time, and found it to be simply too smart for me. The third book, this one, Samuel R. Delany’s Sci-Fi epic Dhalgren, was another book I have been circling for some time, and I’m glad I took the plunge. It is maddening, confusing and difficult, but it is never boring, and as far as my experience with Science Fiction, it is probably my favorite. It is hard to give you a solid description of what happens, but I will do my best. Appearing seemingly out of nowhere (although the last line of the book fits perfectly with the opening line), a young man known only as “The Kid” or “Kidd” finds himself in the city of Bellona, a place cut off from the rest of the United States that has strange weather patterns and weird sky phenomena. He falls into various groups, but the constant is always a woman named Lenya. Throughout the book, he slowly becomes a poet and prose writer, and leads various gangs until the book kind of implodes, but in a good way. While this book is compared to Gravity’s Rainbow (a book I have not read yet), Pynchon was not the writer I thought of most as I was enveloped by the book’s 801 page length. It shares his difficulty and complexity, but I was reminded more greatly of the recent work of Blake Butler, with the last section, a fragmentary journal that conveys a labyrinthine nightmare very similar to the way I felt reading 300,000,000. This book isn’t for everyone (Harlan Ellison supposedly threw it against a wall), but tis was a fun, engaging read, even though I feel I will never fully understand it.  

Rating: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment