Dhalgren. By Samuel R. Delany. Published 1975.

Can someone please tell me what the heck this book is about? I’m on chapter 2 and I have, as yet, to figure out what this book is trying to say.

Here’s the little ditty from the back cover:

Fine. Sounds like good sci-fi. But, what the heck!? I can’t seem to find a theme yet in the midst of the Joyceian language that appears every page.


No, no one can tell you what Dhalgren is about.

It remains to this day the only science fiction book to have defeated me.

It was more of a draw really, as I have so far refrained from destroying it.

You made it to chapter 2? I gave up after page 2. Maybe I should try it again.

I’ve been defeated by a few SF books in my day, but none so thorougly as Dalghren. I hated that book. I got about 3 chapters in (there was an oral sex/castration scene that lost me) and gave up.

And, given what I’ve recently found out about Delany, I really, really hate the man as well.

In Delany’s auto-biograpy, he tells us his male lover was serial rapist who used to break into old ladies homes and rape them. Delany didn’t turn the rapist in because the rapist wasn’t hurting Delany. (Source, I believe it was:The Motion of Light in Water. Don’t have a page ref, since I returned the book to the library. You can also find a fairly extensive discussion of this on what remains of Deja, if you look for rec.arts.sf.written and keywords Delany and Rape.)

Either Delany’s lying in his biography about this, which is sick or he’s serious, in which case he’s one of the more disgusting examples of an alleged human that I’m aware of.


I’m just going to throw in a gratuitous hijack concerning another bibliobehemoth. . .

In one episode of “The PJs,” Thurgood (voiced by Eddie Murphy or *Phil Morris) sits down to listen to a book on tape, “Moby Dick read by Weezy Jefferson.”

The deep, guttural sounds of (someone impersonating) Isabel “Weezy Jefferson” Sanford then intone “Call me Ishmael. . . My GOD! This book is 800 pages long!

OK. Hijack over. I’ve heard that there are some spoilers, so I hope no one blows it for you. . . .

*Phil Morris is the son of “Mission Impossible’s” Greg “Barney” Morris, and playe the Johnny Cochraneish lawyer on “Seinfeld,” (as well as a commercial or two).

I read Dhalgren when I was in high school. I never did figure out what it was supposed to be about, but I remember having felt pretty proud of myself for finishing it.

This is making me feel old. I read Dhalgren a few times, and every other novel and short story by Delany. In grad school I wrote a few darn good papers on his works, including Dhalgren. I got to the point that I fundamentally got it.

And now, for the life of me, I can’t remember it. How very frustrating. :frowning:

I read it as well…I liked it, but I never ‘got’ it. I’m not sure it was intended to be ‘got’, it was more like a toy for your brain (as opposed to a puzzle) - you could try to piece the elements together in different ways to see what you could make of it, but there didn’t seem to be one correct interpretation.

One thing that I always wondered - what was the hologram that the main character wore? Other characters indicate that it is different from the half-dozen or so that are commonly used and is somewhat impressive, but the main character never asks what it is (you can’t see your own) and nobody tells him.

I want every book enthusiest that reads this post to go out and buy The Mezzanine by Nichelson Baker. This book absolutely rocks! It is so great, it is about a guy taking a ride on an escalator. Chapters are spent on tying a shoe, or going to the bathroom, and the best part is, there are pages upon pages of footnotes. I would say more than 50% of the book is just really interesting footnotes…I loved that book…

Well, thanks…I think.

It’s weird because some parts make perfect sense, follow some semblance of action and then there are parts like where Tak’s eyes are red after he and the Kidd have sex. Huh? Where’d that come from?

Well, I’m plodding onward!

I don’t think there is supposed to be a ‘point’ in a traditional sense. No exploration of relationships or one goal of some deeper meaning. The way it flows (or jumps in, right in the middle of some scene) seems to me more an exercise in Zen than anything. In other words, go along for the ride and stop asking questions! Rollercaster through hell, and back again, but quite a ride nonetheless. If you don’t like roller coasters, it might not be the book for you.

I must have read that one about 20 times, in college. My copy is SOoooo beat up. It was weird, like a long series of bizarre but strangely connected dreams, or maybe drug-induced hallucinations? Never done the drug thing, so can’t say. Still, I loved the way it made my brain run to keep up with the shifts and changes, and the surreal sense of this ‘other’ place within what was essentially a normal world. I didn’t like some of his assumptions about the world, people, and so forth, but I think the technique and patterns fascinated me more than anything else. And the fact that I could not anticipate what would happen next, when I often find myself grinding my teeth because an author made the next step so damn obvious that I could have made up the entire story myself, just from the setting. I don’t think I could have made up even one scene of this book myself.

Can’t say that I know anything about the author, but I’d say he’s likely to be pretty whacked.

Worst book I ever finished. Beats out “Achilles Choice” only because it was longer.