On finishing Dhalgren

Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren has been my “current reading” since the beginning of the summer; I was beginning to think it had taken up permanent residence in the lower left corner of my blog. I finally finished it in the airplane on the way to Pennsylvania last weekend. The book is, as Jonathan Lethem writes in a cover blurb, a labyrinth that swallows readers alive; it is also a profane bit of countercultural magic. Delany’s Kid explores his own broken mind, his sexuality, and the landscape around him even as he discovers the magic of the written word. The sudden shift to multiple simultaneous viewpoints in the last 150 pages of the novel kicks everything into overdrive.

At the same time, I think I know why I never read the book before—for one thing, it’s a sure bet to have been removed from my hometown library shelves at some point or another. But I also think even if I had found a copy I would have had a hard time getting through it. It’s one of the few “science fiction” books I know that is an easier read if you’ve finished Joyce’s Ulysses first.