cover image On Samuel R. Delany’s ‘Dhalgren’

On Samuel R. Delany’s ‘Dhalgren’

Edited by Bill Wood. Fantastic, $21.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-5154-2419-2

Samuel R. Delany’s influential and divisive 1975 novel Dhalgren gets a full critical treatment in this immersive and comprehensive collection. In compiling reviews, interviews, and scholarly criticism of Delany’s rendering of a fictional city in the grips of a mysterious apocalypse, Wood assembles something of a kaleidoscopic view of what he calls “the most controversial novel of its decade.” There’s Harlan Ellison’s Los Angeles Times review in which he called it “an unrelenting bore of a literary exercise afflicted with elephantiasis,” while Theodore Sturgeon wrote for Galaxy Magazine that it was “the very best ever to come out of the science fiction field.” Of special note is Delany’s defense of his novel, an open letter titled “Of Sex, Objects, Signs, Systems, Sales, Sf, and Other Things,” in which he discusses his inspirations: Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending, Michael Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, and John Ashbery’s poems, among others. Jean Mark Gawron’s extensive introduction reprinted from the Gregg Press Library edition of Dhalgren stands out among the critical essays for its thoroughness, assessing the work in terms of its status as a novel and doing a careful explication of its linguistic “deep structure.” Steven Shaviro’s more concise evaluation satisfies, as well, calling the work a “huge, beautiful paean to wasting time.” Fans of Delaney’s classic will want to snap this up. (Sept.)