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Literature: Dhalgren
to wound the autumnal city.

Dhalgren is a strange New Wave Science Fiction / Lit Fic novel by Samuel R. Delany. It takes place in the fictional city of Bellona, which is in the exact geographic center of the United States. A strange catastrophe has befallen it, and so radio/television/phone signals can neither enter nor leave. It's become a haven for the dregs and free spirits of society.

The narrator, a nameless man of strange ethnicity, hitches a ride to the city, and the plot begins. He explores, learning about its inhabitants and culture, staying for months. Eventually a massive fire forces him to leave.

This description doesn't really do the book justice. It's strange. (It was Delany's first serious attempt at blending SF with Lit Fic.)

Wiki Magic go!

This novel contains examples of:

  • Alien Sky: Sort of. Bellona is perpetually overcast and covered in smoke, with a few exceptions.
  • Anachronic Order
  • Arc Words: "You can't make that discord on a harmonica." "Someday I'll die." "Artichokes."
  • Author Appeal: Samuel R Delany is very fond of characters with "ugly" hands and bitten nails. Kidd has such hands.
  • Bad Moon Rising
  • Bi the Way
  • Book Ends: The ending is the beginning of the opening sentence fragment.
  • Camp Gay: Bunny.
  • Chaos Architecture
  • Cool Sword: The Orchid weapons, a "cage of blades that fits around the hand".
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Many of the people who didn't evacuate Bellona are perfectly content to stay there, though they could leave at any time if they wanted to.
  • Chekhov's Gun: the elevator shaft
  • Doorstopper: About 800 pages depending on the edition.
  • Genre-Busting
  • Hologram: The Scorpion gangs are so-called because they use holographic projectors to appear as giant animals.
  • Identity Amnesia: Protagonist remembers who he is, but has forgotten his own name.
  • Indy Ploy: The Emboriky Run.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Any explanation given for the strange things that happen will usually just lampshade the fact that it doesn't really explain anything. The most obvious example is probably when Kid finds the crate of red eye caps.
  • Manly Gay: Tak Loufer
  • Meaningful Name: The stages of Kidd's progression in Bellona are mirrored by significant people who are also newcomers; when he has just arrived, the poet Ernest Newboy is visiting Bellona. After Kidd toughens up and gets his gay on, the astronaut Captain Kamp is visiting. This may, or indeed may not, indicate that Kidd is a Fisher King and Bellona his Fisher Kingdom.
  • Metafiction: Kidd finds a notebook which contains sections of Dhalgren.
    • Becomes even more metafictional as editors notes start appearing near the end making us question further what really happened here.
  • Mind Screw: "Holy crap, the sun is so big that it's taking up the entire sky! Wait, it stopped. Never mind!"
    • The entire book, really. in every way. Special mention goes to the opening sequence and the woman the narrator meets, has sex with, and then watches as she turns into a tree.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Jack The Ripper, Nightmare, Thirteen, Dragon Lady, Glass, Copperhead, Spider...And they're Kidd's friends later on in the book.
  • No Ending
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the scorpions are known only by their nicknames. The main character himself is known only as 'Kid,' since he can't remember his actual name.
  • Painting the Medium: The editors notes, typos, and Kidd's journal all create something not unlike this trope.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: It certainly unnerves Kidd a lot, although their significance is never explained.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted by George Harrison who's treated like this but is actually the nicest person in the book... and is also possibly a rapist. Depending on one's point of view.
  • Stepford Smiler: There's an entire family that acts as though the world of the city hasn't ended.
  • Sudden Name Change: The protagonist starts out nameless, acquires the nickname 'The Kid,' then becomes 'Kidd,' before arbitrarily deciding he prefers 'Kid.'
  • Talkative Loon: Some of the narration.
  • Three-Way Sex
  • Time Travel: Possibly. Kid "loses" time, from the perspective of the other characters. It could be because of his screwy memory, or it could be that something is yanking him through time so that he'll be in the right place at the right time. Or it could be that as a fictional character, he doesn't exist when his actions aren't written down.
  • Title Drop: Dhalgren is both a name in Kidd's notebook and something he says in a vision-like image.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Well, the fact that the narrator can't remember his own name is a major warning sign right from the start. And then Bellona is strange enough that even he's unsure at times whether he's hallucinating or not. Plus, he 'loses' time, anywhere from seconds to a few days at a go, his only knowledge of what took place during that time being the word of other characters.
  • World Sundering

Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland and into the hills, I have come to

The Mote in God's EyeNebula AwardA Midsummer Tempest
Akata WitchLiterary Works by African-American AuthorsDreamblood Duology
The DestroyerLiterature of the 1970sThe Dice Man
The Devil to Pay in the BacklandsLit FicDistant Star
The ChronolithsSeiun AwardLittle Brother
The Devil's ArithmeticScience Fiction LiteratureThe Diamond Age

alternative title(s): Dhalgren
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