Saturday, January 15, 2005


Okay, then, Dhalgren, by Samuel Delany -- what can I say? I'm not sure what to say. It was definitely one of the most unique books I have ever read. Ever. I see now what Hebdomeros meant when he was talking about the difficulty in categorizing Delany's work, though. It had elements of so many different types of fiction...

Is it sci-fi? Porn? Literary? Experimental? Hell, I don't know! I will say the voice was incredibly individualistic, and the style was as well. It takes a turn at the end, where the way it is written is different than the whole rest of the book.

I don't think I ever got a real sense of what was going on, though. It doesn't really wrap everything up in a tight little bow, and give you the "solution" to what the whole epic was actually about. In the end, the themes that hit me the hardest were race and gender relations, the idea of "cult of personality," the idea of being an artist, which feeds into the previous theme, and the human necessity to make order out of chaos.

At times, I would have called the book addictive -- the first half, I had a hard time putting it down (which resulted in some late nights). Around the middle, it took a different turn and I would say that slowed it down for me for maybe a 100 pages -- I think it was because suddenly the main character, known only as The Kid, suddenly took an unexpected turn in characterization and my own brain had a hard time processing or assimilating that information. (Trying to figure out -- who the hell is he? What's he all about?) However, after that it sped up again -- I got used to the change.

The most cool elements for me: a gang that calls themselves scorpions, which live in nests; their lights that project animals when they're "terrorizing" neighborhoods; a newspaper that has a different date (day and year) for each issue (Tuesday, Dec. 11, 1979 and then the next day, Saturday, July 4, 1901 -- random), a garden with different names for months ("they crossed the bridge from December to July," that sort of thing). There was the idea that the city itself was alive, changing, mutating. Elements like this made the book very surprising and different and thought provoking. And I have a feeling that everyone who reads it is going to get something different out of it, fixate on some different aspect. Because like I said, I'm not sure I can say I understood a damn thing that happened, like a dream. But it was an interesting and thought-provoking ride.

Next on the agenda: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk. I figured I needed to follow up with a book that is not so long, this time.

Thanks for reading,



Blogger Maktaaq said...

It does sound pretty interesting, but considering how I can't even concentrate on the breeziest of newspaper articles, I don't think I should be reading anything over a page these days.

12:43 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

LOL. I hear you -- and Dhalgren is 801 words.

I guess it was 2000 or so, I read two monster epics -- and they were all I read for like, the entire year. Anna Karenina and Atlas Shrugged. Part of the problem was, I was working for a newswire startup and had these long, stressful, tiring days (good days, though, don't get me wrong), I was getting up at 5:20 in the morning to take the subway into DC and wasn't getting home until like 5:30 or 6 at night, at which point I'd be too zonkered to read. So, I'd just read them on the train. (On the days when I wasn't actually falling asleep on the train!) It was a bad year for reading fiction and those were the only books I read.

12:47 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Whoops -- pages, not words. 801 words might not take too long. ;)

12:48 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

I like the part about the city changing and the newspapers changing. As I work in a historical museum, I am amazed at what misconceptions people have about history.

Like, in my city, which started out as an industrial frontier-type town and is now a bedroom community, there is this erroneous view that "heritage" buildings should have brick, when, back in the early 1900s, brick was only used for chimneys. All buildings were constructed out of wood. There were no brick buildings within city limits. So, here we have some very influential people insisting that we make "historical" buildings out of something that had nothing much to do with our history. You can see faulty assumptions about history taking foothold...

It's like "traditional" Japanese food. Most people think that sushi is something the Japanese have always had in their diet, when its history is less than two hundred years old. The Japanese rarely ate meat until the emperor came back in power in the mid-nineteenth century.

Or like in nineteenth century France, where people would tour Brittany to ogle the "traditional" costumes, which were only a contemporary construct, as prior to the French Revolution, the government decreed what different levels of society could wear and what they couldn't. The "traditional" costumes from Brittany were the result of a burst of creativity after the monarchy was deposed and it evolved so that, by the time Paul Gauguin and others painted these "age-old" people, the "tradition" of the costumes were ingrained into the public's mind, obliterating memory of the historical truth.

I love seeing how our collective memories "forget." A few years ago I believed that, say in the fifties, most women were the prudes we were taught to believe. Now, with the proliferation of porn and the new feminist thinking, I find myself believing that most women in the past were closet whores.

It would be interesting to see a city evolving faster to fit our conceptions...

12:55 PM  
Blogger Maktaaq said...

I've had one of those years, where I managed to read nothing.

I am always eyeing those special "concentration" teas that are out on the market now. Maybe one of those might help?

12:57 PM  
Blogger Hebdomeros said...

Yeah, I remember that slowdown mid-way through. One day I'll read it again. It's the kind of book that has so much in it, its really hard to describe. I loved all the identity and writerly themes, and the layout experiments he played around with. You had asked earlier about House of Leaves, and this book was a big influence on HoL in a lot of ways.

Mostly I got off on Delaney's voice and language. It really split my head open as far as what you can do with text and ways you can mix genres and styles. Glad you didn't give up on it; some people I've loaned it to have yet to give it a try.

2:42 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Hey Maktaaq -- that's a really interesting insight about history and cities. True enough, the weakness of collective memory is a real phenomenon. It's amazing how that that kind of wrong perception or misguided memory can even happen within one generation; memory of some "golden age" or whatnot that was not anything near what people really experienced. (And thanks for all those facts -- I had no idea!!!)

Hebdomeros, yeah, it was one hell of a read and very difficult to describe. The writerly themes were really cool -- so cool that I'm not sure I'll loan it out, because I did so much highlighting of passages I liked, that it would probably be very irritating for the loanee. The identity thing was amazing, and I think it's true: whether you're a writer (artist) or a thug, suddenly so much of your own identity has so much to do with what other people think or want to believe than what you really do or accomplish. That was time and time again with The Kid. Like his reputation absolutely preceded him and sometimes, not only preceded him but almost belied his own actions. Interesting, like, do you believe your own press?

Do you have any insight into the red eyes, though? I didn't really get that at all.

HoL is definitely next on the agenda; I kind of figured it would be similar which was why I wanted a quickie (Diary) in between.

3:15 PM  

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