Tag Archives: Narrative

Dude Review: Dhalgren By Samuel R. Delaney

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pinchon is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever tried to read. There are those who compare it to Ulysses by James Joyce in that the path does not follow a very linear narrative and the reader must work to even come close to understanding what’s going on.

I, however, am not one of those who compares those two books. To me, Gravity’s Rainbow most closely resembles (in spirit, alone, certainly not in plot or character) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney.

Samuel R Delaney is one of the greatest living masters of the science-fiction novel, having written award-winning stories like Babel-17 and Dhalgren.
The man can certainly rock a beard, yeah?

One of American science fiction’s greatest living writers, Delaney has created masterwork after masterwork, each more controversial than the last, each examining racial, sexual and personal identity and how each relates to the outer society.

Often described as the most literary of science-fiction writers, Delaney isn’t fascinated by the economic impact that instantaneous, inexpensive teleportation would create. Instead, he’d rather look at the different ways in which the new technology allows men and women to indulge their more. . . slippery. . . impulses.

A man fascinated by the mechanics of the physical act of sex and the emotional aspects of love and hate, Delaney is one of those rare authors who can define or create a genre simply by going ahead and writing whatever the heck is in his head that day.

I’ve long meant to go back and try and read Dhalgren again, having run up against a brick wall the last time I attempted a read through. (Hey, I was in my teens and a callow youth. Gimme a break.)

So imagine my joy when I found out that I could get one of the first electronic copies of Dhalgren, made available through the good folks at NetGalley, which is a place where publishers can give out advance copies of their book in return for an honest review.

I got the book and the review is coming in just a second. After this, in fact. A quick plug that Dhalgren  and eight other Delaney classics are now available for the first time as electronic books, including the Nebula Award­-winning Babel-17, as well as Delany¹s Hugo Award-winning literary memoir, The Motion of Light in Water,  from online booksellers all over the world.

So. Dhalgren. This was a difficult read when I was younger. That, at least, hasn’t changed. Full of digressive runs and almost stream-of-consciousness narration, Dhalgren tells the story of the Kid, a mostly unknown ambisexual man, with very little memory of his past or his identity, recently arrived in the city of Bellona.

Bellona is located in the geographic center of the United States. The book opens some time after an unspecified . . . something happens that drives away most of the citizens of the city, leaving behind only madmen, criminals, the deliriously inane and the Kid.

As with so many young people, the Kid is searching for answers to the perennial questions of “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” and “What’s the point of it all?” Who, at one time or another, hasn’t asked those questions?

It’s possibly one reason that this book has such a demented pull on the minds of so many people. Despite the difficulty in reading this dense, interweaving narrative, there’s something about it that keeps drawing me back to it.

I did get through the end, although it wasn’t easy and I know I didn’t get from the book everything I should. The last part of the book consisted of “found texts,” excerpts from other texts, the equivalent of footnotes and other variations on traditional narrative take away whatever sense of temporal progress that had been gained earlier.

Dhalgren is without a doubt one of the most ambitious books published in many, many years. And, while I’m ready to admit to you dudes that it could be just me, I’ve the feeling that Delaney might have reached for something a bit to far for him to grasp this time.

Still, it’s not like I felt my time wrestling with Dhalgren was wasted. It wasn’t. I eventually made my way through Gravity’s Rainbow and managed to learn a bit about it with each attempt.

I have a feeling Dhalgren is going to be my next literary obsession, a book that I will return to and do battle with, over the next few years. It is a battle I anticipate with a great deal of excitement.

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Too Much Time On His Hands

Some days, it doesn’t seem as if there’s enough hours available to get done what needs to be done. I mean, who hasn’t wished for a 30-hour day every once in a while?

Either when you’re having fun or when there’s just so much work due and due right now.

I’ll tell you who.

This dude. This dude right here has way too much time on his hands. And the excess time somewhat explains this. Somewhat. Maybe. Maybe not. You know. . . let’s just take a look at what I’m talking about and we can decide together.

Every Pixar movie is connected. I explain how, and possibly why. Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on Cracked.com that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme. This theory covers every Pixar production since Toy Story. 

Jon Negroni, the owner of the blog post in question, then spends the next who knows how many thousand words detailing the order in which the Pixar movies should be viewed, the order in which they take place in the Pixar timeline, starting with Brave, far in the past, and ending with A Bug’s Life, in the distant future.

He finds connective tissue in various characters he says are the same across movies. Like, for instance, the Witch in Brave, who keeps disappearing through doors or not being there when a door is opened, is actually a very-much-aged Boo, from Monsters, who mastered time travel through doors to find her beloved Sully again.

According to Mr. Negroni, the artificial intelligences that manipulated Syndrome to kill off the supers in The Incredibles, continued to develop throughout the intervening years, eventually developing into a faceless corporation called Buy ‘n’ Large, known as BnL, or the company that ruled the Earth, destroyed it by pollution and then arked the remaining humans out into space and special fat suits.

So machines decide to control humans by using a corporation that suits their every need, leading to an industrial revolution that eventually leads to…pollution. When the animals rise up against the humans to stop them from polluting the earth, who will save them? The machines. We know that the machines will win the war, too, because after this war, there are no animals ever to be seen again on Earth. Who’s left?

fanpop.com

Yeah, having Cars take place in a post-humanity apocalypse certainly makes sense and definitely explains why I got such a creepy feeling whenever I tried to watch this particular horror.

Congratulations, Mr. Negroni. You’ve managed to think about this for far, far too long. Even worse, now I’m starting to think about it, seeing how things make sense and start considering ways to explain some of the paradoxes inherent in this thesis.

I believe I might need help. A lot of help.


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Why “You’re Wrong” Are Two Of The Worst Words In The English Language

by Richard

Even when I know I’m wrong (and I’m not saying that’s something that happens with any sort of frequency, you understand) I have to fight against the urge to dig in, double down and create my own reality distortion field that will enable me to be right and her to be wrong.

I’m not the only dude who does this. No. It seems as if this is something everyone does.

It goes something like this: In my head, that is, my self image is that of a reasonably intelligent person who is cynical enough to not be taken in by most cons and is able to fairly evaluate evidence and remember results. That’s the story I tell me about me. And, who knows, it might even be true.

However, when telling myself that story, it necessarily precludes my being wrong. I mean, that sort of person couldn’t be wrong. I am that sort of person. Therefore, I can’t be wrong. I don’t care what the evidence says. Sound at all familiar?

No, I’m not really talking to you dudes specifically, but I’m actually thinking about every single discussion I’ve had with my three young dudes from the time just before they sprouted their first pubic hair on. Despite any evidence to the contrary, these young dudes tell themselves some really great stories about their own competence and breadth of knowledge. And we know that any person like that couldn’t be wrong. Therefore, I am an idiot and should be told so.

Yeah, now that’s starting to sound quite familiar, isn’t it?

I got started thinking of this while I was reading a blog post by Christine Aschwanden, an award-winning freelance science journalist, on a cooperative groupblog called Last Word On Nothing. She gave a talk on what she’s learned from getting mail for her science news articles. Basically it boils down to, people don’t like to be told their closely held beliefs are wrong.

Tell readers that they’re wrong about something they know in their heart to be true, and they will send you hate mail.

Narrative trumps evidence, in other words.

Instead of thinking, hmmmm, maybe I need to reassess here, what most of us do is go back and think about why we’d come to those beliefs in the first place. And in the process of doing that, we remember how great those reasons were and we end up reinforcing our original beliefs. Instead of re-evaluating, you become more sure of yourself.

Something to remember the next time you’re, just as a for instance, out at a shoe store and your 12-year-old declares that the size 11 shoes fit him just perfectly and he should get them, not the size 8 your stupid mind says he should. Facts just don’t cut it. You need to find the story that will help him realize the truth.

Of course, that probably won’t happen until after the very loud, very public temper tantrum. Sorry.

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