What has not been pointed out enough in the many reviews for this book is that, no matter how firmly or viciously you search, you will never find another like it. That alone should warrant it particular consideration.
Fortunately, it also happens to be a wonderfully told and passionate tale of...well, of Dhalgren. Who or what is Dhalgren? A pointed question, one that The Kid - a young drifter suffering from partial amnesia - is confronted with on several occasions as he blunders into and attempts to survive the city of Bellona. That Bellona is meant to occupy the exact physical centre of America should give a clue that Delaney is at least dipping his toes into parable, though this novel is far more than symbolist claptrap (though it's that too). It's a record of a tentative and experimental romance, a claustrophobic horror-show, a mad dance with a gang of high-tech street youth, a surreal confrontation with the heart of artistic creation, a grotesque interpretation of race and gender relations, a pornographic diary and, more than anything else, it is a description of a place. That place is Bellona, a city of empty streets and lost souls, where the broken and the perverse have come to play; it may also be where a small community of people find a quiet kind of wonder, and a subtle sort of freedom, and a strange day of doom.
Yes, Dhalgren is unique, exquisitely written and a whale of a book - one that will make you a Jonah, to emerge from it forever changed.
Who or what is Dhalgren? Well, therein lies the tale...