Thursday, April 01, 2010


When Samuel R. "Chip" Delaney published his novel Dahlgren, in 1975, if all but floored me. I had just started publishing book length fiction – The DNA Cowboys Trilogy to be precise, and I thought I was pretty smart. Then I read Dhalgren – with its layer upon layer of ambiguous complexity and, in addition to speculating if Delaney was the natural heir to Bill Burroughs, I wondered if I was supposed to write shit like that. Mercifully I wasn’t and we all went on with our lives. Now Dhalgren is a play. Damn.

It seems appropriate that Dhalgren, or at least the latest mutation of it, will return this month to the city of its birth. On April 1—Delany’s 68th birthday—the Kitchen will begin staging an adaptation called Bellona, Destroyer of Cities. Its director and writer is Jay Scheib, an MIT professor and rising theater-world star who’s been obsessed with Dhalgren for years. He once devoted an MIT course to the book, and has even adapted it into a play in German. “It took me roughly a year to read Dhalgren for the first time,” Scheib says. “I would read the same ten pages over and over and over again.” The loop structure impelled him to keep coming back. “You get the feeling that the story has been going on like a fugue for millennia,” he says. “The second time you read it, it’s thrilling. The third time, it makes you high. After that it’s like reading philosophy.” The play’s producer, Tanya Selvaratnam, took the opposite approach, reading the entire book in a day and a half; by the end, she says, she felt like she was hallucinating. One of the actors told Scheib that reading the novel was the hardest thing he did all year. (Delany hasn’t read the book in probably fifteen years and has little interest in doing so; his energy is focused on “futzing” with his next novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, due in November.)” Click here for more.

1 comment:

hcb said...

and remember they turned VALIS into an opera