In the middle of reading Dhalgren by Samuel R Delany. So far, strange and rather wonderful. Below is a collection of quotes that may come in handy for something in the future:
‘to wound the autumnal city.’
This is how it begins – in the middle of something. A city with a body, a body that can be hurt. A city that’s alive. I’ve always liked that kind of idea, after all, cities grow, even if sometimes they model themselves after cancerous tumours.
Is the city in the autumn of its years or is that the season in which this story begins? Or rather the time contained by the pages in which we see the city begins?
‘Very few suspect the existence of this city. It is as if not only the media but the laws of perspective themselves have redesigned knowledge and perception to pass it by. Rumor says there is practically no power here. Neither television cameras nor on-the-spot broadcasts function: that such a catastrophe as this should be opaque, and therefore dull, to the electric nation! It is a city of inner discordances and retinal distortions.’
‘Equipped with contradictory visions … I observe a new mechanics. I am the wild machinist, past destroyed, reconstructing the present.’
‘You meet a new person, you go with him,’ Kid mused, ‘and suddenly you get a whole new city.’ … ‘You go down new streets, you see houses you never saw before, pass places you didn’t know were there. Everything changes.’
‘you are asking me what place the image of this city holds in the minds of those who have never been here. How can I presume to suggest? There are times, as I wander in this abysmal mist, when these streets seem to underpin all the capitals of the world. At others, I confess, the whole place seems a pointless and ugly mistake, with no relation to what I know as civilization, better obliterated than abandoned. I can’t judge because I am still in it. Frankly I will not be able to judge once out of it, for the bias that will remain from once having been a visitor.’
‘in this timeless city, in this spaceless preserve where any slippage can occur, these closing walls, laced with fire-escapes, gates, and crenellations, are too unfixed to hold it in, so that, from me as a moving node, it seems to spread, by flood and seepage, over the whole uneasy scape. He had a momentary image of all these walls on pivots controlled by subterranean machines, so that, after he passed, they might suddenly swing to face another direction, parting at this corner, joining at that one, like a great maze—forever adjustable, therefore unlearnable’
‘You know, seeing a film backward isn’t the same as experience as seeing it forward in reverse. It’s a new experience, still happening forward in time. What falls out is all its own.’
‘Where is this city? Struck out of time! Where is it builded? On the brink of truths and lies. Not truth and falsity—Oh no. No. Nothing so grand. Here we are sunk on the abyss of discrete fibs, innocent misobservations, brilliant speculations that tun out wrong and kill’
‘Who lives in this city?’ Reverend Amy’s voice came on through a lull. ‘Logicians love it here!’ George turned to listen. SO did the gaunt girl and Glass. ‘Here you can cleave space with a distinction, mark or token, and not have it bleed all over you. What we need is not a calculus of form but an analytics of attention, which renders form on the indifferent and undifferentiated pleroma. No, Che, no Fanon, you are not niggers enough! look—’ Once more she waved her fist high. Her black sleeve flung out below it. ‘ I have a handful of monads here. Listen—they’re chattering and gossiping away like eight-operation logic cells calling up order from a random net…’
‘The night? What of it. It is filled with bestial watchmen, trammeling the extremities and the interstices of the timeless city, portents fallen, constellated deities plummeting in ash and smoke, roaming the apocryphal cities, the cities of speculation and reconstituted disorder, of insemination and incipience, swept round with the dark.’
‘The moon get its light from the sun … and shine all night … It burn and it burn and it don’t never stop. It send the folk all down running through the city of the sun.’
‘In this city, where nothing happens, it is worth your sanity to refuse anything new.’
‘Does the city’s topology control us completely?’
‘The city is a map of violences anticipated. The armed dwellers in the Emboriki, the blacks surrounding them, the hiss from a turned tap that has finally stopped trickling, the time it takes a group who go out to come back with bags of canned goods, packaged noodles, beans, rice, spaghetti—each is an emblem of inalienable, coming shock. But the clashes that do occur are all petty, disappointing, minor, inconclusive, above all stupid, as though the city prevents any real anxiety’s ever resolving. and the result? All humanity here astounds; all charity here is graced.’
‘Which of the above is true? The one with the fewest words, of course. But that’s faulty logic. Why? Three times blessed is the Lord of Divine Words, the God of Thieves, the Master of the Underworld, dual sexed in character, double dealing in nature, yet one through all diffraction.’
‘as though his achievements and losses completed a design mapped in the layout of the streets around us.’
‘I have come to’
And those are the final words of the book, looping round to the start, and the most obvious loop point (of which there are others) in the narrative.