18 Classics of LGBTQ Literature

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Dhalgren audiobook cover (Image via SkyBoat Media)

14. Dhalgren

Dhalgren is not a book for the faint of heart. Not only does it top out at 879 pages, but it is an astoundingly difficult work to fully understand. Science fiction writer William Gibson one said that Dhalgren was “a riddle that was never meant to be solved”. If that doesn’t totally turn you away from this controversial, challenging work, then dive in.

Like the book itself, the characters in Dhalgren are difficult to reduce. The protagonist has no formal name, though most characters refer to him as “kid”, “the Kid”, and “Kidd”. He travels to Bellona, a mostly abandoned city that nonetheless seems to be teeming with characters and strange events.

Throughout the novel, he enters into sexual relationships with numerous different people, including men. While the Kid’s sexuality is not necessarily a central focus of the novel (how could it be, for over 800 pages and while other people are turning into trees and reading unearthly books), it is also not a problem to be solved.

Delany himself is an interesting and relevant figure. Not only is he a black science fiction author (sadly, still something of a rarity), but he identifies as a gay man. Though he was married to a woman for twelve years, he is now in a relationship with another man. In fact, a number of his works have included, in some form or another, subjects that deal with homosexuality and AIDS.