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Tales of Neveryon (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. Januar 1979
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Essef - Five inter-connected stories set in a mythical past focus on the experiences of the slave Gorgik. With an appendix.
Oh, and by the way, not that anyone cares, but the September 30 '99 review of Dhalgren is mine--I've no idea why I wrote it anonymously.
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In general, Delany's fiction is somewhat experimental and academic, (which is in and of itself remarkable, even inspiring---as is Delany's own authorial and academic success---given that he is highly dyslexic). The Nevèrÿon books may not be prohibitively difficult for young adults; but, they certainly weren't written to be easily approachable by an audience *primarily* of young adults. They are certainly not pot-boiler or formulaic fantasy. In addition to the presence of dragons and barbarian warrior-heroes, which are relatively common fantasy tropes, there are features of the decidedly unromantic Nevèrÿon world and cultures that are highly original creations by Mr. Delany, and the tales themselves are in a naturalistic style at times so gritty you're surprised there isn't a fine layer of dust upon the page. Most of Delany's characters are earthy survivors who interact with their varying cultural, social, economic, and physical environments in a matter-of-fact way interrupted--in the case of some characters anyway--with contemplation, even a sort of philosophizing. There is poignancy throughout, and it's subtle and masterful. The reader can't help but wish the characters well, even if some of them wear the harshness of their lives like old leather garbs, or are simple in their desires and ambitions. The characters of the tales range widely: active and passive, young and old, healthy and ill, famous and obscure, male and female, free and slave.
None of these stories follows any sort of traditional plot structure -- some of them have only the barest hint of plot at all. And yet they are deeply compelling, for Delany has infused so many of the situations with intellectual substructures, simultaneously evoking a carefully-imagined fantasy world, well-developed characters, and profound philosophical speculations (and aggravations) touching on everything from economics to literary theory to political and social science. None of it is heavy-handed, though, and certainly not dogmatic -- if not for some slyly suggestive epigraphs at the beginning of each tale, the deeper implications of many of the stories would be easy to miss. The tales build on each other, and by the second half of the book, if you can juggle all of the echoes in your mind, the process of accumulation makes the experience of reading all the richer.
By the end, the book feels a bit incomplete, because it has raised so many questions and introduced so many journeys that the reader is likely to hit the last page and think, "Where's the rest?" The rest is in the other books in the Neveryon series, and so though Tales of Neveryon is not complete in itself, there is a certain pleasure in knowing that the marvelous experience of reading this first book does not have to end.
Tale of Old Venn is a sort of fantasy-novel introduction to literary criticism, played out in metaphors between an old woman and her disciple and friend. This story was my favorite; it introduces Delany's theories on the transition from currency to credit.
The Tale of Small Sarg is an elegant and heartwarming portrayal of SM. (Sam Gamgee and Frodo will never look the same again!) I can't remember the names of the other stories and don't have the book on me at the moment (I've been lending it to everyone I know), so I'll defer to someone else for the rest.
These synopses are to the actual stories roughly what velveeta is to gruyere, of course, a gross oversimplification. Delany's outlandish metaphors (those little rubber balls!) and surprisingly lucid forays into parts philosophic transform what could've been a preachy exercise in po-mo orthodoxies into an absolutely magical experience that must be read to be believed.
The reader of this book will benefit from a bit of background in poststructuralism, but it's not necessary; in fact the story about Venn made more sense of Derrida than Derrida does himself. Delany would make a great addition to an introductory course on postcolonialism and semiotics. In fact, I wish I'd read this before I'd ever tried to tackle those people...