Super Powers, Super Decay

Michael Dirda in The Washington Post:

Book Now widely regarded as Robert Silverberg's masterpiece, “Dying Inside,” first published in 1972, has just been reissued in a handsome trade paperback with a new preface by its author, one of science fiction's most distinguished writers. Yet this book is hardly what most people think of as science fiction. As a character, Selig has more in common with Philip Roth's Portnoy than with the more typical superwarriors of, say, Robert Heinlein's “Starship Troopers.” Instead, Silverberg's novel offers an eerily evocative picture of New York life in the late 1950s and '60s: a time of bisexual professors, swinging singles, Black Power, psychedelic drugs and all-round social and political upheaval. Given Selig's bookishness, the novel is also suffused with buried quotations from T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare and many other literary eminences.

Above all, though, “Dying Inside” is a pleasure to read, full of that dry humor so common to melancholic intellectuals. Selig's taste in music, we learn, runs to “pretty austere stuff, thorny, inaccessible: Schoenberg, late Beethoven, Mahler, Berg, the Bartok quartets, Bach passacaglias. Nothing that you'd be likely to whistle after one hearing.” At one time he contemplates writing a novel about — what else? — alienation in modern life.

More here.