From Publishers Weekly
DeLillo skates through a day in the life of a brilliant and precocious New Economy billionaire in this monotone 13th novel, a study in big money and affectlessness. As one character remarks, 28-year-old Eric Packer "wants to be one civilization ahead of this one." But on an April day in the year 2000, Eric's fortune and life fall apart. The story tracks him as he traverses Manhattan in his stretch limo. His goal: a haircut at Anthony's, his father's old barber. But on this day his driver has to navigate a presidential visit, an attack by anarchists and a rapper's funeral. Meanwhile, the yen is mounting, destroying Eric's bet against it. The catastrophe liberates Eric's destructive instinct-he shoots another character and increases his bet. Mostly, the action consists of sequences in the back of the limo (where he stages meetings with his doctor, various corporate officers and a New Economy guru) interrupted by various pit stops. He lunches with his wife of 22 days, Elise Shifrin. He has sex with two women, his art consultant and a bodyguard. He is hit in the face with a pie by a protester. He knows he is being stalked, and the novel stages a final convergence between the ex-tycoon and his stalker. DeLillo practically invented the predominant vernacular of the late '90s (the irony, the close reading of consumer goods, the mock complexity of technobabble) in White Noise, but he seems surprisingly disengaged here. His spotlighted New Economy icon, Eric, doesn't work, either as a genius financier (he is all about gadgetry, not exchange-there's no love of the deal in his "frozen heart") or a thinker. The threats posed by the contingencies that he faces cannot lever him out of his recalcitrant one-dimensionality. DeLillo is surely an American master, but this time out, he is doodling.
From Library Journal
Unlike his sprawling masterpiece, Underworld, DeLillo's 13th novel is short and tightly focused, indeed almost claustrophobic. Most of the action takes place inside a "prousted" (cork-lined) stretch limo, as the reclusive financial wizard Eric Packer is chauffeured across Manhattan for a haircut. Thanks to a presidential visit, antiglobalization demonstrations, and a celebrity funeral, this journey takes up most of the day. Stuck in traffic, Packer anxiously monitors the value of the yen on the limo's computer. Using the car as his office, he summons advisors from nearby shops and restaurants. His physician gives him a rubber-gloved physical exam in the back seat as Packer discusses imminent financial ruin with his broker and angry crowds block the streets. This work most closely resembles The Body Artist in its brevity and straightforward narrative flow. However, the earlier novel was written in an uncharacteristically warm, poetic style, promising a new direction for this important writer, while Cosmopolis reverts to the standard DeLillo boilerplate, perceptive and funny but also brittle and cold. This, coupled with the book's dated 1990s sensibility, makes Cosmopolis a step backward rather than an artistic advance.
The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time — an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life.
Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.
“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?”
These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book’s narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.”
Don DeLillo’s seductive, spectacularly observed and brilliant new novel weighs the darkness of the world — terrorism, floods, fires, famine, plague — against the beauty and humanity of everyday life; love, awe, “the intimate touch of earth and sun.”
This is Don DeLillo’s first collection of short stories, written between 1979 and 2011; in it he represents the wide range of human experience in contemporary America — and forces us to confront the uncomfortable shadows lurking in the background. His characters are plagued by their own deep, often unconscious, longings; they are subjected to shocking violations, exposed to unexpected acts of terror. No matter whether he is focused upon the slums of New York or astronauts in orbit around the Earth, DeLillo chooses never to turn away from the unsettling manner in which humans are brought together. These nine stories describe the extraordinary journey of a great American writer who changed the literary landscape.
It's hardly a new experience to emerge from a Don DeLillo novel feeling faintly disturbed and disoriented. This is both a charm and a curse of much of his fiction, a reason he is so exciting to some readers and so irritating to others (notably George Will). And in the 117-page Point Omega, DeLillo's lean prose is so spare and concentrated that the aftereffects are more powerful than usual.Reading it is akin to a brisk hike up a desert mountain-a trifle arid, perhaps, but with occasional views of breathtaking grandeur. There is no room for false steps, and even the sure-footed will want to double back now and then to check for signs they might have missed along the way.Holding down the book's center is a pair of inward-looking men: Jim Finley, a middle-aged filmmaker who, in the words of his estranged wife, is too serious about art but not serious enough about life; and the much older Richard Elster, a sort of Bush-era Dr. Strangelove without the accent or the comic props.We join them at Elster's rustic desert hideaway in California, where Elster has retreated into the emptiness of time and space following his departure from the Bush-Cheney team of planners for the Iraq War. Elster had been recruited to serve as a sort of conceptual guru, but he left in disillusionment after plans for the haiku war he preferred bogged down in numbers and nitty gritty.Finley hopes to coax Elster into sharing that experience while the camera rolls. He envisions a minimalist work in which Elster will speak in one continuous take while standing against a blank wall in Brooklyn.Anyone recalling the Bush aide who anonymously boasted in 2004 that the Administration would create our own reality to reshape the post 9-11 world will easily detect echoes of that dreamy hubris in Elster's big declarations. As the two men float ever further from the moorings of the cities they left behind, the going gets a little tedious. One suspects DeLillo is setting them up for a fall, especially when Elster maintains they're closing in on the omega point, a concept postulating an eventual leap out of our biology, as Elster puts it, an ultimate evolution in which brute matter becomes analytical human thought.DeLillo delivers on this threat with a visit by Elster's twenty-something daughter, Jessie. From there, the dynamics of human tensions and tragedy take over, laying bare the vanity of intellectual abstraction, and making the omega point loom like empty words on a horizon of deadly happenstance.Along the way, DeLillo is at his best rendering micro-moments of the inner life. That's all the more impressive seeing as how Elster himself seemingly warns off the author from attempting any such thing, by saying in the first chapter, The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever.From time to time, at least, DeLillo proves him wrong.
DeLillo's Running Dog, originally published in 1978, follows Moll Robbins, a New York city journalist trailing the activities of an influential senator. In the process she is dragged into the black market world of erotica and shady, infatuated men, where a cat-and-mouse chase for an erotic film rumored to "star" Adolph Hitler leads to trickery, maneuvering, and bloodshed. With streamlined prose and a thriller's narrative pace, Running Dog is a bright star in the modern master's early career.
For a few years, this book was everywhere-if by everywhere one means used bookstore shelves and remainder tables-a very visible reminder of what happens when the publishing industry misjudges a print run. I bought three or four copies of the book, not because I didn't remember buying it but because every six months the price would be even lower. The copy I read was a two dollar paperback, but I'm sure there's the dollar hardcover still on my shelves, probably right next to where the three dollar and four dollar hardcovers used to sit. Stupidly, I assumed that this meant Libra was a bad book, an assumption my seven dollar copy of Infinite Jest should have disproved. But even after reading and enjoying White Noise, I didn't think of reading Libra. Only recently, scrambling around on my shelves for prose that would actually inspire me, did I pick it up. I'm ashamed to admit I was desperate, yet the shame is mitigated by the rewards I received.
Libra is proof that the best authors can do anything they want. A book about Lee Harvey Oswald, Libra manages to get into Oswald's head and yet leave him a mystery because DeLillo knows the degree to which some men are enigmas even to themselves. A book about the history of event, and the John F. Kennedy assassination, Libra is also a study of the men who shape history, and the men who record history. And best of all, a book about society and the forces sweeping through it, Libra feels like a personal statement, an honest challenge to measure oneself, an expression of intimacy in recounting an event in which so many have lost themselves by creating paranoid spirals that are both joyous and dreadful celebrations of the helplessness of the self.
DeLillo accomplishes this by doing what I believe is a fairly radical act: daring to empathize with Lee Harvey Oswald (I can't help but think this is what led George Will to denounce Libra as "an act of literary vandalism and bad citizenship"). I barely know anything about DeLillo, and yet even to me, the very first section, In The Bronx, a section that opens with an anonymous "he" riding the subway to the ends of the city ("There was so much iron in the sound of those curves he could almost taste it, like a toy you put in your mouth when you are little."), seems an acknowledgment of equivalency-DeLillo grew up in the Bronx, and generously gives young Oswald, who is living there at the book's opening, the keenly observed details only a longtime resident or a talented artist might notice. From this, DeLillo measures Oswald's meandering grasping life in terms with which any struggling artist, feeling adrift and alone in the grip of a desire to accomplish something great, could identify. (Until finally, after the shooting of Kennedy, Oswald making his way through the poor section of Dallas avoiding police, there is this: "A dozen old hair-drying machines stood along the curbside. A mattress on a lawn. He wanted to write short stories about contemporary American life.") By the end, DeLillo gives us Oswald as someone almost like Kafka's hunger artist ("He is commenting on the documentary footage even as it is being shot. Then he himself is shot, and shot, and shot, and the look becomes another kind of knowledge. But he has made us part of his dying."), revealing the horror of art and its motivations when they cannot escape into art's abstract realm.
Libra also considers the men who might have been involved in the plot to kill a president, moving inside the heads of George de Mohrenschildt, crime lord Carmine Latta, Jack Ruby, Agency spook T.J. Mackey and most stunningly David Ferrie, the odd hairless man somehow always at the center of everything. Ferrie was a man who might have been famously eccentric on his own, what with his rare disease that rendered him completely hairless, and resultant crazy wigs and glued on eyebrows, and pilot's uniforms, and open homosexuality, and links to crime figures, gunrunners, and other figures not normally given to mingling with openly gay wig-wearing hairless men. He feels fully like a literary creation, endlessly chattering on about death, about cancer, about fear, about ESP and hypnotism and astrology, but David Ferrie was a very real figure-one whom DeLillo manages to recreate so completely it feels like an act of utter invention.
And so, mirroring DeLillo, there's Win Everett, a CIA man disgraced by his role in the Bay of Pigs disaster, who hatches the Kennedy assassination plot and similarly finds himself creating a man who already exists. (Everett creates forged documents and fake items to cast Oswald's life in a strangely ambiguous light, so that investigators will continue to follow all the twisting paths to the truths Everett wishes them to discover. But he finds that Oswald, independently of Everett, is creating such a life already, following Everett's plans without actually knowing them.) In the shadow of retirement, Everett plans to refire his countrymen's passion for a democratic Cuba by using a failed assassination attempt on Kennedy; an attempt that, in the following investigation, will also throw light on the CIA's role (and his own) in the overthrow of Cuba. Everett is the artist at another extreme, safely installed in American culture (married, with a young daughter, teaching at Texas Women's University), and yet also plotting to change the way Americans see America, with a plan that, like the best literature, mixes the deeply personal with the sweepingly resonant. It is Everett that observes: "Plots carry their own logic. There is a tendency of plots to move toward death. He believed that the nature of death is woven into the nature of every plot. A narrative plot no less than a conspiracy of armed men." It is, of course, the observation of a writer.
Everett's twin is Nicholas Branch, a present-day senior analyst of the CIA, hired by them on contract to write the secret history of the assassination of President Kennedy. Branch is thus both a writer and literary critic of historic event: "Let's devote our lives to understanding this moment, separating the elements of each crowded second. We will build theories that gleam like jade idols, intriguing systems of assumption, four-faced, grateful." Throughout most of the book, a section on Branch usually immediately follows or precedes a section on Everett, joining them in the reader's mind, and it is Branch who gets the lines Kennedy conspiracy theorists (of which I could consider myself, if there is a weight division below "piker") will find the richest, such as referring to the Warren Report as "the megaton novel James Joyce would have written if he'd moved to Iowa City and lived to be a hundred" and commenting on how different Oswald looks from one photo to the next. (I laughed out loud at the description of a famous photo of Oswald as a marine, with a group of fellow marines on a rattan mat under palm trees: "Four or five men face the camera. They all look like Oswald. Branch thinks they look more like Oswald than the figure in profile, officially identified as him." This was doubly funny to me having just seen the photo on the web, the day before I read that section, and, without registering it, having thought the same thing.) (Of course, now, just a few days later, I can't find that photo online anymore.)
And it is through Branch, I think, that DeLillo writes the lines emphasizing how the creation of event and the creation of fiction are conjoined. Referring to Branch's paper-laden workroom, there is this: "This is the room of dreams, the room where it has taken him all these years to learn that his subject is not politics or violent crimes but men in small rooms." The men in Libra, including Lee Harvey Oswald, are such men, as are all writers. But Libra is all too aware of how such men, like Branch himself (in his small room seeing his subject as men in small rooms), and perhaps like all men, are ultimately only capable of writing on the vast skein of reality not what they do know, but merely tacit admissions of everything they don't know-about themselves and about the world, and about the strange vector where the two unknown variables meet, creating the ambiguous equations of history.
Don DeLillo's reputation rests on a series of large-canvas novels, in which he's proven to be the foremost diagnostician of our national psyche. In The Body Artist, however, he sacrifices breadth for depth, narrowing his focus to a single life, a single death. The protagonist is Lauren Hartke, who we see sharing breakfast with her husband, Rey, in the opening pages. This 18-page sequence is a tour de force (albeit a less showy one than the author's initial salvo in Underworld)-an intricate, funny notation of Lauren's consciousness as she pours cereal, peers out the window, and makes idle chat. Rey, alas, will proceed directly from the breakfast table to the home of his former wife, where he'll unceremoniously blow his brains out.
What follows is one of the strangest ghost stories since The Turn of the Screw. And like James's tale, it seems to partake of at least seven kinds of ambiguity, leaving the reader to sort out its riddles. Returning to their summer rental after Rey's funeral, Lauren discovers a strange stowaway living in a spare room: an inarticulate young man, perhaps retarded, who may have been there for weeks. His very presence is hard for her to pin down: "There was something elusive in his aspect, moment to moment, a thinning of physical address." Yet soon this mysterious figure begins to speak in Rey's voice, and her own, playing back entire conversations from the days preceding the suicide. Has Lauren's husband been reincarnated? Or is the man simply an eavesdropping idiot savant, reproducing sentences he'd heard earlier from his concealment?
DeLillo refuses any definitive answer. Instead he lets Lauren steep in her grief and growing puzzlement, and speculates in his own voice about this apparent intersection of past and present, life and death. At times his rhetoric gets away from him, an odd thing for such a superbly controlled writer. "How could such a surplus of vulnerability find itself alone in the world?" he asks, sounding as though he's discussing a sick puppy. And Lauren's performances-for she is the body artist of the title-sound pretty awful, the kind of thing Artaud might have cooked up for an aerobics class. Still, when DeLillo reins in the abstractions and bears down, the results are heartbreaking:
Why shouldn't the death of a person you love bring you into lurid ruin? You don't know how to love the ones you love until they disappear abruptly. Then you understand how thinly distanced from their suffering, how sparing of self you often were, only rarely unguarded of heart, working your networks of give-and-take.
At this stage of his career, a thin book is an adventure for DeLillo. So is his willingness to risk sentimentality, to immerse us in personal rather than national traumas. For all its flaws, then, The Body Artist is a real, raw accomplishment, and a reminder that bigger, even for so capacious an imagination as DeLillo's, isn't always better. -James Marcus
From Publishers Weekly
After 11 novels, DeLillo (Underworld; White Noise) is an acknowledged American master, and a writer who rarely repeats his successes. This slim novella is puzzling, and may prove entirely mystifying to many readers; like all DeLillo's fiction, it offers a vision of contemporary life that expresses itself most clearly in how the story is told. Would you recognize what you had said weeks earlier, if it were the last thing, among other last things, you said to someone you loved and would never see again? That question, posed late in the narrative, helps explain the somewhat aimless and seemingly pointless opening scene, in which a couple gets up, has breakfast, and the man looks for his keys. Next we learn that heDfailed film director Rey Robles, 64Dis dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. SheDLauren, a "body artist"Dgoes on living alone in their house along a lonely coast, until she tracks a noise to an unused room on the third floor and to a tiny, misshapen man who repeats back conversations that she and Rey had weeks before. Is Mr. Tuttle, as Lauren calls him, real, possibly an inmate wandered off from a local institution? Or is he a figment of Lauren's grieving imagination? Is thisDas DeLillo playfully slips into Lauren's mind at one pointDthe first case of a human abducting an alien? One way of reading this story is as a novel told backwards, in a kind of time loop: DeLillo keeps hidden until his closing pages Lauren's role as a body artistDand with it, the novel's true narrative intent. DeLillo is always an offbeat and challenging novelist, and this little masterpiece of the storyteller's craft may not be everyone's masterpiece of the storytelling art. But like all DeLillo's strange and unforgettable works, this is one every reader will have to decide on individually.
Better than any book I can think of, White Noise captures the particular strangeness of life in a time where humankind has finally learned enough to kill itself. Naturally, it's a terribly funny book, and the prose is as beautiful as a sunset through a particulate-filled sky. Nice-guy narrator Jack Gladney teaches Hitler Studies at a small college. His wife may be taking a drug that removes fear, and one day a nearby chemical plant accidentally releases a cloud of gas that may be poisonous. Writing before Bhopal and Prozac entered the popular lexicon, DeLillo produced a work so closely tuned into its time that it tells the future.
From Publishers Weekly
Chairman of the department of Hitler studies at a Midwestern college, Jack Gladney is accidently exposed to a cloud of noxious chemicals, part of a world of the future that is doomed because of misused technology, artifical products and foods, and overpopulation. PW appreciated DeLillo's "bleak, ironic" vision, calling it "not so much a tragic view of history as a macabre one."
Set against the backdrop of a lush and exotic Greece, The Names is considered the book which began to drive "sharply upward the size of his readership" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Among the cast of DeLillo's bizarre yet fully realized characters in The Names are Kathryn, the narrator's estranged wife; their son, the six-year-old novelist; Owen, the scientist; and the neurotic narrator obsessed with his own neuroses. A thriller, a mystery, and still a moving examination of family, loss, and the amorphous and magical potential of language itself, The Names stands with any of DeLillo's more recent and highly acclaimed works.
"The Names not only accurately reflects a portion of our contemporary world but, more importantly, creates an original world of its own."-Chicago Sun-Times
"DeLillo sifts experience through simultaneous grids of science and poetry, analysis and clear sight, to make a high-wire prose that is voluptuously stark."-Village Voice Literary Supplement
"DeLillo verbally examines every state of consciousness from eroticism to tourism, from the idea of America as conceived by the rest of the world to the idea of the rest of the world as conceived by America, from mysticism to fanaticism."-New York Times
In Players DeLillo explores the dark side of contemporary affluence and its discontents. Pammy and Lyle Wynant are an attractive, modern couple who seem to have it all. Yet behind their "ideal" life is a lingering boredom and quiet desperation: their talk is mostly chatter, their sex life more a matter of obligatory "satisfaction" than pleasure. Then Lyle sees a man killed on the floor of the Stock Exchange and becomes involved with the terrorists responsible; Pammy leaves for Maine with a homosexual couple… And still they remain untouched, "players" indifferent to the violence that surrounds them, and that they have helped to create.
Originally published in 1977 (before his National Book Award-winning White Noise and the recent blockbuster Underworld), Players is a fast-moving yet starkly drawn socially critical drama that demonstrates the razor-sharp prose and thematic density for which DeLillo is renown today.
"The wit, elegance and economy of Don DeLillo's art are equal to the bitter clarity of his perceptions."-New York Times Book Review
The narrator of this novel is Bucky Wunderlick, a Dylan-Jagger amalgam who finds he's gone as far as he knows how. Mid tour he leaves his rock band and holes up in a dingy East Village apartment, in Great Jones Street. The plot revolves around his retreat and a drug designed to silence dissidents.
The defining moment of turn-of-the-21st-century America is perfectly portrayed in National Book Award winner Don DeLillo's Falling Man. The book takes its title from the electrifying photograph of the man who jumped or fell from the North Tower on 9/11. It also refers to a performance artist who recreates the picture. The artist straps himself into a harness and in high visibility areas jumps from an elevated structure, such as a railway overpass or a balcony, startling passersby as he hangs in the horrifying pose of the falling man.
Keith Neudecker, a lawyer and survivor of the attack, arrives on his estranged wife Lianne's doorstep, covered with soot and blood, carrying someone else's briefcase. In the days and weeks that follow, moments of connection alternate with complete withdrawl from his wife and young son, Justin. He begins a desultory affair with the owner of the briefcase based only on their shared experience of surviving: "the timeless drift of the long spiral down." Justin uses his binoculars to scan the skies with his friends, looking for "Bill Lawton" (a misunderstood version of bin Laden) and more killing planes. Lianne suddenly sees Islam everywhere: in a postcard from a friend, in a neighbor's music-and is frightened and angered by its ubiquity. She is riveted by the Falling Man. Her mother Nina's response is to break up with her long-time German lover over his ancient politics. In short, the old ways and days are gone forever; a new reality has taken over everyone's consciousness. This new way is being tried on, and it doesn't fit. Keith and Lianne weave into reconciliation. Keith becomes a professional poker player and, when questioned by Lianne about the future of this enterprise, he thinks: "There was one final thing, too self-evident to need saying. She wanted to be safe in the world and he did not."
DeLillo also tells the story of Hammad, one of the young men in flight training on the Gulf Coast, who says: "We are willing to die, they are not. This is our srength, to love death, to feel the claim of armed martyrdom." He also asks: "But does a man have to kill himself in order to accomplish something in the world?" His answer is that he is one of the hijackers on the plane that strikes the North Tower.
At the end of the book, De Lillo takes the reader into the Tower as the plane strikes the building. Through all the terror, fire and smoke, De Lillo's voice is steady as a metronome, recounting exactly what happens to Keith as he sees friends and co-workers maimed and dead, navigates the stairs and, ultimately, is saved. Though several post-9/11 novels have been written, not one of them is as compellingly true, faultlessly conceived, and beautifully written as Don De Lillo's Falling Man. -Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When DeLillo's novel Players was published in 1977, one of the main characters, Pammy, worked in the newly built World Trade Center. She felt that "the towers didn't seem permanent. They remained concepts, no less transient for all their bulk than some routine distortion of light." DeLillo's new novel begins 24 years later, with Keith Neudecker standing in a New York City street covered with dust, glass shards and blood, holding somebody else's briefcase, while that intimation of the building's mortality is realized in a sickening roar behind him. On that day, Keith, one half of a classic DeLillo well-educated married couple, returns to Lianne, from whom he'd separated, and to their young son, Justin. Keith and Lianne know it is Keith's Lazarus moment, although DeLillo reserves the bravura sequence that describes Keith's escape from the first tower-as well as the last moments of one of the hijackers, Hammad-until the end of the novel. Reconciliation for Keith and Lianne occurs in a sort of stunned unconsciousness; the two hardly engage in the teasing, ludic interchanges common to couples in other DeLillo novels. Lianne goes through a paranoid period of rage against everything Mideastern; Keith is drawn to another survivor. Lianne's mother, Nina, roils her 20-year affair with Martin, a German leftist; Keith unhooks from his law practice to become a professional poker player. Justin participates in a child's game involving binoculars, plane spotting and waiting for a man named "Bill Lawton." DeLillo's last novel, Cosmopolis, was a disappointment, all attitude (DeLillo is always a brilliant stager of attitude) and no heart. This novel is a return to DeLillo's best work. No other writer could encompass 9/11 quite like DeLillo does here, down to the interludes following Hammad as he listens to a man who "was very genius"-Mohammed Atta. The writing has the intricacy and purpose of a wiring diagram. The mores of the after-the-event are represented with no cuteness-save, perhaps, the falling man performance artist. It is as if Players, The Names, Libra, White Noise, Underworld-with their toxic events, secret histories, moral panics-converge, in that day's narrative of systematic vulnerability, scatter and tentative regrouping.
Don DeLillo's second novel, a sort of Dr. Strangelove meets North Dallas Forty, solidified his place in the American literary landscape in the early 1970s. The story of an angst-ridden, war-obsessed running back for Logos College in West Texas, End Zone is a heady and hilarious conflation of Cold War existentialism and the parodied parallelism of battlefield/sports rhetoric. When not arguing nuclear endgame strategy with his professor, Major Staley, narrator Gary Harkness joins a brilliant and unlikely bunch of overmuscled gladiators on the field and in the dormitory. In characteristic fashion, DeLillo deliberately undermines the football-is-combat cliché by having one of his characters explain: "I reject the notion of football as warfare. Warfare is warfare. We don't need substitutes because we've got the real thing." What remains is an insightful examination of language in an alien, postmodern world, where a football player's ultimate triumph is his need to play the game.
A young television executive takes to the road in the 1960s with a movie camera to capture his own past in a "cinema verite" documentary. Within this framework, he delivers his observations on the influence of film, modern corporate life, young marriage, New York City and hipness.
Don DeLillo's follow-up to Libra, his brilliant fictionalization of the Kennedy assassination, Mao II is a series of elusive set-pieces built around the themes of mass psychology, individualism vs. the mob, the power of imagery and the search for meaning in a blasted, post-modern world. Bill Gray, the world's most famous reclusive novelist, has been working for many years on a stalled masterpiece when he gets the chance to aid a hostage trapped in a basement in war-torn Beirut. Gray sets out on a doomed, quixotic journey, and his disappearance disrupts the cloistered lives of his obsessed assistant and the assistant's companion, a former Moonie who has also become Bill's lover. This haunting, masterful novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award.
This tale of a reclusive novelist drawn back into the world by acts of terrorism reconfirms DeLillo's status as a modern master and literary provocateur.