DeLillo Creates Surreal America with His Electric Use of Language

Article excerpt

Don DeLillo


DeLillo engages the deep exile of the American spirit, the dissolution of its grand dreams. His novels are full of interrogative drama.

Every episode - whether hell-thronged or contemplative - has always had a spectral existentialism: how human life fears a nihilism that lurks beyond the fringes of fragile meaning.

In this slim collection of stories that chart a literary pulse over 30 years, he again quests after the unfortified moments of the soul. DeLillo is among the most distinguished authors of the last century.

His writing is cognitive, but embodied. Here again is the electric language with which he has created - in Underworld and White Noise - a disturbing, surreal America. Readers will quickly sense the mortal awareness that influenced a generation of young American realists: Ellis, Franzen, Eugenides, Wallace.

Angel Esmeralda is the strongest tale. Set in the singing crossfire of the Bronx, it tells of the redemptive possibilities of faith, as two nuns deliver food to the wretched and dispossessed.

DeLillo writes of Sister Edgar as "the fraidy child who must face the real terror of the streets to cure the linger of destruction inside her".

This "linger" is the mortal taint to which so many of his characters gorgeously succumb. After the death of a neighbourhood girl, the despaired community heal themselves through faith in an apparition of the deceased.

These sighs of the oppressed creature are written with insight, perception. We see a glimpse here of the necessary fictions that save us; our modern mythos cut and hewn from the traumas of experience. …