Don Delillo: Balance at the Edge of Belief

Don Delillo: Balance at the Edge of Belief

Don Delillo: Balance at the Edge of Belief

Don Delillo: Balance at the Edge of Belief

Synopsis

Don DeLillo - winner of the National Book Award, the William Dean Howells Medal, and the Jerusalem Prize - is one of the most important novelists of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries. While his work can be understood and taught as prescient and postmodern examples of millennial culture, this book argues that DeLillo's recent novels - White Noise, Libra, Mao II, Underworld, and The Body Artist - are more concerned with spiritual crisis. Although DeLillo's worlds are rife with rejection of belief and littered with faithfulness, estrangement, and desperation, his novels provide a balancing moral corrective against the conditions they describe. Speaking the vernacular of contemporary America, DeLillo explores the mysteries of what it means to be human.

Excerpt

We live in DeLillo-esque times. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, America is experiencing a dizzying convergence of Don DeLillo's most frightening themes. We are living White Noise, its fear of death merged with modern manifestations of fascism (for the Right, abroad; for the Left, at home). We fear outbreaks of human made contaminants, with DeLillo's Nyodene D replaced by scientifically engineered anthrax. We are witnessing the physical displacement of thousands of New Yorkers, and feeling the spiritual displacement of millions of Americans, as dust shrouds lower Manhattan in ethereal embodiment of white noise. We are living Libra, fearing our conspiring and incompetent federal bureaucrats of the CIA and FBI, suffering the trauma of American blood spilled, enduring the tragedy captured indelibly on film, so the towers can fall, and fall, and fall, as Lee Oswald “is shot, and shot, and shot” (Libra 447). We are living Mao II, its title now reminiscent of typographic Twin Towers and the number 11; its threat of Middle Eastern terrorism replacing the Cold War; its renewed appeal of cults and cults of personality; its wanted despots gaining aura in hiding, and its terrorists intent upon media exploitation. We are living Underworld, with its cover's juxtaposed imagery of the Twin Towers and the cross, now looking like crosshairs; its mutual sense of threat and paranoia; its apocalyptic fear revised but renewed. Looking at the media's position in the spectacle, the sense of America in the balance, and the plight of New Yorkers forced to evacuate the area known as Ground Zero (a term that DeLillo may as well have made up), one gets the distinct impression, as DeLillo himself might put it, that there are things Don DeLillo knows.

Or not. Critic James Wood, DeLillo's long-time detractor, writing in The . . .

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