Understanding Don Delillo

Understanding Don Delillo

Understanding Don Delillo

Understanding Don Delillo

Synopsis

Henry Veggian introduces readers to one of the most influential American writers of the last half- century. Winner of the National Book Award, American Book Award, and the first Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, Don Delillo is the author of short stories, screenplays, and fifteen novels including his breakthrough work White Noise (1985) and Pulitzer Prize finalists Mao II (1992) and Underworld (1998).Veggian traces the evolution of DeLillo's work through the three phases of the author's career as a fiction writer, from the experimental early novels, through the more substantial works of the mid-1980s and 1990s, into the "smaller" but newly innovative novels of the last decade. He guides readers to Delillo's principal concerns--the tension between biography and anonymity, the blurred boundary between fiction and historical narrative, and the importance of literary authorship in opposition to various structures of power--and traces the evolution of his changing narrative techniques.Beginning with a brief biography, an introduction to reading strategies, and a survey of the major concepts and questions that inform writings about DeLillo's work, Veggian proceeds chronologically through the major novels of the author's career. His discussion summarizes complicated plots, reflects critical responses to the author's work, and explains the literary tools used to fashion his characters, narrators, and events. In a concluding chapter, Veggian engages DeLillo's notable examples of other modes, particularly the short story that, he shows, reveals important insights into his "modular" working method as well as the evolution of his novels.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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