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Oh my oh my oh my

John Lanchester

12 September 1991
Mao II 
by Don DeLillo.
Cape, 239 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 9780224031523
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Introducing Don​ DeLillo 
edited by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 221 pp., £28, September 1991, 0 8223 1135 6
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... had paradoxically made it very difficult for any novel to compete with the wonderfully satisfying, wonderfully interesting fiction he has made of his life. Bill Gray, the central character of Mao II, DonDeLillo’s tenth novel, is one of these Pynchon/Salinger recluses: the mysterious power of the image of the writer-cum-herrnit is one of the book’s main concerns. ‘When a writer refuses to show ...


Michael Wood: Underworld by Don Delillo

5 February 1998
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 832 pp., £10, February 1998, 0 330 36995 4
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... There is a world inside the world,’ Lee Harvey Oswald repeats in DonDeLillo’s novel Libra (1988). The phrase suggests wheels within wheels, partly because Oswald is obsessively riding the New York subway when we first hear it. ‘There’s more to it,’ David Ferrie says ...

The Small Noise Upstairs

Frank Kermode: Don DeLillo

8 March 2001
The Body Artist 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 124 pp., £13.99, February 2001, 0 330 48495 8
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... know, begins with a chapter about a famous baseball game and a boy who retrieves the ball with which the decisive home run was scored. The Body Artist is about as long as the Underworld ball-game. DeLillo is a serious and various writer, and we have to take these extremes as deliberately chosen to reflect different aspects of his talent. Underworld belongs to the category of the Great American Novel ...

Pure Vibe

Christopher Tayler: Don DeLillo

4 May 2016
Zero K 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 274 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 1 5098 2285 0
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... When​  Libra came out in 1988, the American writer Robert Towers said that it had made DonDeLillo the ‘chief shaman of the paranoid school of American fiction’. ‘Paranoid school’ doesn’t get you very far – Pynchon and Mailer, both broad-brush comparisons, were the other faculty ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: ‘Extraordinary Rendition’

5 January 2006
... Clancy thriller, or a straight-to-video 1980s action movie starring Chuck Norris. The practice itself sounds like something that might go on, or be rumoured to go on, through the course of a novel by DonDeLillo. But there is no doubt that it does happen, despite the cagey denials and qualifications of the British and American governments. Condoleezza Rice has described extraordinary rendition as a ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre

20 November 2003
Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... narrow, raucous, too often mistaking noise for vividness. On the back, Andrew O’Hagan rightly characterises its effect as ‘like the Osbournes invited the Simpsons round for a root beer, and DonDeLillo dropped by to help them write a new song for Eminem,’ without telling us why that particular party would be enjoyable or even tolerable. Pierre’s splendour is the creation of a voice, that of a ...


Adam Begley

24 November 1988
by Don DeLillo.
Viking, 456 pp., £11.95, November 1988, 0 670 82317 1
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... spurned in favour of those 26 laden volumes and the jumble of confused and contradictory evidence they contain – the playground of the conspiracy junkie. Nicholas Branch, a pivotal character in DonDeLillo’s Libra, a retired CIA intelligence analyst hired to write the CIA’s own, secret history of the Kennedy assassination, thinks of the 26 volumes as ‘the Joycean Book of America ... the ...

Alzheimer’s America

Mark Greif: Don DeLillo

5 July 2007
Falling Man 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 246 pp., £16.99, May 2007, 978 0 330 45223 6
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... DonDeLillo’s new novel makes a direct but counterintuitive approach to the destruction of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. It is anti-sentimental: constructed in short episodes, it prohibits ...

Ceaseless Anythings

James Wood: Robert Stone

1 October 1998
Damascus Gate 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 500 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 37058 8
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... American realism, once a belief, is now an idle liberty. Writers such as Robert Stone, Joan Didion, John Irving and even DonDeLillo, are praised for their ‘realism’, for the solidity of their plots, the patience of their characterisation, the capillary spread of their social portraits, the leverage of their political insight ...


Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis.

10 May 2001
The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... commas, is still a cliché or an approximation.’ It does not help that Murdoch was also given to ‘train-wreck adjectives’. An especially favoured site of cliché infection is the adverb. When DonDeLillo has a character say something ‘quietly’ you know he’s drawing on a long tradition of ‘said quietly’ as a conventional announcement that the remark it follows should be taken as ...

The Paranoid Elite

Michael Wood: DeLillo

22 April 2010
Point Omega 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 51238 1
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... DonDeLillo’s Underworld (1997) was in many ways a farewell to paranoia. Not the paranoid style in American politics, to quote the title of a famous essay by Richard Hofstadter (how could anyone say farewell ...

History and Hats

D.A.N. Jones

23 January 1986
The Lover 
by Marguerite Duras, translated by Barbara Bray.
Collins, 123 pp., £7.95, November 1985, 0 00 222946 3
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Stones of the Wall 
by Dai Houying, translated by Frances Wood.
Joseph, 310 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2588 6
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White Noise 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 326 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 330 29109 2
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... Secretary’. His second wife pulls his nose when he dreams noisily. She asks: ‘Why do you think you’ve gone grey so quickly? You’re only just 44 and you’re half-white. People might think I don’t look after you.’ The epigraph to this chapter is: ‘History can be treacherous. It sometimes makes a surprise attack on me in the night. My hair has gone white.’ Each of the chapters is ...

Her face was avant-garde

Christian Lorentzen: DeLillo’s Stories

9 February 2012
The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 211 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 4472 0757 3
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... In its winter issue of 1960, Epoch, a quarterly published at Cornell, carried ‘The River Jordan’, a story by ‘Donald R. DeLillo’. It tells of a day in the life of Emil Burke, a mad Manhattan septuagenarian who leads a storefront chapel called the Psychic Church of the Crucified Christ, with a congregation of four. In the ...

How to Be Good

Elaine Showalter: Carol Shields

11 July 2002
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 213 pp., £16.99, May 2002, 0 00 713770 2
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... female critic who has called women writers ‘the miniaturists of fiction’, trying to find ‘universal verities in small individual lives’ rather than ‘taking a broad canvas of society’ like DonDeLillo or Philip Roth. Well, Winters retorts: way back in high school we learned that the major themes of literature were birth, love, understanding, work, loneliness, connection and death. We ...

The Dollar Tree

Tobias Jones

11 December 1997
Hand To Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 436 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 571 17149 4
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... for Paul Auster, ‘of the Auster Detective Agency’. (The ‘Auster’ character always gets the smartest lines in the story, being allowed, for example, to expand on his pet theories about Don Quixote and the difficulties, significantly enough, of representation. ‘Remember: throughout the book Don Quixote is preoccupied by the question of posterity. Again and again he wonders how ...

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