DeLillo, Don

DeLillo, Don dəlĭlˈō [key], 1936–, American novelist, b. New York City, grad. Fordham (1958). DeLillo is an accomplished prose stylist with a dark vision and mordant wit. In a steady stream of novels beginning with Americana (1971), he has explored the anomie and violence of contemporary America—rock music and drugs in Great Jones Street (1973), science and mathematics in Ratner's Star (1976), terrorism in Players (1977), spying in Running Dog (1978), and political corruption in The Names (1982). His White Noise (1985), the story of a Hitler studies professor and a meditation on the fear of death, was followed by Libra (1988), a fictional portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald, and Mao II (1991), about CIA activities in Greece. DeLillo's longest, most complicated, and most highly praised novel is Underworld (1997). In its sweep of time from 1951 to 1992, its panorama of American characters and landscapes, and its uniquely descriptive language, it portrays the variety of American life during the period.

Two relatively minor works followed—The Body Artist (2001), a dark and brief quasi–ghost story, and Cosmopolis (2003), a satire focused on a Manhattan billionaire. His next novel, Falling Man (2007), details the effects of 9/11 on a middle-class Manhattanite and his estranged wife and son. The spare, dread-haunted novella Point Omega (2010) focuses on a scholar who helped plan the Iraq war, now self-exiled in the desert, and his daughter and a filmmaker who follow him there. In Zero K (2016), his main characters struggle with life-and-death issues in a world marked by terrible disasters and everyday beauty. The Silence (2020) is a work of disaster fiction in which, when electronic devices cease to work and the apocalypse seems to have arrived, the question of what make us human arises. The Angel Esmeralda (2011), his only short-fiction collection, contains nine stories written over five decades. DeLillo also is a playwright.

See Conversations with Don DeLillo (2005), ed. by T. DePietro; studies by T. LeClair (1987), F. Lentricchia (1991), D. Keesey (1993), H. Ruppersburg and T. Engles, ed. (2000), M. Osteen (2000), D. Cowart (2002), H. Bloom, ed. (2003), J. Kavadlo (2004), P. Boxall (2005), J. Dewey (2006), and E. A. Martucci (2007).

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