Images of Don DeLillo, Alice Munro, Cormac McCarthy, Joan Didion, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, Zadie Smith, Stephen King, Philip Roth, Alice Walker and more — Literary Hub

Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Spent this afternoon walking around Cardiff Bay barrage with Jennifer and our good friend, Laura. There’s little that beats good conversation at walking pace. I’ve spent much of this week working on an academic manuscript, so it’s refreshing to get outdoors for awhile and see the sunshine.

I have started reading Cheryl Strayed‘s Wild, a memoir of the author’s life changing decision to hike America’s Pacific Crest Trial. It’s written in an accessible and compelling style which has literally made me laugh and cry within the first fifty pages. An excellent start, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it this afternoon.

The New Yorker has published a new short story by Don DeLillo, entitled “The Itch” • Geoffrey Rush plays Alberto Giacometti in British film made with close involvement of artist’s estate • Herman Melville‘s Mystery: Was Billy Budd black? • Lauren Elkin on Jeanne Moreau

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Clarice Lispector in 1961.

Went cycling to Cardiff Bay barrage with Jennifer this morning. We sat for some time in the sunshine, before deciding to return to the cool shade of the apartment. I’m still reading Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina, which is just superb. I have also come across a number of interesting articles, reviews, and commentaries from around the web:

12 visual artists interpret Radiohead‘s seminal 1997 album, OK Computer • (Re)reading Don DeLillo‘s White NoiseFalling Man, and Cosmopolis in dark times • Sam Jordison on the publication of A Confederacy of Dunces David Hering on Alan Clarke‘s ‘hypnotic junkie odyssey’, Christine • On the diaries of T.S. Eliot‘s first wife • And 17 brilliant short novels you can read in one sitting, including works by Marguerite DurasThomas BernhardRoberto BolañoCormac McCarthyClarice Lispector, and more.

Rachele Dini discusses how the work of J.G. Ballard, Don DeLillo, and Samuel Beckett engages with one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time
Rachele Dini, Consumerism, Waste, and Re-Use in Twentieth-Century Fiction (Palgrave, 2016)
Rachele Dini, Consumerism, Waste, and Re-Use in Twentieth-Century Fiction (Palgrave, 2016)

What motivated you to write Consumerism, Waste, and Re-Use in Twentieth-Century Fiction?

Well, I’ve been attracted to remnants of different kinds since I was very little, and was obsessed with cutting up magazines as a teenager—but intellectually, the turning point for me was during my MA at King’s College London. I noticed almost immediately that the texts on the modules I was taking were unusually concerned with fragments and fragmentation. Dickens, Zola, Eliot, Elizabeth Bowen, Fernando Pessoa, Virginia Woolf, Ballard, Calvino, and of course Walter Benjamin and Adorno: physical and metaphorical waste proliferates in all of these authors’ work. In hindsight, this was to be expected since the course focused on the seismic effects of capitalist modernity, and waste is certainly one of these. But that focus on residual matter reproaching you for throwing it away, or on things not working and stuff falling apart, especially compelled me at the time, since it was the opposite in every way from the focus of my day job in market research. Market research is an industry essentially devoted to promoting the very things that leftist theory denounces: its modus operandi is to find ways of selling more. So the first spark for the PhD project that ultimately turned into this book was the conflict between the rhetoric of ‘harder, better, faster, stronger’ (to quote Daft Punk) I was accustomed to in my working life, and all of the countercultural—or simply denunciatory—writing I discovered through my studies, which called that rhetoric into question. (more…)

David Hering discusses how his new book led him to explore the Wallace archive

How did you discover David Foster Wallace’s work?

David Hering, David Foster Wallace: Fiction and Form (Bloomsbury, 2016)
David Hering, David Foster Wallace: Fiction and Form (Bloomsbury, 2016)

I actually read his journalism first, before knowing who he was – I read his piece in Premiere on David Lynch back in 1997 when I was in my teens, and remember thinking that it was very good and idiosyncratic, but not remembering his name. He was not really a widely-known writer in the UK at that point. It was only when I found myself re-reading it in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again years later that I joined the dots. I first came to his fiction in the mid-2000s, shortly before I started my PhD. The first thing I read was Infinite Jest – I went through a phase of devouring these huge postmodern encyclopaedic novels, and that was one of them. By that point the name had been floating round in my peripheral vision for a good while, and I wanted to know what the fuss was about.

I was immediately – immediately – struck by it. Sometimes it takes a while for a big book to bed in before you really love it – I think Bolano’s 2666 is a case in point – but I distinctly remember that by the time I got to the first line of the second chapter of Infinite Jest (‘Where was the woman who said she’d come’) I thought “I’m in this until the end”. Which is very unusual, for me at least. I think I read the last 200 pages in a day. (more…)

Christian Lorentzen (Vulture) asks if critics have judged DeLillo too harshly in light of his success

KERTESZ_1972_World_Trade_Center_800px-don-delilloHave we held Don DeLillo’s Underworld against him? Masterpieces of an epic scale are a tricky business, not least for the distorting effect they can have on the rest of a writer’s works. Tolstoy wrote two, but most mortals — Melville, George Eliot, Joyce — only get one. And while War and Peace and Anna Karenina cycle through screen adaptations, how many readers reach for a major minor work — a work of beauty but of limited scope — like The Kreutzer Sonata? The same question already applies to Zero K, DeLillo’s new novel. “In recent years,” James Wolcott wrote in his memoir Lucking Out, “DeLillo must ask himself the cosmic question, ‘Why go on?,’ his later novels greeted with a fish-face without a trace of affection for everything he’s done before, beating him up with his own achievements (Libra, Underworld) instead.”

“Have we held Don DeLillo’s Underworld against him? Masterpieces of an epic scale are a tricky business, not least for the distorting effect they can have on the rest of a writer’s works”

Underworld was a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer and the National Book Award (which DeLillo had collected for White Noise in 1985; his acceptance speech then: “I’m sorry I couldn’t be here tonight, but I thank you all for coming”). Underworld lost both — the NBA to Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain; the Pulitzer to Philip Roth’s American Pastoral — but since his 1999 Jerusalem Prize he’s picked up most of the lifetime achievement awards not bestowed in Stockholm or London, and in 2006 Underworld placed second to Toni Morrison’s Beloved in a New York Times Book Review poll on the best American fiction of the past quarter century. If the poll were held today, Beloved, published in 1987, would have aged out of the running, and Underworld’s stiffest competition would be from novels written under DeLillo’s spell: David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. My vote is for the master. (more…)

The American writer tells Guardian Live audience how his vast novel developed

don-delillo-underworld“It was a fairly modest undertaking at first,” Don DeLillo told the Guardian live event, explaining how his 827-page novel came to be. “It was a novella – I assumed perhaps 50, 60 pages … I had an idea based on a newspaper headline that I saw when I realised it was 3 October 1991, the 40th anniversary of this famous game.” Visiting a local library to check the microfilm archive, he found that the front page of the New York Times was split perfectly in two, one half reporting the Giants’ win and the other the Soviet Union’s explosion of its first nuclear bomb. “So there it was, and once I saw it there was no escape.” (more…)

Nathaniel Rich (New York Review of Books) reviews the American writer’s latest novel

In Zero K Don DeLillo has found the perfect physical repository for his oracular visions, his end-time reveries, his balladry of dread. The place is called the Convergence. It is a sealed, self-sufficient, subterranean cryogenic facility, funded by wealthy patrons and secret government agencies. Within are chambers in which the bodies of hundreds of wealthy patrons are frozen in gleaming pods. The essential organs are stored within smaller pods. The bodies and organs are to rest in a state of suspended animation until our inevitable, impending apocalypse has run its course. One character calls this “faith-based technology.” It requires several forms of faith: that the pods will remain frozen indefinitely; that future civilizations will be able to reanimate the bodies and grant them immortality; that life in the distant future will be preferable to death. (more…)

Sam Jordison (The Guardian) on the American writer’s critique of late twentieth-century Western culture
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Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo is a writer in love with words. He’s often spoken about the almost physical pleasure he takes in putting black on white, in banging out syllables on his noisy old typewriter, of watching sentences take shape in front of him. He delights in the ebb and flow of language, in riding a lulling rhythm and also in disrupting that rhythm. The sudden shorter sentence. He also just seems to enjoy words for their own sake. Their quiddity; you get the impression that he revels in the fact that if he writes “shoe”, you’ll immediately think of the thing you wear on your foot. He loves to itemise, to catalogue, to amplify.

(more…)

D. T. Max on what the Harry Ransom Archives reveal about the American writer’s oeuvre
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Don DeLillo, White Noise
The DeLillo finding aid shows which folder contains which draft of which novel, but not whether the draft is different in important ways from a previous one. It records that DeLillo’s 1972 novel “End Zone” originally bore the title “The Self-Erasing Word,” but you have to open the proper folder and look at the title page to see that it also had been called “Modes of Disaster Technology.” (The phrase appears in the book.) Similarly, the finding aid tells you that DeLillo’s original title for “White Noise” (1985) was “Panasonic,” but you have to burrow into his correspondence from 1984 to discover how upset DeLillo was when the Japanese electronics manufacturer that owns Panasonic declined his request to use the name. “ ‘Panasonic’ as a title is crucial for a number of reasons,” DeLillo wrote to his then editor, Elisabeth Sifton. He went on, “The novel is filled with the sounds of people’s voices, with sirens, loudspeakers, bullhorns, kitchen appliances, with radio and TV transmissions, with references to beams, rays, sound waves, etc. . . . Jack, listening to people talk on the telephone and musing on his own death, thinks ‘all sounds, all souls.’ (Page 369.) Again the notion of pan-sonus connected to a fear of death. There is still another instance in which Greek roots are important. Jack associates the god Pan with his fear of death.” The archive also contains two pages of other titles that DeLillo concocted—from “All Souls” and “Ultrasonic” to “White Noise”—written in jumpy capital letters. [Read More]

Rafe Bartholomew (Grantland) talks to the American writer about the prologue of Underworld, and the influence of ‘the shot heard round the world’ to his landmark novel

In honor of the 60th anniversary of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” National Book Award-winning author Don DeLillo answered some of Grantland’s questions about writing, baseball, and the historic 1951 New York Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers Game 3 that ended with Thomson’s home run. The prologue to DeLillo’s novel Underworld is set at Game 3.

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Don DeLillo, Pafko at the Wall: The Shot Heard Round the World

Can you explain how Underworld came together? The prologue was first published as a novella, “Pafko at the Wall,” in Harper’s Magazine in 1992, but Underworld wasn’t released until 1997. When you wrote Pafko were you already planning to use that scene as the beginning of a long novel?

One day in October 1991, I learned from a newspaper story that this day marked the fortieth anniversary of a famous baseball game played in New York, in the old Polo Grounds, Giants vs. Dodgers. The event was located somewhere at the far reaches of memory, mine and many other people’s. But some lingering aura persisted and finally sent me to the library, where I discovered news that startled me: on that same October day, the U.S. government announced that the Soviet Union had recently exploded an atomic bomb. The two events seemed oddly matched, at least to me, two kinds of conflict, local and global rivalries. In time I went to work on what I believed would be a long story and at some point well into the enterprise I began to suspect that the narrative of the ballgame and the atomic test wanted to be extended — well into the last decades of the Twentieth Century. I was eager to make the leap. (more…)

Some interesting parallels between the prophetic American writer and the AMC period drama

Anticipating the release of his 2010 novel, Point Omega, The Sunday Times interviewed Don DeLillo about his life and work, exploring some the American author’s ‘writing tics’, and making note of his contemporary relevance.

Mad-Men-image-AMC-cast.jpg

The article mentions AMC’s period drama Mad Men (which aired from 2007 to 2015), and it’s easy to see why it shares key thematic links with DeLillo’s work. Set in a New York advertising firm in the early 1960s, the show explores the consumerist manufacture of American aspirations with a sharp and ironic detachment. It has skillfully addressed the Kennedy assassination in a media climate of Cold War anxiety, and includes a cast of characters struggling with personal neuroses and societal repression. (more…)

Kevin EG Perry (Vice) finds the famously private American writer at a Paris conference dedicated to his work.

Extract from an interview published this month in The New Yorker.

I’m wondering about the process of writing “Zero K.” Because, unlike some of your novels, it doesn’t revolve around specific historical events—in fact, if anything, it’s futuristic—it didn’t require a lot of archival research. Did that make the writing easier, or more challenging? How long have you been working on the book?

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Don DeLillo, Zero K.

There was a certain amount of scientific material that I had to look into, but I made it a point to keep this aspect of the work within strict limits. The rest was pure imagination—the characters, of course, but also the setting of much of the novel. And, along with the perennial challenge of new work, there was an element of pleasure (this may be too bubbly a word) in exploring fresh territories.

Counting some unavoidable interruptions, I worked on the book for nearly four years. I have trouble accepting this number, particularly since this is a novel of average length. Why so prolonged an effort? My only response is that this is what the novel wanted and needed. [Read the Full Interview]