Taking stock from a remote location

Delillo with box

Don DeLillo’s book of short stories The Angel Esmeralda shows his distinctive take on modernity. I’m not sure that one can fully agree with the publisher’s hyperbole that his voice is that of the twentieth century’s rhythms, but rhythm he indeed does have. There is a matter-of-factness in his descriptions, whether he is tackling the technical or the existential. He mixes the blandly consumerist with deeper and darker undercurrents. Then there is his patient unpicking of modern forms of art, particularly the electronic, in Baudrillardian fashion.

“…the accidents, road repairs, bridges and tunnels, the delays measured in geological time”

The above is a typical example of distinctive DeLilloian prose, in particular showing his fondness for compression and expansion, in balance. There is the feeling of information overload, causing not panic but a zoning out, balanced with the sense that DeLillo is taking stock from a more remote location.

There are nuns and students of philosophy, obsessive movie theatre and art gallery frequenters. The only downside is perhaps that one needs the stretch of the novel. Short stories, although they touch on the themes prevalent in his novels, are not long enough to get into stride with him.

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