Although once almost a cult figure in contemporary American fiction, by the 1980’s Don DeLillo had carved out that most desirable of literary niches for himself, as both a best-selling novelist and an award-winning darling of critics. This position was cemented in 1985 with the publication of White Noise, a best-seller and winner of the American Book Award.
DeLillo has built his reputation on a series of novels remarkable for their variety of subject matter within a consistency of theme. Ratner’s Star (1976) is a science-fiction novel, The Names (1982) is a novel of political intrigue, and Libra (1988) is a historical novel dramatizing and offering a theory of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Not all are as funny as White Noise often is, but in all of them DeLillo shows himself to be a witty writer who can vividly invoke a cast of colorful characters beset by paranoia and the catastrophes of modern life.
DeLillo’s style is distinctive and his themes are consistent, so that one can identify a DeLillo novel after reading only a few paragraphs, despite the variety of subject matter. DeLillo nevertheless does not work apart from and outside literary tradition. His like-minded contemporaries and literary antecedents are more obvious than obscure.
The contemporary writer with whom DeLillo is most obviously aligned is Thomas Pynchon, who, in novels such as Gravity’s...
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