Don DeLillo Additional Biography


Don DeLillo was born November 20, 1936, in the Bronx, a neighborhood in New York City, and is the son of Italian immigrants. While in high school, Delillo’s main interest was sports. DeLillo is not one of those people who were born knowing they would become writers one day.  He only became interested in literature after landing a summer job as a parking attendant and had nothing better to do with his time than read. Delillo claims he was a listless student, but he finally graduated in 1958 from Fordham University. Not sure what to do, but with a slight bent toward writing, DeLillo took on a job as an advertising copywriter, though he would have preferred to have found a job in publishing. He wrote a few short stories after college and slowly started thinking of himself as a writer only after he had spent a couple years trying to write a novel. In a 1997 article by Jonathan Bing for Publishers Weekly, DeLillo says that he “became a writer by avoiding serious commitment to anything else.”

Despite such lackluster beginnings, DeLillo has become one of the most important and acclaimed of American authors. DeLillo’s first novel, Americana, was published in 1971. As of 2007, he had written thirteen more. He has also written a few plays, a screenplay, and an assortment of short stories and essays.

Delillo's oeuvre has won him a tremendous following. Reviewers and scholars love to dig into DeLillo’s works because there are so many complexities to explore. Additionally, there is a Don DeLillo Society, whose aim is to help Don DeLillo scholars. There is even a discussion on how to pronounce the author’s name.

DeLillo married Barbara Bennet in 1975. Together they have traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East. Besides the personal affect of being a lifelong New Yorker, DeLillo says that the travels with his wife have significantly affected his writing. He also credits the influence of jazz, foreign movies, and abstract expressionism as sources of inspiration. Some of the topics of pop culture that DeLillo has explored include football in his novel End Zone (1972), Lee Harvey Oswald (accused assassin of John F. Kennedy) in Libra (1988), baseball and rampant consumerism in Underworld (1997), and the life of a typically rich American man in Cosmopolis (2003). DeLillo’s White Noise, a story about the numbing affect of watching too much television, won the 1985 National Book Award.