Don DeLillo 1936–
(Also writes under the pseudonym Cleo Birdwell) American novelist.
DeLillo's novels examine American obsessions, manias, and the mythmaking process of various media in American culture. DeLillo experiments with form and structure and is known for deemphasizing plot. Through fast-paced, fragmented presentations and other stylistic techniques, he continually expands upon the implications of his themes. Because of his use of unconventional literary devices, critics place DeLillo in the developing postmodern experimental movement that includes the novelists John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and Kurt Vonnegut.
DeLillo first gained wide attention with End Zone (1972), which was written from the perspective of a young man whose two consuming passions are football and nuclear warfare. Although generally recognized as a satire on the American obsession with the organized violence of football, End Zone also develops the idea of nuclear war as the climactic result of systems of ordered violence. Ratner's Star (1976), DeLillo's next major success, depicts a condition in which verbal ideas cannot compete with the clarity and order of mathematics. Like Pynchon, DeLillo believes that closed systems of energy in physics are related to closed systems of thought in metaphysics and that both create the illusion of an ordered universe. In DeLillo's work, knowledge is not static and finite but, like the modern scientific view of the cosmos, always in flux.
In Players (1977) and Running Dog (1978) DeLillo focuses on urban America, depicting pawn-like characters lost in a surreal, nightmarish existence. Although critics praised DeLillo's ability to evoke atmosphere, many readers found the novels excessively tawdry. Amazons (1980), a farce about the first woman to play in the National Hockey League and written under the pen name Cleo Birdwell, was praised primarily for its humor.
With his recent novel The Names (1982), DeLillo continues his examination of Americana, language, and learning and is hailed for his accurate characterization of American cultural values.
(See also CLC, Vols. 8, 10, 13; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 6.)