“It was America that drew their fury. It was the high gloss of our modernity. It was the thrust of our technology. It was our perceived godlessness. It was the blunt force of our foreign policy. It was the power of American culture to penetrate every wall, home, life and mind…
[T]here is no logic in apocalypse. They have gone beyond the bounds of passionate payback. This is heaven and hell, a sense of armed martyrdom as the surpassing drama of human experience.
He pledges his submission to God and meditates on the blood to come…
There are the doctors’ appointments that saved lives, the cellphones that were used to report the hijackings. Stories generating others and people running north out of the rumbling smoke and ash. Men running in suits and ties, women who’d lost their shoes, cops running from the skydive of all that towering steel…
When the second tower fell, my heart fell with it…
[W]hatever great skeins of technology lie ahead, ever more complex, connective, precise, micro-fractional, the future has yielded, for now, to medieval expedience, to the old slow furies of cut-throat religion…
It is possible to pass through some checkpoints, detour around others. At Chambers Street I look south through the links of the National Rent-A-Fence barrier. There stands the smoky remnant of filigree that marks the last tall thing, the last sign in the mire of wreckage that there were towers here that dominated the skyline for over a quarter of a century…
When we say a thing is unreal, we mean it is too real, a phenomenon so unaccountable and yet so bound to the power of objective fact that we can’t tilt it to the slant of our perceptions. First the planes struck the towers. After a time it became possible for us to absorb this, barely. But when the towers fell. When the rolling smoke began moving downward, floor to floor. This was so vast and terrible that it was outside imagining even as it happened. We could not catch up with it. But it was real, punishingly so, an expression of the physics of structural limits and a void in one’s soul, and there was the huge antenna falling out of the sky, straight down, blunt end first, like an arrow moving backwards in time…
The writer begins in the towers, trying to imagine the moment, desperately. Before politics, before history and religion, there is the primal terror. People falling from the towers hand in hand. This is part of the counternarrative, hands and spirits joining, human beauty in the crush of meshed steel.”
In the Ruins of the Future
Thomas Pynchon was very big on boredom, very big on the idea that postmodern Americans are just really bored, and that a lot of their behavior can be understood as a reaction to boredom.
UD’s favorite pomo novelist, Don DeLillo, features, in several of his novels – but especially White Noise – postmodern American deaths, which typically occur when someone is having expensive, boredom-suspending, fun: surfing in Hawaii, skiing in Austria. Many such deaths, in DeLillo, add high tech to the fun: In Players, well-heeled golfers are suddenly mowed down by a group of terrorists who use sophisticated weaponry against them. Visual technology also may make an appearance in these scenarios — they may be filmed, and go viral to tens of millions of bored voyeurs. Pomo death headlines are like Malfunction at Dreamworld. Explosion at the Gender Reveal Party. Superbowl Blimp Goes Down.
Think back to the congressional baseball game interrupted by a madman with a rifle who almost killed the majority whip. That had all the DeLilloesque elements: a sudden assault with lots of techno-weaponry (SKS rifle, 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun) while affluent, high-profile Americans are out having fun …and of course someone with a camera to film it all for Youtube.
In the news today appears another variant on the postmodern American way of death. This one has many pertinent elements: Boredom, affluence, cutting edge technology, videotape. I have in mind the wealthy Texas doctor who, at 11:30 on a Saturday night, decided to drive his $80,000 Tesla onto a private road in his gated community, take a seat in the back, rev it up to a million mph or whatever, and see how its driverless feature functioned.
At least that’s the speculation – he was found burned to death (along with a friend in the front seat), and no one was in the driver’s seat. Witnesses report they’d barely gotten out of his driveway, going at high speed, when the car drove straight into a tree and burst into flames. Rescue squads were unable to get anywhere near the car because (another high-tech pomo ingredient) the Tesla’s state of the art battery kept reigniting.
The Capitol-Trasher cult; the ultraorthodox cult; the integralist Catholic cult. Their leaders: Marjorie Taylor Greene; primitive authoritarian rabbis; Pater Edmund Waldstein. These groups are violent; they don’t recognize laws and institutions; they are irrational; they are primitive.
Everyone is so surprised that it turns out a significant minority of the Cap-Trash cult didn’t even vote in a presidential election whose result caused them to try to overthrow the government of the United States. They didn’t vote for Trump.
Why are you surprised? Cultists don’t vote. Or if they vote, it’s in robotic blocks, obeying commands from the cult leader.
Get with the program and perceive their world long enough to defend yourself.
They are trying to kill you and kill your world, and you totally need to defend yourself against them.
They’re not cute. Okay? Waldstein thinks burning non-cultists at the stake is a good idea. Greene wants to put a bullet through the head of Nancy Pelosi. Israeli haredim teach fifteen year old boys to burn down city buses and attack police. Why do you cling to the idea that because these people present themselves as god-fearing they deserve your respect?
Read Don DeLillo’s Mao II, his novel about cults, if you’d like to pause and understand the deep reasons people join cults. Or don’t bother learning the deep reasons. The imperative is to fight them with all you’ve got. With all we’ve got.
UD‘s beloved Don DeLillo will soon issue a new novel, The Silence, about New York City under a digital shutdown. Can’t wait.
This blog periodically notes echt-DeLillo deaths in this country, deaths that often involve that icon of affluent leisure, the golf ball. Read the opening pages of Players, or note the many pages of White Noise and other novels of his that mark the untimely death of someone while at play, or the mix of fatal violence and golf.
This is a very Don DeLillo photograph.
If you doubt the cultural centrality of golf balls in America, read this front-page article in the New York Times, which ominously reports that errant golf balls breaking windows in retirement communities is “an increasingly prominent problem.”
So a recent alleged murder at an expensive neighborhood in Atlanta seems to feature an attorney so incensed that someone threw a golf ball at his $60,000 Mercedes CLS 550 (no damage to the car was found, so it’s not clear anything was in fact thrown) that he took his massive car and ran down and killed a guy (a real estate investor) he thought threw it.
Scripted by DeLillo.
UPDATE: A reader reminds me that DeLillo was far from the first. Many of us will recall this amazing little poem by Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn:
The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.
[His just-purchased $240 million apartment is] not a short-term investment, but a home where [Kenneth] Griffin will spend considerable time, said Zia Ahmed, his spokesman. He added that Mr. Griffin has given … a $150 million gift to Harvard.
A director of one of Don DeLillo’s plays describes his reaction to DeLillo’s writing. It’s my reaction too.
He interviews DeLillo:
Retirement … wouldn’t suit him the same way [it did Philip Roth]. “Everybody is different and there are always distractions. But I feel I have an idea in my mind I need to work on. And when I’m able to sit down and put my fingers on the typewriter, things are moving along pretty well. These days I’m much slower. I can’t work at the same pace. But what the hell, I’ll keep going. It’s what’s keeping me alive.”
A small airplane crashed Monday night on the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course and police confirmed there were multiple fatalities…
[Versace] King got about 100 yards and began recording video of the fiery crash. He said emergency crews were on the scene several minutes later. He added the weather was “perfect” at the time.
…The Champions course is one of two golf courses at the TPC Scottsdale. It is just east of the TPC Stadium Course, where the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open is held.
UD‘s beloved DeLillo stars in the New Yorker’s account of the YouTube killings.
There will be a temptation to read the attack as a dark parable of the attention economy — the story of someone so hungry for views that she took a handgun to those who, in her belief, had limited them. But the truer story is that going berserk with guns has become a way of American life.
Correct. Guns are now the way America’s berserk turn down the bed and turn out the lights.
[E]very country contains mentally ill and potentially violent people. Only America arms them.
A candidate running for Illinois attorney general was robbed at gunpoint while he was taking promotional photos for his campaign Thursday afternoon in the Northwest Side ward where he’s also the Democratic committeeman…
Aaron Goldstein, 42, and several members of his campaign team were in the middle of taking publicity shots when the robbery happened…
“So, as far as the campaign, we are moving forward,” [Goldstein’s campaign manager] said. “Basically, this was a totally a random act of violence in the community. But when it happens to you, of course, you’re shooken up.”
SMALLER FOOTPRINTS GAIN
POPULARITY IN THE HAMPTONS
… Hamptons architect and historian Anne Surchin is starting to see more pared-down builds.
“There’s a trend now for design for smaller houses,” the principal of Anne Surchin Architect said during a discussion Saturday in Montauk. “People are starting to think twice about being wasteful …”
… Southampton has long-standing size limitations for houses, she said, with 20,000 square feet being the cap. These restrictions were part of a 1925 code that was updated in 2003, according to the East Hampton Star. Towns looked seriously at these codes after Ira Rennert’s controversial 62,000-square-foot mansion was built in the 1990s in Sagaponack, rankling neighbors with its size.
… “The new modernism is really all about formalism,” she said. “It’s about making an aesthetic statement.”
That includes “sumptuous details,” like “exotic woods, polished concretes, all kinds of honed marbles,” she said. “There isn’t a place in those houses where you’d find a piece of Formica.”
Even those who don’t have the budget for luxe materials in every room are creating areas “that are absolutely lavish,” she said. For example, “what they do with their kitchens is really important.”
… Some design is being driven by “people interested in being off the grid and treading lightly on the land and not spending an arm and a leg to heat an 18,000-square-foot house.”
… Don DeLillo. Just discovered it. Haven’t yet read it. But UD loves Don DeLillo and considers the appearance of any new writing of his to be worth mentioning.
It’s called “The Itch.”