Written by Don DeLillo

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.”

Is It Real, Or Is It DeLillo?

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.”

The DeLillo/Dylan Nexus Made Explicit…

… in the New York Times.

The hero of Don DeLillo’s 1973 novel, “Great Jones Street,” Bucky Wunderlick, is a wildly famous musician so transparently inspired by Bob Dylan that it is a wonder the author was able to make the figure into his own character. Bucky — part prophet, part fraud — is hounded into seclusion by fans, hustlers, gangsters and the world at large. I had a hunch Mr. DeLillo would win the Nobel Prize for Literature this year; he can’t be surprised Bob Dylan did.

UD thanks dmf for the link.

“Other popular items included [the author’s] annotated [edition] of Don DeLillo’s post-World War II epic ‘Underworld’…

… which had a winning bid of $57,000.”

In his fine early novel, Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo gives a vicious little domestic terror group the name Happy Valley Farm Commune….

… one of a number such acid jokes in his chronicle of a rock star’s withdrawal from the madness of postmodern culture.

UD was reminded of the Happy Valley Farm Commune when she saw the name of the University of Nebraska fraternity whose members gifted a freshman with the alcohol that killed him (blood alcohol content .365).

The name of the place? FarmHouse Fraternity. Sweet.

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Interesting to see UNL keeping up the traditions of their big hero, Richie Incognito.

Inside the minds of two conspirators, in Don DeLillo’s JFK Novel, Libra.

He walked through empty downtown Dallas, empty Sunday in the heat and light. He felt the loneliness he always hated to admit to, a vaster isolation than Russia, stranger dreams, a dead white glare burning down. He wanted to carry himself with a clear sense of role, make a move one time that was not disappointed. He walked in the shadows of insurance towers and bank buildings. He thought the only end to isolation was to reach the point where he was no longer separated from the true struggles that went on around him.

********************************

Something about the time of year depressed him deeply. Overcast skies and cutting wind, leaves falling, dusk falling, dark too soon, night flying down before you’re ready. It’s a terror. It’s a bareness of the soul. He hears the rustle of nuns. Here comes winter in the bone. We’ve set it loose on the land. There must be some song or poem, some folk magic we can use to ease this fear.

Atop a desert skyscraper, Jacob Rubin writes sentences that could have been written by Don DeLillo.

And yet this strange panorama makes a trip to the Burj inadvertently sublime. Every monument, at its inception, gives rise to its future ruin, and yet few face the prospect as directly as the Burj. From its state-of-the-art observation deck, one beholds the ageless, ungoverned desert. Futility is never more futilely refuted than with a monument. The Burj seems to have been erected to elucidate this fact.

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From The Names:

“I can’t get the Empty Quarter out of my mind. We flew right over the dunes, man, nothing but sand, a quarter of a million square miles. A planet of sand. Sand mountains, sand plains and valleys. Sand weather, a hundred and thirty, a hundred and forty degrees, and I can’t imagine what it’s like when the wind’s blowing. I tried to convince myself it was beautiful. The desert, you know. The vast sweep. But it scared me. This Aramco guy told me he can stand on the airstrip they have out there and he can hear the blood flowing in his body. Is it the silence or the heat that makes this possible? Or both? Hear the blood.”

Don DeLillo – a writer UD has been praising and teaching and getting excited about for years –

has been named the first recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The new lifetime achievement award, announced Thursday by Librarian of Congress James Billington, will be presented at the 13th annual National Book Festival in September.

Essays about DeLillo by UD can be found here and here.

And here’s a short essay of hers about a story of his – “Midnight in Dostoevsky.”

Noticed just now, while lecturing on DeLillo’s Point Omega…

… that a whole bunch of people were standing on the roof of The Avenue, an apartment building I can see from my classroom’s windows.

Forgot about it until, returning to my office and chatting with a colleague, she asked if I’d been able to see the Shuttle fly by.

Wow – an essay about Don DeLillo by Martin Amis.

Should be a lot of fun to read. I’m doing that right now.

Live blogging my responses… Okay, we both love DeLillo. Our lists of books of his that we don’t love (we love most but not all of him) are pretty similar, but I disagree about The Names. It took me a number of rereadings to warm up to this oddball, philosophically ambitious, beautifully written novel, but it’s now gotten to the point where I feel ardor for it. I understand why Amis – why anyone – would have trouble with The Names – it can feel portentous, pretentious, as it digs down for spiritual meanings – but it’s actually a grounded and compassionate inquiry into the human soul.

The phrase “midnight in Dostoevsky,” we’re told, comes from a poem, and is probably intended to conjure some epiphany of willed despair.

Well, I tell you what the poem is, and offer some analysis of it and its connection to the story, here.

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[It] is his general receptivity to the rhythms and atmospheres of the future that we should value… [T]he gods have equipped DeLillo with the antennae of a visionary.

Yes.

The Warren Commission Report, Don DeLillo wrote in his novel …

Libra, is “the megaton novel James Joyce would have written if he’d moved to Iowa City and lived to be a hundred.”

But Joyce is more likely to have written the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM’s predecessor, four, has a thousand pages, and we may be sure that five will have many more than that. It’s a megaton psychotropic prescription machine. As Allen Frances, editor of earlier, more sane, DSMs, writes, “DSM-5 is suggesting many new and untested diagnoses and also markedly reduced thresholds for old ones.”

Frances offers an example:

‘Attenuated psychosis syndrome’ will have a ridiculously high false positive rate ( 80-90%), no effective treatment, would promote unnecessary exposure to harmful antipsychotics, and would cause needless worry and stigma. Since studies prove conclusively that the symptoms are so very rarely predictive of psychosis, why in the world would DSM-5 give someone the stigmatizing and absurdly misleading label ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’ and open the door to inappropriate antipsychotic use? Recognizing all these risks, a large portion of schizophrenia and prodromal researchers are sensibly opposed to the inclusion of ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’ in DSM-5. But unaccountably, the work group stubbornly clings to its proposal and, without the petition, there is a good chance it may sneak into DSM-5.

In great part, the DSM-5 is a work of the imagination. Like all ambitious novels, it exhibits enormous scope and imaginative energy. Told from the point of view of a detached omniscient narrator, it chronicles the plummeting of populations into pre-psychosis, and their ultimate rescue by “the number one revenue producer of all classes of drugs,” anti-psychotics. Its pages evoke a les misérables America, massively prodromal, holding out its butyrophenone-bowl on every street corner.

Don DeLillo’s White Noise on…

… the end of the world. (Scroll up to page 131; read through page 133.)

UD’s beloved DeLillo…

… wins the PEN Saul Bellow Award.

Excerpts from a PEN interview with him:

I still have my old paperback copy of Herzog (Fawcett Crest, $0.95), a novel I recall reading with great pleasure. It wasn’t the first Bellow novel I encountered—that was The Victim, whose opening sentence (“On some nights New York is as hot as Bangkok.”) seemed a novel in itself…

The theme that seems to have evolved in my work during the past decade concerns time—time and loss. This was not a plan; the novels have simply tended to edge in that direction. Some years ago I had the briefest of exchanges with a professor of philosophy. I raised the subject of time. He said simply, “Time is too difficult.” Yes, time is a mystery and perhaps best examined (or experienced by my characters) in a concise and somewhat enigmatic manner…

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So…. maybe we make a little mixed cocktail? A little Bellow, a little Mitchell Heisman, author of Suicide Note [details here].

In Herzog (UD‘s got the same old Fawcett Crest edition DeLillo’s got, and she’s been pawing through it), our seriously fucked up hero, Moses Herzog (his name taken, as you may already know, from a very minor character in James Joyce’s Ulysses) is visiting his seriously fucked up friend Luke, a University of Chicago scientist who can’t deal with people at all, but who so loved his recently deceased monkey that as the monkey was dying he gave it mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Since the monkey’s death Luke has been deeply, dangerously depressed.

“It really threw me into a spin. I thought that palling around with Rocco was a gag. I didn’t realize how much he meant to me. But the truth is, I realized that no other death in the world could have affected me so much. I had to ask myself whether the death of my brother would have shook me up half as much. I think not. We’re all some kind of nut or other, I realize. But…”

He finds a psychotherapist who tells him to imagine himself dead, in a coffin, with all the people who meant something to him in his life passing by his body. He’s supposed to think of what he wanted to tell them in life, what the real truth was between them, within him, etc.

But it doesn’t work. All he can think about are memories of farcical events involving fat aunts and cornfed showgirls from his urban youth…

Herzog says to him:

A man may say, ‘From now on I’m going to speak the truth.’ But the truth hears him and runs away and hides before he’s even speaking. There is something funny about the human condition, and civilized intelligence makes fun of its own ideas…

Human life is far subtler than any of its models. …

Do you have to think yourself into a coffin and perform these exercises with death? As soon as thought begins to deepen it reaches death, first thing. … I really believe that brotherhood is what makes a man human…. When the preachers of dread tell you that others only distract you from metaphysical freedom then you must turn away from them. The real and essential question is one of our employment by other human beings and their employment by us. Without this true employment, you never dread death, you cultivate it. And consciousness when it doesn’t truly understand what to live for, what to die for, can only abuse and ridicule itself.

Don DeLillo’s Latest Novel…

… (I haven’t read it yet) is getting bad reviews. Here’s the most thoughtful I’ve seen so far, in New York Magazine. It agrees with the other critics that the book’s too short, too cold, too static.

Point Omega, like 24 Hour Psycho [an art installation featured in the novel, in which the Hitchcock film is slowed down to a running time of twenty-four hours], offers many uncategorizable points of entry — which is to say that nothing much happens, and it happens very, very slowly. The book is narrated by Jim Finley, an unsuccessful thirtysomething director of conceptual documentary films. (His first movie consists of 57 minutes of old Jerry Lewis footage spliced together to a soundtrack of random sounds.) Finley has chosen as the subject of his next film the 73-year-old Richard Elster, an intellectual who has just finished helping the U.S. government plan the war in Iraq—although he’s done so in the most abstract and DeLillo-y way possible, as a kind of guru responsible for giving long oracular speeches that sound something like this:

“Haiku means nothing beyond what it is. A pond in summer, a leaf in the wind. It’s human consciousness located in nature. It’s the answer to everything in a set number of lines, a prescribed syllable count. I wanted a haiku war. I wanted a war in three lines. This was not a matter of force levels or logistics. What I wanted was a set of ideas linked to transient things. This is the soul of haiku. Bare everything to plain sight. See what’s there.”

Elster has retired from the war effort to take a “spiritual retreat” in the middle of the California desert, where he fills his days with poetry, sunsets, and even more oracular speeches. Finley visits him there, hoping to persuade Elster to participate in the documentary. Speechifying ensues, much of it about Elster’s obsession with an idea he calls “omega point”: humanity’s secret collective desire to wipe out the burden of human consciousness forever with some kind of cataclysmic event.

The closest the book comes to real action is when Elster’s daughter shows up—although “shows up” is a strong phrase to use for a character who hardly seems to exist at all. “She was sylphlike,” Finley tells us, “her element was air.” Or, as her father puts it: “She was imaginary to herself.” When she disappears, mysteriously—the only major event of the novel—it seems like a formality.

None of the reviewers has mentioned Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit philosopher who originated the term and concept omega point. I’m wondering if the novel gets explicit about Teilhard. I’m also wondering, given descriptions of the novel, whether anyone has made a connection between Point Omega and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which also features a young man battling to encounter an older man (DeLillo puts the older man in a desert; Conrad puts him in a jungle) who speaks to him about horrors.

Don DeLillo and others gather to protest…

… the imprisonment of a Chinese dissident writer.

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