Prizes have always struck me as strange. In the words of Twin Peaks' Major Briggs, "Accomplishment is its own reward, pride obscures it." Still, this is correct:
Given the space and time I could fill an entire issue of this publication with extended praise songs of DeLillo and his novels. I have read his work since the early ’70s with the utmost attention and admiration, and—you should know—I edited one of his supreme masterpieces, Libra, an exalting experience, an editor’s dream. For now, though, let’s focus on the major justifications for a DeLillo Nobel. The case rests, I believe, on four propositions.
The first is that no American novelist has examined more broadly and with greater insight and originality our postwar history and experience. DeLillo has always denied that he ever intended his novels to constitute some sort of Dos Passos–esque and encyclopedic American epic; he is the least programmatic and most intuitive and sentence-driven major writer of our time. Nevertheless the end result has been encyclopedic and epic. Those intuitions and sentences have led him deeper into key and previously uncharted regions of our psyche than any other contemporary novelist has gone, and into subject matter that, taken together, has yielded a panorama of American experience. A partial list of his subjects and preoccupations includes cinema and the power of the image over that of the word; the Cold War and nuclear anxiety; our obsession with sports; technology and its often sinister ubiquity (see: “The Airborne Toxic Event”); the shattering effect of the Kennedy assassination and its never-answered questions; the eerily similar effects of the 9/11 attacks; the derangements of celebrity and fame; the comic and disturbing undercurrents of “ordinary” middle-class life; the fevers of finance capital; the delusional plutocratic quest for a technological fix for the problem of mortality; and, proleptically and persistently, the inextricable centrality of terrorism to the way Americans regard themselves and the wider world. As he famously put it in Mao II, it is now gunmen and bombmakers, not novelists, who shape our narratives and “make raids on human consciousness.” This is as striking and inarguable an insight as any novelist of our time has offered us.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor