Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don DeLillo's The Angel Esmeralda

I just bought The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, by Don DeLillo.

The New Yorker, which generally gives books only brief, one-paragraph reviews, has given Martin Amis several pages to ramble on about Don DeLillo in general, and this collection of short stories in particular.    I'm not a fan of the first person plural in reviews.  For example:

DeLillo is the laureate of terror, of modern or postmodern terror, and the way it hovers and shimmers in our subliminal minds. As Eric Hobsbawm has said, terrorism is a new kind of urban pollution, and the pollutant is an insidious and chronic disquiet. Such is the air DeLillo breathes. And so strong is this identification that we feel slightly dislocated when, in “The Ivory Acrobat” (1988), he confronts a form of terror that is “natural” and therefore ancient and innocent: the earthquake.
Just how is it you know that I also feel slightly dislocated, Martin?  (I presume that I may call you Martin, since we are on such intimate terms that you presume to speak for how I feel.)

In the end, Martin concludes with a simple declaration that he loves the book.  You don't often get that kind of unabashed affection in the New Yorker.  Or in the New York Times.

But, Michiko Kakutani, writing in the Arts section, notes of the title story that, "this tale not only uses all of Mr. DeLillo’s electric gifts of language but also is one of his rare, deeply emotional forays into the human heart."  And Liesl Schillinger, in a longer review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, concludes that "DeLillo packs fertile ruminations and potent consolation into each of these rich, dense, concentrated stories."

Note that none of these authors are unabashed DeLillo fans; Amis and Kakutani each carefully explains that he / she doesn't like all of DeLillo's work.  So, this would seem to be a return to form.

Despite some initial skepticism on my part, I look forward to telling you what I think.

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