The story succeeds because in it DeLillo squarely addresses the human condition: what it is like to suffer, and to confront suffering, and what it is to hope. He does so without condescension or romanticization, but in the process, he finds art.
*See The Lemon Table, by Julian Barnes, or Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Michiko Kakutani's Top Ten for 2011
First Lines of "The Runner"
DeLillo's Short Stories