Simon Recommends (4)

This week our charming publicist, Max, recommends Don DeLillo in an honest and fun review of his first collection of short stories, The Angel Esmeralda, which has been gathered over a thirty year span.  Have a listen and then read his review!

I read one Don DeLillo novel at the right time – White Noise, in large part about the absurdity of academia – soon after I finished undergrad and I read another – Point Omega – just last year, way before I should have. I’m young, but Point Omega is about being old. One of its main subjects is an art installation called 24 Hour Psycho, which is Hitchcock’s Psycho played in slow-motion so that it takes 24-hours to watch from beginning to end. At normal speed, it has a 109-minute running time. DeLillo, these days, seems concerned with the slowing of time that comes with old-age, comes with a proximity to end-of-life. (Reminds me a bit of the David Foster Wallace short-story, “Good Old Neon”, where there’s the idea that the absolute-last-moment-before-death is stretched to a sort-of infinity). In Point Omega, the action all takes place in an art gallery and in a desert. Quiet. Lifeless?

DeLillo’s concern, here, with old-age manifests not just thematically, but stylistically, too. His prose in Point Omega plays with time. It’s stripped-down to almost-nothing, seems like it takes forever to get through. It’s boring: “I was cooking the omelettes now. He seemed to wonder what he was supposed to do with the fork in his hand. I made coffee in the morning, set out bread, cereal, milk, butter and jam. Then I went to his bedroom and talked him out of bed.”

DeLillo is 74 and one of the only American old-white-guys who’s still doing good work (Philip Roth is 78). Good thing DeLillo’s The Angel Esmeralda is coming out so we can remember that DeLillo used to be young and he used to write about young things. It’s a collection of his short stories organized in order of publication-year. The first story, “Creation”, deals with a vacationing young couple struggling (and panicking) to secure travel from the West Indies back to America. The second story, “Human Moments in World War III”, sees two young astronauts in a satellite orbiting earth. “Don’t you sometimes feel a power in you? An extreme state of good health, sort of. An arrogant healthiness… But the point I want to make is that this powerful feeling is so – I don’t know – delicate.” The third story is “The Runner” about a guy who witnesses a senseless kidnapping in the park just down the road from his apartment. These early stories are about first contacts, with powerlessness, with the dichotomy of strength and death, with violence. There’s shock and awe in these stories. It’s fun to see the progression in an important writer’s work and how it sort-of runs parallel to his aging.  He wrote young really well. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to appreciate how well he wrote old, too.

The Angel Esmeralda hits stores November 15th!