'...all plots lead toward death? I guess that's possible. It happened in Libra, and it happens in White Noise, which doesn't necessarily mean that these are highly plotted novels. Libra has many digressions and meditations, and Oswald's life just meanders along for much of the book. It's the original plotter, Win Everett, who wonders if his conspiracy might grow tentacles that will turn an assassination scare into an actual murder, and of course that is what happens. The plot extends its own logic to the ultimate point. And White Noise develops a trite adultery plot that enmeshes the hero, justifying his fears about the death energies contained in plots. When I think of highly plotted novels I think of detective fiction or mystery fiction, the kind of work that always produces a few dead bodies. But these bodies are basically plot points, not worked-out characters. The book's plot either moves inexorably toward a dead body or flows directly from it, and the more artificial the situation the better. Readers can play off their fears by encountering the death experience in a superficial way. A mystery novel localizes the awesome force of the real death outside the book, winds it tightly in a plot, makes it less fearful by containing it in a kind of game format.'
Mr. DeLillo has written about terrorists before, in the 1977 novel "Players," but "Mao II" has something else haunting it: the ordeal of Salman Rushdie. Mr. DeLillo shares a publisher with Mr. Rushdie, and in "Mao II" the New York publishing house that Gray visits is one at which there are visitor searches and guards. The idea of a writer held hostage is so understandably traumatizing to Mr. DeLillo that he has used his narrative to work variations on this theme: the blindfolded poet in a basement in Beirut; the hermitic and professionally hamstrung novelist in a study in upstate New York. And, lest the pairing seem merely a melodramatic metaphor, Mr. DeLillo, with a kind of insistence, makes these lives intersect. This can really happen, he seems to be saying. Look for a writer, and you will find a terrorist. And a hostage. This is the new literary dialectic. It is also the evening news.
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