"Violence gives weight to the meaningless."
May 3, 2013 10:51 AM   Subscribe

It just so happens that last week i read the Paris Review interview with DeLillo that's referenced pretty heavily in this article. I have no idea why they didn't link to it, but here it is. (It's a pretty great interview.) Best part:
'...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.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:01 AM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Perfect timing, I just finished Falling Man. Bought it yesterday, which will tell you how much I liked it. If you like De Lillo at all it's not to be missed.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:59 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I finished JG Ballard's Millennium People a few days before the Boston bombing, and the latter strongly reminded me of the former.
posted by Mister_A at 12:07 PM on May 3, 2013

Perfect timing, I just finished Falling Man. Bought it yesterday, which will tell you how much I liked it. If you like De Lillo at all it's not to be missed.

I haven't picked that one up actually. My favorite is still Mao II but it's kinda hard to compare DeLillo novels to one another since they're all pretty vastly different. Upon your recommendation, I shall seek it out.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:07 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should clarify - the pull quote that forms the title of this post is the central thesis of the novel:
"Violence gives weight to the meaningless."
posted by Mister_A at 12:10 PM on May 3, 2013

inexplicable violence committed by a nobody in the context of ubiquitous media coverage

That right there characterizes how it's felt after the bombing perfectly. The Tsarnaev brothers have come across as such thwarted people even before they executed their plot. And yet here we have them causing the authorities to adopt extraordinary measures at a time when government pushing at the limits of its police powers has already become routine. It's a terrible dynamic, and we seemed to doomed to repeat it.
posted by Cash4Lead at 12:31 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting. I have strong memories of my first encounter with DeLillo, reading White Noise in an undergrad Lit class about a year after 9/11. At the time, I was so impressed because I thought our paranoia, and distrust, and fear were new phenomenon, ushered in by terrorism, but everything he wrote about in White Noise was so parallel to my own experience, and taking place 20 years earlier. I was studying a lot of soviet and cold war history and I remember sometimes going to a really dark place, thinking "We never really learn anything." Realizing that my parents, and my grandparents had lived through this similar experience, but we seemed not to have grown a lot. I wondered and sometimes still wonder if our memories are really that short, or if most people just truly believe that we are destined to live in fear.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 1:43 PM on May 3, 2013

great article providing context and the lovely phrase: "telegenic catastrophe"
posted by grubby at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2013

A link to "In The Ruins of the Future," [PDF] DeLillo's essay on the post-9/11 world from December 2001.
posted by chavenet at 1:23 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

New York Times, June 9, 1991
Look for a Writer and Find a Terrorist
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.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:18 PM on May 22, 2013

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