(US, 1936– )
DeLillo grew up in the Bronx, the son of working-class Italian immigrants. After a spell on Madison Avenue as an advertising executive, he took to writing fiction. His debut novel, Americana, was published in 1971. Although highly acclaimed in literary circles, it was not until the mid-1980s that DeLillo's work reached a wider audience, when White Noise (1984) won the National Book Award. This darkly comic novel is narrated by academic Jack Gladney, inventor of ‘Hitler Studies’ and one of the discipline's prominent scholars. Gladney's matter-of-fact voice proves the ideal tool for DeLillo's relentless satire, which mines the bizarre, un-real quality of everyday life in a society overrun by rampant consumerism and the mass media. Mao II (1991) takes a broader view, surveying the turbulent international situation immediately after the cold war. The novel questions the role which the writer can play in a world of terrorism and mass hysteria.
Perhaps DeLillo's finest novels, Libra (1988) and Underworld (1997), reach back into America's own past. Libra tackles the Kennedy assassination, weaving fact and fiction into a taut thriller which challenges our ideas about both what we know and how we know it. Underworld is even more ambitious: it opens with a remarkable account of a 1951 baseball game, spins numerous story-lines from it, and develops into a profound but readable meditation on America during the cold war.
E. L. Doctorow, Robert Coover, Thomas Pynchon. See UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BH