Don DeLillo (born November 20, 1936) is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.
As a teenager, DeLillo wasn't interested in writing until taking a summer job as a parking attendant, when spending hours waiting and watching over vehicles led to a reading habit. After graduating from Fordham, DeLillo took a job in advertising because he couldn't get one in publishing. He worked for five years as a copywriter at the agency of Ogilvy & Mather on Fifth Avenue at East 48th Street, writing image ads for Sears Roebuck among others, before quitting. Discussing the beginning of his writing career, DeLillo said, "I did some short stories at that time, but very infrequently. I quit my job just to quit. I didn't quit my job to write fiction. I just didn't want to work anymore.
DeLillo's first novel, Americana was published in 1971, to modest critical praise. In 1975, he married Barbara Bennett, a former banker turned landscape designer. Starting in the late 1970s, he spent several years living in Greece, where he wrote The Names. While lauded by critics, his novels did not reach wide readership until the publication of the National Book Award-winning White Noise in 1985. Mainstream success followed upon publication of his magnum opus Underworld in 1997. The book was widely heralded as a masterpiece with novelist and critic Martin Amis saying it marked "the ascension of a great writer". Underworld was the runner-up on the New York Times' survey of the best work of American fiction in the last 25 years, announced in May 2006. White Noise and Libra were also recognized by the anonymous jury of contemporary writers.
In 1999, DeLillo was awarded the Jerusalem Prize. His papers were acquired in 2004 by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent work, titled Falling Man, concerns a survivor of the 9/11 terror attacks and was published May 15, 2007.
My book (Mao II), in a way, is asking who is speaking to these people. Is it the writer who traditionally thought he could influence the imagination of his contemporaries or is it the totalitarian leader, the military man, the terrorist, those who are twisted by power and who seem capable of imposing their vision on the world, reducing the earth to a place of danger and anger. Things have changed a lot in recent years. One doesn't step onto an airplane in the same spirit as one did ten years ago: it's all different and this change has insinuated itself into our consciousness with the same force with which it insinuated itself into the visions of Beckett or Kafka.
Many younger English-language authors such as Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace cite DeLillo as an influence. Literary critic Harold Bloom named him as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy, though he questions the classification of DeLillo as a "postmodern novelist." Asked if he approves of this designation DeLillo has responded "I don't react. But I'd prefer not to be labeled. I'm a novelist, period. An American novelist.
Critics of DeLillo allege that his novels are overly stylized and intellectually shallow. Bruce Bawer famously condemned DeLillo's novels insisting they weren't actually novels at all but "tracts, designed to batter us, again and again, with a single idea: that life in America today is boring, benumbing, dehumanized...It's better, DeLillo seems to say in one novel after another, to be a marauding murderous maniac—and therefore a human—than to sit still for America as it is, with its air conditioners, assembly lines, television sets, supermarkets, synthetic fabrics, and credit cards." George Will proclaimed the study of Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra as "sandbox existentialism" and "an act of literary vandalism and bad citizenship." DeLillo responded "I don't take it seriously, but being called a 'bad citizen' is a compliment to a novelist, at least to my mind. That's exactly what we ought to do. We ought to be bad citizens. We ought to, in the sense that we're writing against what power represents, and often what government represents, and what the corporation dictates, and what consumer consciousness has come to mean. In that sense, if we're bad citizens, we're doing our job." DeLillo also figured prominently in B. R. Myers' critique of recent American literary fiction, A Reader's Manifesto.
Game 6, the story of a playwright (played by Michael Keaton) and his obsession with the Boston Red Sox and the 1986 World Series, was written in the early 90s, but wasn't produced until 2005, ironically one year after the Red Sox won their first World Series title in 86 years. To date, it is DeLillo's only work for film.
3. Rhett Miller references Underworld in his song "World Inside a World" saying, "I read it in DeLillo, like he'd written it for me."
4. A (fictionalized) DeLillo blogs for The Onion