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Don DeLillo (born November 20, 1936) is an Americanmarker author whose work paints a detailed portrait of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives near New York Citymarker.


DeLillo was born in the Bronxmarker in New York City, a child of Italian immigrants from the village of Montaganomarker (Campobasso), and attended Fordham Universitymarker, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1958.

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 Fordhammarker, where he majored in Communication Arts, 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 Avenuemarker 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 Centermarker at the University of Texasmarker at Austin. His most recent work, titled Falling Man, concerned a survivor of the 9/11 terror attacks and was published May 15, 2007.

On April 25, 2009 DeLillo received another significant literary award, the 2009 Common Wealth Award for Literature, given by PNC Bank of Delaware.

On June 9, 2009 it was announced that DeLillo's next novel, his fifteenth, had been completed and was set for publication. Titled Point Omega, the brief plot description released revealed that the new short novel concerns: "A young filmmaker [who] visits the desert home of a secret war advisor in the hopes of making a documentary. The situation is complicated by the arrival of the older man's daughter, and the narrative takes a dark turn." Further information on Amazon reveals that Point Omega will be "brief, unnerving, and hard-hitting".The novel is set for publication by Scribner on February 2, 2010 and the initial hardback edition will be 120 pages long.

On July 24, 2009, Entertainment Weekly announced:Director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Naked Lunch) will write a screenplay adaptation of Don DeLillo's 2003 novel Cosmopolis, with "a view to eventually direct,"

This would be the first direct adaptation for the screen of a DeLillo novel, although both Libra and Underworld have previously been optioned for screen treatments and DeLillo himself has written an original screenplay for the film Game 6.

The Summer 2009 issue of Granta magazine featured a new DeLillo article titled 'Remembrance'. The piece concerns the late Nelson Algren.

On November 30, 2009, DeLillo published a new short story in the New Yorker magazine, his first since "Still Life" in 2007 prior to the release of Falling Man. The new story is called "Midnight in Doestoevsky" and it is a stand alone short story (not a part of DeLillo's forthcoming novel Point Omega as seen in the advanced copies).

Themes and criticism

DeLillo is widely considered by modern critics to be one of the central figures of literary postmodernism. He has said the primary influences on his work and development are "abstract expressionism, foreign films, and jazz." Many of DeLillo's books (notably White Noise) satirize academia and explore postmodern themes of rampant consumerism, novelty intellectualism, underground conspiracies, the disintegration and re-integration of the family, and the promise of rebirth through violence. In several of his novels, DeLillo explores the idea of the increasing visibility and effectiveness of terrorists as societal actors and, consequently, the displacement of what he views to be artists', and particularly novelists', traditional role in facilitating social discourse (Players, Mao II, Falling Man). Another perpetual theme in DeLillo's books is the saturation of mass media and its role in forming simulacra which serve to remove an event from its context and alter or drain its inherent meaning (see the highway shooter in Underworld, the televised disasters longed for in White Noise, the planes in Falling Man, the evolving story of the interviewee in Valparaiso). The psychology of crowds and the capitulation of individuals to group identity is a theme DeLillo examines in several of his novels, especially in the prologue to Underworld, Mao II, and Falling Man. In a 1993 interview with Maria Nadotti, DeLillo explained

Many younger English-language authors such as Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace have cited 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.



Short Stories

  • "The River Jordan" (1960) (First published in Epoch 10, No. 2 (Winter 1960), pp. 105-120.)
  • "Take the 'A' Train" (1962) (First published in Epoch 12, No. 1 (Spring 1962) pp. 9-25.)
  • "Spaghetti and Meatballs" (1965) (First published in Epoch 14, No. 3 (Spring 1965) pp. 244-250)
  • "Coming Sun.Mon.Tues." (1966) (First published in Kenyon Review 28, No. 3 (June 1966), pp. 391-394.)
  • "Baghdad Towers West" (1967) (First published in Epoch 17, 1968, pp. 195-217.)
  • "The Uniforms" (1970) (First published in Carolina Quarterly 22, 1970, pp. 4-11.)
  • "In the Men's Room of the Sixteenth Century" (1971) (First published in Esquire, Dec. 1971, pp. 174-177, 243, 246.)
  • "Total Lost Weekend" (1972) (First published in Sports Illustrated, Nov. 27, 1972, pp. 98-101+)
  • "Creation" (1979) (First published in Antaeus No. 33, Spring 1979, pp. 32-46.)
  • "The Sightings" (1979) (First published in Weekend Magazine (Summer Fiction Issue, out of Toronto), August 4, 1979, pp. 26-30.)
  • "Human Moments in World War III" (1983) (First published in Esquire, July 1983, pp.118-126.)
  • "The Ivory Acrobat" (1988) (First published in Granta 25, Autumn 1988, pp. 199-212.)
  • "The Runner" (1988) (First published in Harper's, Sept. 1988, pp. 61-63.)
  • "Pafko at the Wall" (1992) (First published in Harper's, Oct. 1992, pp. 35-70.)
  • "The Angel Esmeralda" (1995) (First published in Esquire, May 1994, pp. 100-109.)
  • "Baader-Meinhof" (2002) (First published in New Yorker, 1 April 2002, pp. 78-82.)
  • "Still Life" (2007) (First published in New Yorker, April 9 2007)
  • "Midnight in Dostoevsky" (2009) (First Published in New Yorker, November 30 2009)



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.

Significant Essays

  • "American Blood: A Journey through the Labyrinth of Dallas and JFK" (1983) (Published in Rolling Stone, Dec. 8, 1983. DeLillo's first major published essay. Seen as signposting his interest in the JFK assassination that would ultimately lead to Libra)
  • "Salman Rushdie Defense" (1994) (Co-written with Paul Auster in defense of Salman Rushdie following the announcement of a fatwa upon him after the publication of The Satanic Verses)
  • "The Artist Naked in a Cage" (1997)(A short piece ran in The New Yorker on May 26, 1997, pages 6-7. An address delivered on May 13, 1997 at the New York Public Library's event "Stand In for Wei Jingsheng.")
  • "The Power of History" (1997) (Published in the Sept. 7, 1997 issue of the New York Times Magazine. Preceded the publication of Underworld and was viewed by many as a rationale for the novel)
  • "A History of the Writer Alone in a Room" (1999) (This piece is the acceptance address given by DeLillo on the occasion of being awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 1999. A small pamphlet was printed with this address, an address by Scribner editor-in-chief Nan Graham, the Jury's Citation and an address by Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert. It was reprinted in a German translation in Die Zeit in 2001. The piece is in five numbered sections, and is about five pages long.)
  • "In the Ruins of the Future" (Dec 2001) (This short essay appeared in Harper's magazine, December 2001 issue, pages 33-40. It concerns the Sept 11 incidents, terrorism, and America. It consists of eight numbered sections.)

Books about DeLillo

  • Bloom, Harold (ed.), Don DeLillo (Bloom's Major Novelists), Chelsea House, 2003.
  • Boxall, Peter, Don DeLillo: The Possibility of Fiction, Routledge, 2006.
  • Civello, Paul, American Literary Naturalism and its Twentieth-century Transformations: Frank Norris, Ernest Hemingway, Don DeLillo, University of Georgia Press, 1994.
  • Cowart, David, Don DeLillo - The Physics of Language, University of Georgia Press, 2002.
  • Dewey, Joseph, Beyond Grief and Nothing: A Reading of Don DeLillo, University of South Carolina Press, 2006.
  • Dewey, Joseph (ed.), Kellman, Steven G. (ed.), Malin, Irving (ed.), Underwords: Perspectives on Don DeLillo's Underworld, University of Delaware Press, 2002.
  • Duvall, John, Don DeLillo's Underworld: A Reader's Guide, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002.
  • Duvall, John (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Don DeLillo, Cambridge UP, 2008
  • Engles, Tim (ed.), Duvall, John (ed.) ,Approaches to Teaching DeLillo's White Noise, Modern Language Association Press, 2006.
  • Halldorson, Stephanie, The Hero in Contemporary American Fiction: The Works of Saul Bellow and Don DeLillo, 2007.
  • Hantke, Steffen, Conspiracy and Paranoia in Contemporary American Fiction: The works of Don DeLillo and Joseph McElroy, Peter Lang Publishing, 1994.
  • Kavadlo, Jesse, Don DeLillo: Balance at the Edge of Belief, Peter Lang Publishing, 2004.
  • Keesey, Douglas, Don DeLillo, Macmillan, 1993.
  • LeClair, Tom In the Loop - Don DeLillo and the Systems Novel, University of Illinois Press, 1987.
  • Lentricchia, Frank (ed.), Introducing Don DeLillo, Duke University Press, 1991.
  • Lentricchia, Frank (ed.), New Essays on White Noise, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Martucci, Elise, The Environmental Unconscious in the Fiction of Don DeLillo, Routledge, 2007.
  • Morley, Catherine, The Quest for Epic in Contemporary American Literature, Routledge, New York, 2008.
  • Orr, Leonard, White Noise: A Reader's Guide Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.
  • Osteen, Mark American Magic and Dread: Don DeLillo's Dialogue with Culture, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
  • Ruppersburg, Hugh (ed.), Engles, Tim (ed.), Critical Essays on Don DeLillo, G.K. Hall, 2000.
  • Schuster, Marc "Don DeLillo, Jean Baudrillard, and the Consumer Conundrum", Cambria Press, 2008
  • Weinstein, Arnold, Nobody's Home: Speech, Self, and Place in American Fiction From Hawthorne to DeLillo, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Awards and Award Nominations

  • 1979 - DeLillo awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  • 1984 - Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
  • 1985 - National Book Award for White Noise
  • 1985 - National Book Critics Circle Award finalist (Fiction, 1985) for White Noise
  • 1988 - National Book Critics Circle Award finalist (Fiction, 1988) for Libra
  • 1988 - New York Times Best Books of the Year (1988) for Libra
  • 1988 - National Book Award finalist (Fiction, 1988) for Libra
  • 1989 - Irish Times, Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize for Libra
  • 1991 - 1991 PEN/Faulkner Award for Mao II
  • 1992 - 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction nomination for Mao II
  • 1995 - 1995 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award
  • 1997 - National Book Award finalist nomination for Underworld
  • 1997 - New York Times Best Books of the Year nominee for Underworld
  • 1998 - 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction nomination for Underworld
  • 1998 - 1998 American Book Award for Underworld
  • 1999 - 1999 Jersalem Prize awarded for Underworld
  • 2000 - 2000 William Dean Howells Medal awarded for Underworld
  • 2000 - 2000 "Riccardo Bacchelli" International Award for Underworld
  • 2001 - James Tait Black Memorial Prize shortlist (Fiction, 2001) for The Body Artist
  • 2006 - 2006 New York Times: Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years (Runner-Up) for Underworld
  • 2007 - 2007 New York Times Notable Book of the Year (Fiction and Poetry) for Falling Man
  • 2007 - 2007 Booklist Top of the List: A Best of Editors Choice for Falling Man
  • 2009 - 2009 Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service for achievements in literature

References in popular culture


  9. Remnick, David, "Exile on Main Street: Don DeLillo's Undisclosed Underworld", The New Yorker, September 15, 1997.
8. Jacobs, Timothy. “Don DeLillo.” Conspiracy Theories in American History: AnEncyclopedia. Ed. Peter Knight. Oxford: ABC-CLIO Press, 2003. 219-220.

External links

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