Don DeLillo

By: Mike Fleisch
November 20, 2013


Corporate disasters unwittingly funded by sleepwalking consumers, lives temporarily surrendered to the collective will, secret organizations and terrorists emboldened by urgency and opportunity — all in quantum relation, stories broken, retold, broken again. So deeply has this root system taken that it precipitates the undercurrents of network serials and video game narratives… Grand Theft Auto might have existed without DON DELILLO (born 1936), but no way would it be this much fun. Occupy, the Airborne Toxic Event, Boundless Informant and BULLRUN, Better Things for Better Living through Chemistry, 9/11 itself; these blend in atemporal mediation, extracted intersections unlikely in any moment but certain eventually, Fermilab paradox images screaming since the 1970s, between 24 and 30 per second. Novels situated in such a perfect and natural dialogue with the end of the end of history and its inescapable realtime representation that his more direct efforts on the subject (Game 6 screenplay, Cosmopolis, Falling Man) feel predetermined and inelegant in comparison.

David Foster Wallace and his peers considered him essential, though DeLillo claims to focus simply on typewriter sentences, hammers shaping rhythm and meaning with satisfying finish. His work tends to incite a reaction; when George Will called him a bad citizen for his sympathetic portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra, DeLillo accepted the compliment in a New Yorker interview, providing clarity for a generation of left-leaning academic storytellers:

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.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Chester Gould, Benoît Mandelbrot.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).


HiLo Heroes, Literature