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Don DeLillo: End Zone

End Zone is, of course, about (American) football. DeLillo grew up on the streets of the Bronx, playing baseball and football and both make frequent appearances in his novels. Gary Harkness is a running back for Logos College, Texas. He is also obsessed by war. For Harkness, football is not a metaphor for war, it is war. Indeed, he and his teammates seem set on hurting each other in practice as much as possible. While the football season is under way, so are the preparations for war. But the fun thing about this book are the characters – the interestingly named Rolf Hauptfuhrer, the defensive line coach, who lives up to his name, or the left tackle, Anatole Bloomberg, who becomes Harkness’ roommate at the beginning of the book and who says he is unjewing himself because he is tired of the guilt or Myna Corbett, his girlfriend whose attractions he sums up as ownership of half a million dollars and membership in a science-fiction book club. The downside is that she has a blotchy face, is overweight, lank hair and talks too much. She is a now person, while Harkness is a then person.

And there is the ROTC where Major Staley is in command – (Nagasaki was an embarrassment to the art of war). Harkness is fascinated, obsessed by nuclear war. DeLillo has said that he wasn’t making the analogy between football and war. Yeah, right. The detailed description of the game against their main rivals, West Centrex, reads as much like a war report as a football game commentary. And this is where DeLillo’s real talent lies. His superb control of the language, the way he builds up as scene, interjects the unexpected and plays with language make his portrayal of the American obsession with war that much more real.

Publishing history

First published 1972 by Houghton Mifflin