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Don DeLillo: Mao II

Crowds, terrorism and novelists could be said to be the subject of this novel. Foreshadowing his next novel, Underworld, this novel opens in nearby Yankee Stadium (DeLillo is a big baseball fan though the event here is a mass wedding) and was inspired in part by a picture DeLillo saw of a mass Moonie wedding. Just as in Libra, DeLillo seemed to be saying that history was made by relatively unimportant people such as Lee Harvey Oswald, here he is saying that crowds play a role in history. Of course, DeLillo’s thesis has always been that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket and this novel perfectly illustrates that idea. Of course, the role of the novelist is certainly not going to go unquestioned. At the beginning of the novel (after the Yankee Stadium scene), a homeless person, described in repulsive detail, goes into a bookstore and says he has come to sign his books. Just for a moment, we and the customers of the store, are led to believe that this man might just be a novelist. However, it is Bill Gray, a famous but reclusive novelist, who cannot finish his novel, who is the (anti-)hero. By a series of strange events, Gray moves from his safe US country house to Beirut and terrorism, to help a poet who is being held hostage there. So the novelist discovers real life or the novelist is a terrorist? Take your pick but with DeLillo you know that politics, history and the deep dark American psyche will be ruthlessly but wittily torn apart.

Publishing history

First published 1991 by Viking