I read a review of Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K that suggested we can overlook any novelistic values, such as character or plot development, and just revel in the exquisite sentences the author has so masterfully constructed for us. Okay, DeLillo does write well but I have yet to swoon over anything he wrote.
I have read a great deal of DeLillo and my personal response in general is that he is a good novelist but if you pay attention to the hype you will most certainly be disappointed. I don’t dislike Don DeLillo but compared with the likes of William Gaddis or Saul Bellow he is a second tier writer (in there with John Irving, Tom Wolfe, and maybe Thomas Pynchon).
But more to the point: despite reading the last few DeLillo novels with an even greater disappointment (luckily they have been thin little volumes, easily forgotten) I found Zero K a bit more interesting as DeLillo attempted to work out ideas about life and death, spirituality, and the displacement of spiritual ideas about life after death with science.
One aspect of this envisioned cryogenic rescue of today’s life for future science to revive (despite having the person’s head removed to keep the brain in a separate environment) was the idea that the once-dead parents might be met by their old, broken-down son after the thaw. The young become the old and the old become the young. This theme has been used often in other fiction (especially more speculative fiction) but it is sharpened in DeLillo’s novel.
DeLillo’s novels as shown at Wikipedia:
- Americana (1971)
- End Zone (1972)
- Great Jones Street (1973)
- Ratner’s Star (1976)
- Players (1977)
- Running Dog (1978)
- Amazons (1980) (under pseudonym “Cleo Birdwell”)
- The Names (1982)
- White Noise (1985)
- Libra (1988)
- Mao II (1991)
- Underworld (1997) (see also Pafko at the Wall, the prologue of Underworld which was published separately in Harper’s in Oct. 1992)
- The Body Artist (2001)
- Cosmopolis (2003)
- Falling Man (2007)
- Point Omega (2010)
- Zero K (2016)
I’m going to have to knock off a few of those stragglers. Who knows, I might be surprised and really like one or more of them.