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End Zone [Paperback]

Don DeLillo
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 7 1986
At Logos College in West Texas, huge young men, vacuum-packed into shoulder pads and shiny helmets, play football with intense passion. During an uncharacteristic winning season, the perplexed and distracted running back Gary Harkness has periodic fits of nuclear glee; he is fueled and shielded by his fear of and fascination with nuclear conflict. Among oddly afflicted and recognizable players, the terminologies of football and nuclear war--the language of end zones--become interchangeable, and their meaning deteriorates as the collegiate year runs its course. In this triumphantly funny, deeply searching novel, Don DeLillo explores the metaphor of football as war with rich, original zeal.

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Don DeLillo's second novel, a sort of Dr. Strangelove meets North Dallas Forty, solidified his place in the American literary landscape in the early 1970s. The story of an angst-ridden, war-obsessed running back for Logos College in West Texas, End Zone is a heady and hilarious conflation of Cold War existentialism and the parodied parallelism of battlefield/sports rhetoric. When not arguing nuclear endgame strategy with his professor, Major Staley, narrator Gary Harkness joins a brilliant and unlikely bunch of overmuscled gladiators on the field and in the dormitory. In characteristic fashion, DeLillo deliberately undermines the football-is-combat cliché by having one of his characters explain: "I reject the notion of football as warfare. Warfare is warfare. We don't need substitutes because we've got the real thing." What remains is an insightful examination of language in an alien, postmodern world, where a football player's ultimate triumph is his need to play the game.

About the Author

Don DeLillo published his first short story when he was twenty-three years old. He has since written twelve novels, including White Noise (1985) which won the National Book Award. It was followed by Libra (1988), his novel about the assassination of President Kennedy, and by Mao II, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

In 1997, he published the bestselling Underworld, and in 1999 he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, given to a writer whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society; he was the first American author to receive it. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a psychological novel Jan. 27 2000
This book superficially deals with two cultures: football in the strange land of West Texas, and the new era of destructive modern warfare. While many morals and parables can be made out of Gary Harkness' excellent and lucid narrative, that he is a modern man in existential despair for example, Delillo's novel insightfully looks at a rational's chronic attempts at figuring out what it all means. Of course, what results is an entirely subjective account of life, but it's one that shuns bigger pictures and individual and cultural differences, embracing instead the need for a more primal experience based purely on the senses, such as football, or even warfare. In this account, bombing Germany means the same as nuking France. It makes no difference, just as bringing in a black football player into a racist land becomes only a footnote. The characters are colorful and you can learn much about human nature just by listening to what they have to say and by watching their body language. Overall, this is a bizarre book that has moments of fantasy, darkness and humor.
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By metheb
End Zone gives us Don DeLillo in his element, commenting on the American condition through one of its most indellible pasttimes, college football, and with hilarious results.
Pulling from his world of unique characters we are presented with a narrator at his third college in as many years, deep in the heart of Texas, and obsessed with nuclear holocaust. The metaphor of football as war is easily addressed but this story is driven by the quirkiness of its offbeat oddball football players and insane collection of coaches.
The predominatly white, southern team is shaken up with the addition of a potential All-American black running back and their head coaches' desire to retain the gridiron glory he once had. The coach has an undeniable Paul Brown/Woody Hayes quality to him.
The team struggles with each game, their individual neurosis and each other as the country lives in the paranoia and gloom of the nuclear menace.
Without a doubt some of DeLillo's most humorous writing while keeping the aura of his fiction in tact.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A football book that isn't about football Aug. 6 2000
Certain football fans may be left dissatisfied with Endzone. A football book that is not really about football at all, DeLillo uses the adventures of Logos College fullback Gary Harkness as a point of departure from which to explore aspects of post-structuralist systems theory that became his trademark in later books. DeLillo's study of the polysemous nature of language in relation to meaning is first-rate. The parallel he establishes between the jargon of football and nuclear war demonstrates how the deterioration of semiotic meaning within language can threaten personal creativity and individuality. Caught in this suffocating network of interlocking symbol systems, Gary finds in football the only means by which to express himself freely and independent of the sterile reality around him. For Gary, football is an end unto itself, whose jargon and primitive physical contact provides him with an alternative system of meaning away from the ascetic chaos of the postmodern world. In this way, DeLillo underlines the inherent value both of physical activity and verbal creativity as expressions of individuality, which rise above the constraints of a language system devoid of expressiveness and order. An oblique and thoughtful novel, Endzone may enthral you - but only if you have the inclination. Those of you, however, who are neither literature students nor semiotic theory enthusiasts, may find it tiresome, pretentious, or just plain dull.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite DeLillo June 21 2000
I loved this book. It's odd in a number of ways, all of which I liked a lot, though I imagine they might turn off other readers. First, it's about football and it really gets into the mechanics of the game. Non-fans might feel a little left out reading a four or five page description of a team's 60-yard drive. These scenes are gritty and journalistic; you get a real sense of it. Then there's the loopy conversations of the players. They're all at a football school in the desert, suffering in the sun, running and wrestling on the hard dusty fields. In their spare time they have earnest, sophisticated discussions about the nature of existence. Not realistic, but the combination completely worked for me at a metaphorical level. Hard work, hot sun, hard thinking, fights. Isn't that just what we all want?
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Parable From the 1970's Oct. 1 1999
By A Customer
I couldn't agree less with the reader from Boston, MA. "End Zone" is about as unified a book as you're likely to read. It is quite obviously a parable with football standing in for nuclear war. As such, it is impossible to break it down into several component stories. There is an obvious beginning, middle and end: you have the arms build-up and the machismo of the preparation for war; the war itself, which is notably the shortest part of the book; and, finally, the long, painful and bizarre aftermath. There's no question that the rich, humorous characters add to the enjoyment but their stories serve the larger plot. The book makes no sense if you can't see it in its entirety. You might as well watch Wildcats if you think this is a simple football book.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Get It???
It is always funny to see someone critical of a book, a film, or a piece of artwork they do not understand. Stick to the "Sports Illustrated" and you'll be fine. Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2007 by Jared Robinson
3.0 out of 5 stars Cliched look at football
I picked up this novel based on the recent Sports Illustrated ranking of top 100 sports books, but it wouldn't make any list of mine. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2003 by Brian M. Ayres
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre DeLillo, clever but cliched
"Football is life is war." DeLillo takes this old observation and turns it into "football is postmodern life is nuclear war. Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2001 by Yaumo Gaucho
5.0 out of 5 stars i liked it
it makes cold siberian days warm. good to read over your dinner of potatoes and vodka.
Published on Jan. 29 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst Book
This is the worst book I've ever read in my entire life. I can't believe it that this book was published. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
Published on Nov. 26 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars A Collection of Random Interactions
End Zone is better read as a collection of short stories rather than a continuous narrative. The main protagonist's interactions with his fellow students are fascinating, but... Read more
Published on Sept. 22 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A hillarious, though still serious, look at college life.
Please read this novel if you are interested in current American fiction. Delillo is an excellent writer, and this novel provides a great introduction to his style. Read more
Published on July 28 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars Catcher in the Rye Meets North Dallas Forty
DeLillo's insight and wit are at their finest in this tale
of a young man lost among the violence of a world gone
astray. Read more
Published on Jan. 23 1997
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