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Mao II [Paperback]

Don DeLillo
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 21 1992

"One of the most intelligent, grimly funny voices to comment on life in present-day America" (The New York Times), Don DeLillo presents an extraordinary new novel about words and images, novelists and terrorists, the mass mind and the arch-individualist. At the heart of the book is Bill Gray, a famous reclusive writer who escapes the failed novel he has been working on for many years and enters the world of political violence, a nightscape of Semtex explosives and hostages locked in basement rooms. Bill's dangerous passage leaves two people stranded: his brilliant, fixated assistant, Scott, and the strange young woman who is Scott's lover--and Bill's.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Don DeLillo's follow-up to Libra, his brilliant fictionalization of the Kennedy assassination, Mao II is a series of elusive set-pieces built around the themes of mass psychology, individualism vs. the mob, the power of imagery and the search for meaning in a blasted, post-modern world. Bill Gray, the world's most famous reclusive novelist, has been working for many years on a stalled masterpiece when he gets the chance to aid a hostage trapped in a basement in war-torn Beirut. Gray sets out on a doomed, quixotic journey, and his disappearance disrupts the cloistered lives of his obsessed assistant and the assistant's companion, a former Moonie who has also become Bill's lover. This haunting, masterful novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1992.

From Publishers Weekly

This tale of a reclusive novelist drawn back into the world by acts of terrorism reconfirms DeLillo's status as a modern master and literary provocateur.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wow, that was dull March 23 2001
By A Customer
The second star is for the obvious intelligence on display and for DeLillo's mordant, incisive commentaries on post-modern society. But I must echo other reviewers complaints: this tedious narrative went nowhere and seemed to go out of its way to alienate the reader with obscure themes and unengaging characters. Every character thinks and speaks in the same voice; they are merely instruments for DeLillo's editorial content and do not resemble any homo sapiens I've met. I enjoyed White Noise and won't give up on DeLillo yet, but this one did nothing for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Manifestation of a literary genious May 20 2004
Don DeLillo is a master craftsman. The volubility of his words which seem to stream off the pages with such cadence and careful consideration is, in my humble opinion, unparalleled. Most books strive to keep the reader's attention by either constructing interesting plot or breathtaking prose, and in Mao II, DeLillo succeeds on both levels flawlessly. The story follows Bill Gray, an elusive writer who has been living in recluse for years, along with his dedicated assistant Scott and a former cult member named Karen, working on his never-ending, long-awaited new novel. Then an opportunity arises for Bill to break through his shell of personal entrapment and head to Beirut to help save a captive poet from terrorists, an excursion which proves as edifying for the reader as it does these bemused and inquisitve characters themselves. DeLillo knows how to paint his situations vividly, and has created here a magnum opus teeming with philosophical dogmas that he is more than entitled to pontificate. Read this and appreciate the sheer beauty and luster of a classic Don DeLillo novel; then go out and read everything else this man has ever written.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mao II May 6 2004
Mao II is a reasonably short book that is by turns about a reclusive writer struggling with a book he knows that will never be finished and the people around him, and the struggles of terrorism and the middle east, cults and brain-washing. At times, this book written in 1991 is strangely prophetic of the September 11 events, and as in the other Delillo book I have read, New York city is a prominent location, the World Trade Centres ominous characters, prescient in their apparent eternity.
Bill is a writer who has been working on his third novel for decades. It has been finished, years ago, he now obsessively edits and reviews each and every page, never being completely satisfied with the results. In a lot of ways he enjoys being the faded recluse, enjoys being a writer who is not a commodity. Two other people live with him, Karen - a previous cult member - and Scott, once just a fan of Bill's but now a friend who helps tend to his affairs. In addition to this, Karen provides Bill with physical satisfaction, but the reasons for this are never really discussed or some into the story, in fact, I'm not entirely sure why that particularly subplot even existed.
A photographer, Brita, enters the cosy world the three have setup, and Bill allows her the first photos of him since he was a young man. They hit off, but more importantly, Bill's awareness of his place in the world is sparked once more. Soon he is meeting with his old editor and events take an odd and not exactly satisfactory turn, becoming more focused on the middle east and terrorism, and less on the life of a writer who is unhappy with himself.
From here, the novel deteriorates. While remaining technically enjoyable to read, I was much more interested in Bill's life than I was with Middle Eastern politics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe DeLillo's Best Work Nov. 20 2003
This is a younger, cooler DeLillo than his more recent work. Personally I think it is his best book. It is in my mind the most creative of his work. It is incredible to see such a unique approach to writing. It is like reading a poem with its lyrical riffs but it has a plot that matters.
The weakest facet of the book is that the dialogue often sounds false. Hearing DeLillo characters speak to each other is like listening to jazz -- not about exploring the realistic mind but the deeper surrealistic mind. These characters are bigger than reality. These particular people in this book have a charm that I don't think DeLillo ever again captured. This book is beautiful and about something that actually matters. While Creative Writing degrees muddle the pool of talent in much the same way that expansion teams in baseball lessened the overall talent on each MLB team, writing about something that matters to the world is quite an act of courage. It is wonderful to see a book that creates its own artistic terms and abides by them while sizzling the senses with creativity and wit. Also, what is superior about this book -- if you are considering which DeLillo book to read -- is that it is not that long. It is as self-indulgent as Underworld in style but it is more tightly woven and thus, in my opinion, a much better book. Simply, it is a quicker read.
At this time in our history this book is useful to understand the emotional side to terror, the conformist mind, power, politics and self-respect. DeLillo was way ahead of his time this way.
While many Americans blindly support the war on terror you have a thoughtful analysis of why terror exists at all, written way before Bin Laden turned against the US.
Mao II is a great introduction to DeLillo.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars a non-cult classic
a salinger-esqu writer, an ex-cult member, and the most talented assistant of all time are the residents of a house in the middle of no where. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2003 by Charlie Mcintosh
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked it better than White Noise, but not that much
I can tell my friends I've read DeLillo, both White Noise and Mao II. I liked this a little more than White Noise, but since I wasn't too crazy about White Noise, that isn't... Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2003 by Derrick Peterman
5.0 out of 5 stars Identity, Youth and DeLillo
I confess: I only recently discovered DeLillo,having read White Noise earlier this year. My loss. A decade or so ago Tom Wolfe complained (in Harper's? Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2003 by Gary C. Marfin
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pen-Faulkner Award?
DeLillo has done much better than this. It is difficult to care about characters that sound identical to each other, with no redeeming qualities or unique identities of their own. Read more
Published on March 9 2003 by MJN76
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance
DeLillo takes advantage of his brilliant style of writing by with explaining a numerous of faults in our society and others, while still expressing his personal views on writers... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars En Masse, En Vogue, Enter DeLillo
DeLillo's opening scene of Mao II starts us out with a mass marriage of Korean men to American Women all under the random whim of Reverend Moon. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2002 by M. Swinney
5.0 out of 5 stars Corpses Wired For Sound
The felt power of DeLillo's prose, the bass of the storm, the intensely concentrated recognition-scenes in the corridors of Third World terror, the null domains of Manhattan and... Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2001 by Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Awesome.
Delillo focuses on perception - how we view the world, how a writer having his picture taken is completely profound, and how the promulgation of images is a powerful phenomena of... Read more
Published on July 16 2001 by N. Kushner
4.0 out of 5 stars A severe CASE
This's the third and supposedly not the last delillo 4 me to read, it's somewhat molded impression (seem to be conducted intentionally) leaves me depraved of the bulkness I've... Read more
Published on June 10 2001 by "ibenbatuta"
2.0 out of 5 stars What a shame . . .
I think I was spoiled by Underworld, which I read recently and which was my introduction to DeLillo. Read more
Published on June 4 2001
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