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Mao II Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 1 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (May 1 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140152741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140152746
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #38,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
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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By Damian Kelleher on May 6 2004
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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?) that modern literature had turned excessively inward, and had largely avoided the larger social issues that occupy modern readers. There were exceptions, in his view, but not many. Mao II resonantes at a level that is quite simply eerie. Listen to the reclusive Bill Gray lament the sagging influence of modern literature while being photographed (as an historical artifact?) by the globe-trotting Brita: "Writers are giving way to terror, to tape recorders and cameras, to radios, to bombs stashed in radios. News of disaster is the only narrative people need. The darker the news, the grander the narrative." DeLillo's modernity is housed in one of two camps -- caught in cults (and habits of being) that destroy individuality, or absorbed in following them. DeLillo finds in all this the obsessiveness of the patient -- " they (those who suffer a rare diseasse) learn every inch of material they can find... phone-up doctors on three continents and hunt day and night for people with the same awful thing." Reading Mao II is to enter the post 9/11 American mind (he has a chilling passage on the World Trade Center); he is watching dispassionately as the mass -- the "hive-mind" -- absorbs its adherents, and how they in turn create a movement of observant- obsessives, watching their every move, at once dominated by movements they can't understand and seeking to re-gain dominion. This is not as deeply absorbing as White Noise. But here we run the danger of comparing DeLillo against himself. There are too few writers like DeLillo. Reading Mao II resonates on a larger, public plane. If you sincerely can't get enough of the alcoholic/former University instructor/abused child/co-dependent/jaded/human wreck -- you might look elsewhere. DeLillo has the modern world squarely in focus, now than ever pertinent.
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