Mao II Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 1 1992
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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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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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Dec 9 2003 by Charlie Mcintosh
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 morePublished on Aug. 29 2003 by Derrick Peterman
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 morePublished on March 9 2003 by MJN76
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 morePublished on Dec 5 2002
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 morePublished on Oct. 15 2002 by M. Swinney
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 morePublished on Sept. 4 2001 by Alexander
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 morePublished on July 16 2001 by N. Kushner
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 morePublished on June 10 2001