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Players [Paperback]

Don Delillo
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 17 1989 Vintage Contemporaries
In Players DeLillo explores the dark side of contemporary affluence and its discontents. Pammy and Lyle Wynant are an attractive, modern couple who seem to have it all. Yet behind their "ideal" life is a lingering boredom and quiet desperation: their talk is mostly chatter, their sex life more a matter of obligatory "satisfaction" than pleasure. Then Lyle sees a man killed on the floor of the Stock Exchange and becomes involved with the terrorists responsible; Pammy leaves for Maine with a homosexual couple.... And still they remain untouched, "players" indifferent to the violence that surrounds them, and that they have helped to create.

Originally published in 1977 (before his National Book Award-winning White Noise and the recent blockbuster Underworld), Players is a fast-moving yet starkly drawn socially critical drama that demonstrates the razor-sharp prose and thematic density for which DeLillo is renown today.

"The wit, elegance and economy of Don DeLillo's art are equal to the bitter clarity of his perceptions."--New York Times Book Review

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"The prose can be as dazzling as a waterfall... His disciples are right when they claim that few novelists have their fingers as close to the pulse of the end-of-millennium urban West." -- Afshi Rattansi Guardian "Don original, versatile, and, in his disdain of last year's emotional guarantees, fastidious... Into our technology-ridden daily lives he reads the sinister ambiguities, the floating ugliness of America's recent history" -- John Updike New Yorker "A witty, harrowing and superbly controlled novel about modern alienation and violence" Washington Post

About the Author

Don DeLillo received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1984. He has won the American Book Award, and the 1989 Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize for his novel, Libra. He has written 16 novels, including the acclaimed works Underworld and White Noise, as well as plays, short stories and essays.

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Customer Reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars Dust it off, then. May 23 2004
By Brad
It's interesting to turn to early DeLillo and find that in more than a quarter of a century, the themes that drive his work are more contemporary than ever; as Diane Johnson wrote in the New York Times in 1977, "This elegant, highly finished novel does not shrink from suggesting the complicity of Americans with the terrorists they deplore". The complicity is not direct, even though one of the main characters does become directly enmeshed in a terrorist conspiracy the extent of which he is (and we, the readers, are) not fully cognizant. Rather, the complicity is systemic, terrorism the shadow of the bright waves of electronic capitalism, the anti-thesis, lying only as far away as the reverse side of a thin paper page. In this, as in the sparkling quality of his prose, he resembles Jean Baudrillard, French philosopher-provocateur; both quip and incant their way towards revealing alleged secret truths about the real sources of terror and violence, secrets of systems and alienation. This sort of language I think becomes tiring once you've read more than a few of DeLillo's novels -- he is forever talking about inner meanings, hidden truths, darkly wound secrets, et cetera. It isn't the ideas that are misplaced (contemporary novels are rightfully full of conspiracy), but the language; these are the only passages where DeLillo becomes literal rather than figurative, the only places where it seems DeLillo himself comes out from beneath the narrative guise. And to say he doesn't need to is to credit the complete remainder of the text -- it races, clean and honed, from page to page, reading as quickly as ads flashing past on a subway. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars DeLillo's terrorism profesy Sept. 23 2001
You can read the tea leaves of any DeLillo novel and see shadows of the WTC disaster, but they are more striking in this novel than any other. One of the main characters works for a grief counseling company in the WTC, her husband works on Wall Street and is casually drawn into a terrorist plot.
"Players" is heavily influenced by Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent" and Dostoyevsky's "Demons", but its unmistakably DeLillo. The terrorists in this book are not drawn by religious or political zealotry, they are almost offhand about their deadly work. As he will do later in "White Noise", DeLillo places a disaster in the foreground but finds the real drama in domestic interaction, in characters so caught up in lifestyle that the world around them is dull, unimportant.
In my opinion, "Players" is the transitional book in DeLillo's body of work. It is his first book to touch on his obsessive themes in a serious, sustained manner. However, it does not match the virtuosity of his later works. Not until "The Names" did DeLillo hit his stride, so don't expect as polished a book as those written in the 80s and 90s. But for DeLillo fans who have overlooked this work through the years, "Players" is a gruesome treat.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Radical Politics and Radical Love May 23 2001
Basically, this is the story of a couple that takes separate vacations. She goes to Maine with her friends, a gay couple, and we read about their interaction. Meanwhile, he is drawn into the political underground, where he becomes fascinated with some vague group's shadowy and violent tactics. DeLillo fans that have read "Mao II" will recognize this "two-path" structure. But this time, the juxtapositions of different family-member experiences didn't really resonate (at least with me) or seem to add up to much. Is this what he's communicating? "It occurred to her that this was the secret life of their involvement. It had always been there, needing only this period of their extended proximity to reveal itself. Disloyalty, spitefulness, petulance."
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not his best March 15 2000
I like Delillo's work. It is strong and disturbing. This is no great addition to his ouevre. Even if written by someone else, you still run up against a book w/ uneven quality.
Delillo loves his language here as he does in other books. Languages, those of ideas, suburban life, espionage and other jargons still strike the ear just right. When he deploys these, the effect can be stimulating. We read/listen to dialogue that piques our interest w/out ever laying down in so many words that great silent center where we live our lives.
The first scene...Its relation to the rest of the book is uncertain. Delillo often chooses words with an eye/ear to overall effect. This idea next to that one. They don't cohere as well @ times. This is the problem I had w/ Mao II. (He is a novelist of ideas, but when he loses sight of the narrative for the sake of these juxtapositions, well-you just want to shake him & ask, "Where'd the story go, Don?".) While interesting in the abstract, unless a real connection can be made between events-despite Delillo's contention stated and unstated that disparate events are what make up our lives in contemporary times-sometimes it (the book) seems an amusing mental game he's devised. NOt a story. A game.
Reading him, you think of Orwell's famous language essay of words retaining meaning. As one of his characters might say, "This thing's got levels. Lots of 'em."
Phrase he/she "wondered if (he/she) was too complex" to do whatever is leitmotif that doesn't work.
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