5.0 out of 5 stars Manifestation of a literary genious
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...
Published on May 20 2004 by anonymous
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wow, that was dull
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...
Published on March 23 2001
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wow, that was dull,
By A Customer
This review is from: Mao II (Paperback)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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Manifestation of a literary genious,
This review is from: Mao II (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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Mao II,
This review is from: Mao II (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. The ending was unsatisfactory, and answered no questions - but then, what questions were raised? The plot involving Bill's redemption was dropped, and a subsequent development with a Swiss poet captured by terrorists in a bid to help raise the profile of the newly formed terror group and a literary community was not developed enough. Even Karen's cult background wasn't fully used.
Delillo's strengths are his prologues and his dialogue. The prologue was tight, forceful, and ended with a perfect sentence. It would have made a fantastic short story, and I felt that, once it was finished, I was in for an amazing ride. Dialogue is authentic, flows just like a real conversation, and contains many of the unfinished sentences and stray ramblings that people use when they talk. Both the prologue and the dialogues throughout felt as though they had been worked on, again and again, to get it right, while long stretches of plot or of description felt almost like an after-thought.
To conclude, I greatly enjoyed the first hundred and twenty pages or so. I didn't like the shift of focus, but a premise was built up that look promising, then that, too, was dropped. The result is an unfortunately hollow book. But perhaps I am missing something. It has received a lot of praise, and won awards, and I can't understand why. While written well, it just couldn't live up to the amazing prologue.
5.0 out of 5 stars a non-cult classic,
This review is from: Mao II (Paperback)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. coming into this abode is a photographer, and her presence brings about remarkable changes. mao II is a fantastic look into the life of a writer and a thoroughly enjoyable read, unless, of course, if you're in a cult, in which case it's the best book you'll read, ever.
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe DeLillo's Best Work,
This review is from: Mao II (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.
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked it better than White Noise, but not that much,
This review is from: Mao II (Paperback)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 saying too much.
The characters seem more real than those in White Noise, the plot seems more believeable, and the motivations make more sense. Maybe DeLillo will write a completely transparent book, and I'll love it!
I first read this ten years ago, and could barely choke it down. Perhaps becoming more sophisticated, I read it a few months ago, and even enjoyed it at times.
My preference is if a writer has something to say, it shouldn't be buried in situations, metaphors, and characters that are hard to understand. So obviously, DeLillo is not going to end up one of my favorite writers.
5.0 out of 5 stars Identity, Youth and DeLillo,
This review is from: Mao II (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.
2.0 out of 5 stars The Pen-Faulkner Award?,
This review is from: Mao II (Paperback)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. At times DeLillo presents wonderful images and prose, but the bulk of this book features rambling prose and pointless dialogue. One wonders if DeLillo is writing to the public or for himself.
Without question, I will continue to read DeLillo. He has much to say and one of the best writers we have, but readers new to DeLillo would do well to read "Underworld" and "White Noise" and avoid "Mao II."
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance,
By A Customer
This review is from: Mao II (Paperback)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 and other people.
4.0 out of 5 stars En Masse, En Vogue, Enter DeLillo,
This review is from: Mao II (Paperback)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. The book dives off from there and explores themes, the insularity of the writer's life, self-imposed imprisonment, breaking free from said imprisonment, and the losing of the self to a selfless and ominous collective. DeLillo, as always, captures whatever he turns his ingenious eye towards with intellectual banter, probing literary probity, and beautiful language.
For what this book lacks on plot and characterization, it makes up for it on ideals and writing style. I marvel at the words this man comes up with. With that said, by now, you may have deduced I'm a fan. And though I'd admire the writing of this book, I would also add that this one has been my least favorite of his book to date (though I'm only halfway through "The Body Artist" and I fully expect that to take bottom billing). I would point you toward "White Noise", "Underworld", or "Libra" if you are new to DeLillo's works and are itching to dig in. Though if you are a fan of what can be done with language and don't need a novel driven by plot, don't short "Mao II."
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Mao II by Don DeLillo (Paperback - April 21 1992)
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