Back On The Shelf: DeLillo

“This is what happens to loved ones who go away. We make them sit in a room forever” (DeLillo, p. 73).

Confession: I’ve started DeLillo again. Libra, where I left off before I jumped ship to swim to the Franzen side. There were more cameras over there, more people jumping about, more bright lights.

And then I wasn’t going to return to Libra until I’d formulated some intelligent thing to say about Freedom. To keep my mind on track, thick in the Franzen forest and all that (my, I’m mixing a lot of metaphors tonight). But I’m so glad I broke my own rule.

“He thought of her being somewhere very vague, in a room with curtains, never moving from the chair. This is what happens to loved ones who go away. We make them sit in a room forever” (DeLillo, p. 73).

He is so good at language, at the line. And yet it’s not even that, is it? When I try to excerpt it in my notebook, it never seems as good. Nothing that he writes is as good out of context as it is on its own page. In its own country. I’m sure no writing is, but it seems to be especially the case with DeLillo.

I’ve been trying to figure it out, then, what it is he is good at. “The paragraph!” I thought triumphantly one day, because part of what makes his choice lines so resonant are the lines leading up to them. So maybe that is where his skill is, where lies the spell: in structuring the paragraph, in having a talent for sentences yes, but also placement of these sentences, climax, timing. Arc. Maybe that’s it. Not the arc of the whole book, but that the whole book is rolling with these small arcs of beauty and insight, swelling up and down.

Yes, maybe. That’s a lovely thought. Like the sea. Or like breathing. The book breathes.

Good night.

Work Cited:
DeLillo, Don. Libra. New York: Viking Penguin, 1988.

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