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End Zone Paperback – January 7, 1986

4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Don DeLillo's second novel, a sort of Dr. Strangelove meets North Dallas Forty, solidified his place in the American literary landscape in the early 1970s. The story of an angst-ridden, war-obsessed running back for Logos College in West Texas, End Zone is a heady and hilarious conflation of Cold War existentialism and the parodied parallelism of battlefield/sports rhetoric. When not arguing nuclear endgame strategy with his professor, Major Staley, narrator Gary Harkness joins a brilliant and unlikely bunch of overmuscled gladiators on the field and in the dormitory. In characteristic fashion, DeLillo deliberately undermines the football-is-combat cliché by having one of his characters explain: "I reject the notion of football as warfare. Warfare is warfare. We don't need substitutes because we've got the real thing." What remains is an insightful examination of language in an alien, postmodern world, where a football player's ultimate triumph is his need to play the game.

About the Author

Don DeLillo published his first short story when he was twenty-three years old. He has since written twelve novels, including White Noise (1985) which won the National Book Award. It was followed by Libra (1988), his novel about the assassination of President Kennedy, and by Mao II, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

In 1997, he published the bestselling Underworld, and in 1999 he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, given to a writer whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society; he was the first American author to receive it. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140085688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140085686
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeremiah Mcneil on September 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
"End Zone" is like a Delillo primer: it introduces and develops his major themes, gives a taste of his absurd, over-the-top dialogue, and treats its genre conventions playfully. A football novel, "End Zone" is hardly a football novel- its a football-as-ritual novel, and as such it's about conceptions of identity and nuclear anxiety, and how language develops and even designates the forms of both these things. Delillo is concerned with language first- always- and how it shapes the stories we tell that make up who we are. This is about language as a distancing device used to subvert the passage to death. Which, come to think of it, is what pretty much all his books are about. In fact, "End Zone" is such a concise introduction to Delillo that I'd pretty much demand that anyone wisheing to read his stuff start here. It'll make the others much, much easier.

"End Zone" is packed with scenes of men shouting in elaborate code languages and with obvious symbolic tableau. Which is fine. Delillo is rarely a realist, and he's never one here. He's diagnosing the human condition down to the moment and the place. His books might leave America but they're always about this country, and "End Zone" is no exception. It's a visionary novel, and a fine one at that.

It's also very, very funny. It's pretty much a comedy from beginning to end- and it's a good one. Delillo is always humorous, but rarely is he half as funny as he is here on nearly every page. "White Noise," which is extremely funny at times, has nothing on "End Zone"- this book has the distinction of containing the funniest and best sex scene I've ever read. Every sentence in the scene is an ironic bombshell, all eroticism and absurdism brilliantly commingled.
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Format: Paperback
This very early product from the mind of DeLillo is sharp with the kind of ideas DeLillo would go on with, though not always successfully. His characters in this book are both base and philosophical, and the narrator, Gary Harkness, is a man who is into both the visceral thrills of football and world destruction as well as the higher functions of meaning and love. DeLillo mixes the base grunts of football with the war philosophy of Sun Tzu, and this book maintains that level through short, precise explosions of thought and action. While other books like _The Names_ tend to talk more about philosophy rather than exemplify it, _End Zone_ is a surgical airstrike in itself, and well worth the read.
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Format: Paperback
Certain football fans may be left dissatisfied with Endzone. A football book that is not really about football at all, DeLillo uses the adventures of Logos College fullback Gary Harkness as a point of departure from which to explore aspects of post-structuralist systems theory that became his trademark in later books. DeLillo's study of the polysemous nature of language in relation to meaning is first-rate. The parallel he establishes between the jargon of football and nuclear war demonstrates how the deterioration of semiotic meaning within language can threaten personal creativity and individuality. Caught in this suffocating network of interlocking symbol systems, Gary finds in football the only means by which to express himself freely and independent of the sterile reality around him. For Gary, football is an end unto itself, whose jargon and primitive physical contact provides him with an alternative system of meaning away from the ascetic chaos of the postmodern world. In this way, DeLillo underlines the inherent value both of physical activity and verbal creativity as expressions of individuality, which rise above the constraints of a language system devoid of expressiveness and order. An oblique and thoughtful novel, Endzone may enthral you - but only if you have the inclination. Those of you, however, who are neither literature students nor semiotic theory enthusiasts, may find it tiresome, pretentious, or just plain dull.
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"End Zone," Don Delillo's second novel, isn't so much DeLillo primer as it is like a few strokes of some of the themes DeLillo might (and in some cases will) touch on later. It's definitely not his greatest work and if you're new to his stuff I'd point you in the direction of something like "Libra" or "White Noise," both of which came later in DeLillo's career and (for me) pick apart more interesting subjects.

Think about the desert. Almost no air, nothing much moving, just dirt or sand and rocks, the sun beating down on you as you make your way across. That's what reading parts of "End Zone" feels like, which is convenient, because the book is set in a desertish part of Texas with almost no air, nothing much moving, just dirt or sand and rocks, etc. The barren landscape (not a beautiful picture once you conjure it up for a period of reading even a short book such as this one) matches the sparse, dry sentences that make up much of the conversation, most of which can be breezed through so quickly because it's so emotionless. Every now and then though one of the book's over-the-top characters will get rolling on a subject such as nuclear war or a passage from a science fiction book or football that halfway through you might wonder where it is you're going. For the most part, the things people say in this book aren't things they would say in real life. College athletes don't worry about these kinds of things. That's where DeLillo's super creative and makes them obsessed with language, personal history and (for the narrator) nuclear war in all of its glory which he doesn't understand and the knowledge of which he desires to consume more and more.
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