Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011
: Don DeLillo, a master of using exactly as many words as he needs to paint the sharpest possible picture, has published his first story collection. Written between 1979 and 2011, the nine short pieces in The Angel Esmeralda
sketch a handful of moments--the arc of a circumstantial affair, the explosion of a friendship between two teenagers--with the author’s trademark economy. DeLillo knows his context and characters so well, a sliver of them is enough to engage us completely. As one man puts it, floating through space in the collection opener, “The emptier the land, the more luminous and precise the names for its features.” DeLillo’s short fiction is a series of pointillist landscapes; entire worlds spring from the section of the canvas he chooses to frame for us. Lean in and pay attention--every glimpse counts. --Mia Lipman
Amazon Exclusive: Sam Lipsyte Reviews The Angel Esmeralda Sam Lipsyte is the author of Venus Drive and The Ask.
A note about The Angel Esmeralda: this collection of stories by America's best living novelist is not only an immense joy to read, but it grants one a chance to reflect on something often underappreciated: Don DeLillo's versatility. If you count yourself a DeLillo fan, then you are already intimate with the power, scope and heady, subterranean humor of novels like Underworld, Players, Libra, and White Noise, (well, really, any of his novels apply). You are probably also quite familiar with his wonderfully inventive plays. You've also read his short stories as they appeared infrequently over the years, been dazzled by their surfaces and depths, but maybe overlooked DeLillo's real achievement in the form. I admit I was dazzled, and that I partook in some egregious overlooking, but reading this collection confirms DeLillo as one of our very best short story writers. It's scary.
All of these pieces possess the same cunning, grace and laser-guided prose of his novels, and touch on the great DeLillo themes. "Human Moments in World War III" depicts some pilots in a futuristic fighter during an age when "the banning of nuclear weapons has made the earth safe for war." As the ship describes its orbit the narrator describes his frightful observations about the world, while clinging to "homey emotions" summoned by the voices of old radio shows and a shipment of brightly packaged broccoli. Meanwhile he practices his firing protocol for the devastation to come.
Other more recent fictions include "Baader-Meinhof," a brilliant meditation on terrorism, or our perceptions of it, as well "Midnight in Dostoevsky," which captures the sensitivity and intensity of young philosophy students at a remote college: "At the gym I did my dumb struts on the elliptical and lapsed into spells of lost thought. Idaho, I thought. Idaho, the word, so voweled and obscure. Wasn't where we were, right here, obscure enough for her?" The startling "Hammer and Sickle," about a cellblock of white-collar convicts, and "The Starveling," a heart breaker about obsessed, lonely moviegoers, round out this stunning book.
There is no ignoring the collections subtitle, "Nine Stories," with its nod (and wry challenge) to J.D. Salinger's classic. It's strange to put DeLillo and Salinger in the same sentence. They are so vastly different, except they both, in their respective eras, hugely shaped the sound and direction of American literature. I've read Don DeLillo over and over for more than half my life (it's always more than half, DeLillo might point out, for he has one of the finest ears for the patterns of American speech). The richness of his work, the pleasures on offer--intellectual, visceral, poetic, comic–-are unrivaled. The connections he makes from the data of our lives, and the way he renders these connections into sly, steely, grieving song, remain incomparable. Which is just to say that, in the parlance of this e-commerce context, customers who like writing that stretches and reinvigorates their consciousness, that delivers them bravely to places of fresh feeling and leads them thrillingly through the mysteries and moods of contemporary existence might also enjoy The Angel Esmeralda. --Sam Lipsyte
“A beautiful book for all time”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A vital addition to DeLillo’s corpus…expertly realized…The gods have equipped DeLillo with the antennae of a visionary. There is right field, and there is left field. He comes from third field—aslant, athwart. And I love The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories.
”—Martin Amis, The New Yorker
“A terrific overview of [DeLillo’s] many strengths, from pitch-perfect character descriptions to surprising humor to soaring lyricism...The literary fireworks of the title piece alone are a stunning example of how the ordinary can become extraordinary in a gifted artist’s hands…Behold and be dazzled.”—Josh Emmons, People
“Many of [DeLillo’s] deceptively simple sentences will leave you awestruck…This slim volume is a marvel—a masterpiece of short fiction.”—Carmela Ciuraru, USA Today
“I was dazzled…Reading this collection confirms DeLillo as one of our very best short story writers…The richness of his work, the pleasures on offer—intellectual, visceral, poetic, comic—are unrivalled.”—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask
“Magnificent.”—Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
“[DeLillo’s] prose is masterly and austere…Even the most fragmentary of [the stories] provides the pleasure of reading the inimitably elegant sentences that DeLillo has been fashioning for four decades.”—Troy Jollimore, The Washington Post
“The typical DeLillo tale reads like a diagnosis of a zeitgeist malady we never knew we had, and in these stories the malady is one of spellbound fixation. DeLillo has achieved a very particular kind of greatness…and his gifts…are, for a contemporary American writer, unsurpassed.”—Charles Baxter, The New York Review of Books
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