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End Zone Paperback – January 1, 1986
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"We've got the real thing in Don DeLillo. This is a wondrous work by an inventive talent."
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Wonderful . . . [End Zone] makes one wonder whether there are any limits at all to [DeLillo's] potential growth."
—The New York Times
"Powerfully funny, oblique, testy, and playful, tearing along in dazzling cinematic spurts . . . A masterful novel."
—The Washington Post
"Taut, witty, and resonant. The dialogue is sweaty and true."
—The Boston Globe
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 1986)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 242 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0140085688
- ISBN-13 : 978-0140085686
- Item Weight : 7.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.12 x 0.69 x 7.74 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #675,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The simplicity of plot underlies a rich subtext of the way humans act, or react while often not being aware or understanding their own intent in life.
Were I was teaching high school literature this would be required reading if only to help younger minds learn about critical thinking within a moderately easy read.
Without ruining the book the young protagonist suffers from "nuclear glee," a phrase that stays with me years after reading this fine book. It is a relatively straight forward novel with postmodern leanings . Still, the narrative is easy to follow despite its alternate perspectives.
This all is very serious, but every page has a laugh, which I think brings us closer to the truths.
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.
I don't know where the concepts of sport-as-war and athlete-as-warrior came from, though the way DeLillo uses them feels and sounds dated. You'll feel like he's exhausted every symbol and metaphor he could come with by the time you're say 70% of the way through the book. This isn't to say that he doesn't make things interesting! One of the narrator's professors says that he rejects the concept of sport as warfare; warfare is warfare, no substitute required because they have the real thing. It's a rare antithetical moment to probably the most obvious thing in the book, its whole preoccupation. Reading about the players in practice is like reading military drill, the game like slow reenactments of battle. The second third or so of the book details almost play-by-play an important game; it's vivid, excruciating, and you won't find it anywhere else.
In short, "End Zone" makes the same point over and over again, and with the way DeLillo uses language, he'll probably drop some readers here and there. It's hard to know for sure 100% if you know what he's saying, not just in "End Zone" but in some of his other books as well. DeLillo is one of my favorite writers though and "End Zone" simply just isn't my favorite, though it is good and intriguing and whatnot. It's his second book and even though it's obvious he has a knack for writing from the start, trust me, he just gets better. See "The Names" (1982) and "White Noise" (1985) and "Libra" (1988) and if you've got time (and it'd be completely worth it) take on "Underworld" (1997) which besides being a great book also doubles as a desk.
Oh and remember: much of DeLillo's work is meant to be funny, even though he might be completely serious... right?
Top reviews from other countries
This was Delillo’s second novel and there’s a sense of him straining to find his stride and voice. The mesmerising urban lyricism of his middle period is not quite on display here. There are, though, several of his favourite motifs – most prevailingly his use of jargon to create an atmosphere of misinformation, disenchantment and detachment. “The pattern match begins with a search for a substring of a given string that has a specified structure in the string manipulation language”
It’s essentially a novel about power. The yearning to acquire power and the means available to us for acquiring it nowadays. The central character is a star running back for a collegiate football team. He’s ambivalent in his strivings for power. He has a penchant for self-destruction. For sabotaging his prospects. Football, like war, is a power struggle of synchronised strategy, bluffed manoeuvres, ordered systems of advancement and a constant parallel is both drawn up and deconstructed in the novel between football and war. “War is the ultimate realization of modern technology. For centuries men have tested themselves in war. War was the final test, the great experience, the privilege, the honour, the self-sacrifice or what have you, the absolutely ultimate determination of what kind of man you were. War was the great challenge and the great evaluator. It told you how much you were worth. But it’s different today. Few men want to go off and fight. We prove ourselves, our manhood, in other ways, in making money, in skydiving, in hunting mountain lions with bow and arrow, in acquiring power of one kind or another. And I think we can forget ideology”
The central female character is massively and purposefully overweight. She is wilfully renouncing the power of her beauty. “It’s hard to be beautiful. You have an obligation to people. You almost become public property. You can lose yourself and get almost mentally disturbed on just the public nature of being beautiful. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. You can get completely lost in that whole dumb mess. And anyway who’s to say what’s beautiful and what’s ugly?”
One hugely memorable scene is an impromptu game of football played in driving snow. There’s a lot of humour and wilful absurdity (one character is learning by heart Rilke’s Duino elegies in the original despite not knowing a word of German; another collects insects).
I’m finding this is one of those novels that seems much richer and cleverer in retrospect when I think about it than it did while reading it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 2, 2017
‘End Zone” is a novel about people trying to transcend their basic nature and achieve more.