DeLillo Binge, part 6

DeLillo Binge, part 6

The thing that sucks about increasingly long, more…academic(?) posts is that I’m beginning to have to psych myself up to write them. So this one’s gonna be short since I’m almost done with the next book in my DeLillo Binge, and I’ve been putting this one off.

I just finished End Zone a few days ago. I liked it more than I thought I would. This was my first impression:

reading end zone. so far, it’s..about football. which is better than being about lee harvey oswald. #delilloFri Apr 30 18:55:43 via Tweetie

I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. There is, though, a really long description of a football game, which almost bored me to tears, except that in introducing it, DeLillo made it just a bit more palatable:

(The spectator, at this point, is certain to wonder whether he must now endure a football game in print – the author’s way of adding his own neat quarter-notch to the scarred bluesteel of combat writing. The game, after all, is known for its assault-technology motif, and numberous commentators have been willing to risk death by analogy in their public discussions of the resemblance between football and war. But this sort of thing is of little interest to the exemplary spectator.  As Alan Zapalac says later on: ‘I reject the notion of football as warfare. Warfare is warfare. We don’t need substitutes because we’ve got the real thing.’ The exemplary spectator is the person who understands the sport as a benign illusion, the illusion that order is possible.) (111-112)

And he goes on and on. I like that he self-consciously acknowledges the reader. While I was reading the ridiculously long account of the game, I kept thinking of this little interlude-of-sorts, and it made me feel better. (Okay, so it’s not that long, but that thirty pages seems to take forever.)

This novel is really interesting in that it goes back and forth between vast, detailed descriptions of football and postmodern theory. After practice, the players sit around and have “real” discussions about not-football, like this conversation about a course one of the team members is taking:

“People keep bringing up that course you’re taking. The untellable. I keep hearing about that course. Nobody talks about it but I keep hearing.”

“So do I,” Ted Joost said.

“There’s not much I can say about it,” Billy said.

“You can tell us what goes on.”

“We delve into the untellable.”

“How deep?” Bobby Iselin said.

“It’s hard to tell. I don’t think anybody knows how deep the untellable is. We’ve done a certain amount of delving. We plan to delve some more. That’s about all I can tell you.”

“But what do you talk about?” Howard said. “There are ten of you in there and there’s some kind of instructor or professor. You must say things to each other.”

“We shout in German a lot. There are different language exercises we take turns doing. We may go on a field trip next week. I don’t know where to.”

“But you don’t know German. I know damn well you don’t. I’m your damn roommate. I know things about you.”

“Unfortunately I’ve picked up a few words. I guess that’s one of the hazards in a course like this. You pick up things you’re better off without. The course is pretty experimental. It’s given by a man who may or may not have spent three and a half years in one of the camps. He doesn’t think there’ll be a final exam.”

“Why things in German?” Ted Joost said.

“I think the theory is if any words exist beyond speech, they’re probably German words, or pretty close.” (181).

There are lots of conversations like this one in End Zone, which is why I think I like it so much. It’s definitely Thesis Material. So far, if I can get my act together, I’ll probably use White Noise, Americana, and End Zone. Using five novels would probably be easiest since I can write a chapter on each, but I think it might be overkill, and when I get to the revision phase and people are actually reading it, I might find my thesis expanding exponentially, which I really don’t want to happen.

Since this is supposed to be a short post, I’ll stop now. I’m almost finished with Great Jones Street, and I’m pretty sure I won’t have much at all to say about it, though it’s not too bad. At least it’s not about Lee Harvey Oswald.

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  • It’s funny: the football chapter was one of my favorite things about the book. Made the game seem incredibly surreal. Also, I honestly don’t remember the little preface in the version I read. Surely it was there, but I was probably distracted by something or other when I read it. And of course, there’s all that German in White Noise.


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Indices, etc, coming soon!