And DeLillo reappears. The Angel Esmeralda, DeLillo’s first collection of short stories that I know of, has been sitting on my Kindle for a long time. Languishing. By now, you probably know my thoughts on DeLillo, so I’ll keep the explanation short: he writes the same novel over and over again. Meh. That said, these are short stories, and what’s awesome about them is that he doesn’t really have time to send all of his protagonists on similar quests, running away from some sort of media. That, of course, happens, though not in every story.
This collection is so-so. Some stories are great, some are passable. I’d read some of them before, in The New Yorker, I think, so I was a little annoyed to see them here, in a collection I paid for. They’re arranged by date and theme. The best one, I think, is the last and most recent, “The Starveling”, which, ironically, is the most DeLillo-ish and the longest. Running away from things, yes, but toward a medium – in this case, movies. That one’s really good. So is “Creation,” about a strange, Kafka-esque situation in which a man and a woman can’t seem to get off of an island. But can they? I really liked that one. “The Ivory Acrobat” is great, about a woman’s reaction to an earthquake. “Human Moments in World War III” is interesting, too, about two men floating in space, trained to decimate whole cities with a laser, and their ruminations. And “The Runner,” about a, well, runner, who sees a kidnapping and interprets the events so another onlooker would feel more comfortable. I think I liked “Midnight in Dostoyevsky” when I first read it in The New Yorker, but this time, I skimmed through parts of it because it seemed too long. That one’s about imposing identity on a man a couple of college students see walking through town. Not familiar at all. Meh. Merely passable are “Hammer and Sickle,” about roommates in prison and “The Angel Esmeralda,” about a nun affected by an apparition on a billboard. “Baader-Meinhof” is okay, I guess. It’s about meeting a stranger in an art museum and a near-almost-kinda-but-not-really rape scene. A very DeLillo-ish rape-ish scene in which no rape actually happens. I think I’ve covered all of them.
The Angel Esmeralda drifted back into my consciousness because I’ve started writing a bit, and, especially after the richness of O’Connor, I wanted to see how DeLillo does it in short form. I liked several of them because they weren’t the same ol’ DeLillo fare, and it amuses me that my favorite is. That said, I’ve never claimed that DeLillo isn’t an amazing writer, one of the best still alive. It’s just that once I figured out his formula (doesn’t everyone have one?) I found myself bored to tears. I guess that’s what happens when you study someone over a long period of time. It’s why I’d never study Haruki Murakami or Gabriel Garcia Marquez – in a lot of ways, DeLillo is ruined for me. I still haven’t read all of his novels, though, so there’s still time for redemption. And there’s the apocryphal Cleo Birdwell novel, which I’m sure will prove, at the very least, interesting.
So. This collection is hit-and-miss, though I’d say it’s more hit than miss, especially if you haven’t studied DeLillo so much that your eyes have threatened to bleed. Still, I would stalk him if he’d do signings. He seems to rival Salinger in his reclusion.