I’m sure you know I have a sewing side-hustle. What you probably don’t know is that my sewing machine was one big pile of problems. It was a 15-ish-year-old Singer that had sat idle for 14.9 of those years, and you could tell. Actually, I really couldn’t because that machine was the only one I’d ever used. The only thing I knew for sure is that the darn thing was FRUSTRATING. I’m pretty sure I spent more time taking it apart or fixing bobbin slips than I did sewing.
All that said, it did work well enough to support my tiny Etsy shop.
WELL, on Sunday I got mad enough at its inability to sew one set of masks without messing up that I started looking around for a new machine. And then I found THIS:
It’s the Husqvarna Viking Jade 20, and I decided that I NEEDED it as soon as I saw it on some random website. If IKEA made sewing machines, this would be it, and I LOVE it. It’s one of those fancy computerized ones that has waaaay more features than I’ll ever use, but the ones I will are AMAZING. It even has a little FIX button that fixes the seam so I don’t have to backstitch. And have I mentioned that it’s BEAUTIFUL? It was also terribly expensive, but oh well. Hopefully it’ll last ten or fifteen years.
I should also note that I celebrated by making llamas and cacti in space flannel pajama pants. Even the cacti have little space helmets!
Now let’s talk about DeLillo’s new “novel.”
I’ve made it clearish that this isn’t going to be a book blog, so I’m not giving this book its own post, but I can’t help but talk about it.
You might know that I have a long history with Mr. Don DeLillo. I wrote my master’s thesis on three of his (early) novels. I’ve read most of his books, though I don’t think I’ve been able to finish any since my thesis with the notable exception of a White Noise reread.
Here’s why: my main discovery was that DeLillo writes the same novel over and over. You can pick up any DeLillo novel (except this one – but I’ll get to that) and expect a plot along the lines of this: Dude (always male) is disenchanted with mass media, retreats from said media, eventually decides that he can’t really get away, and returns to media-driven society. Read any DeLillo novel, and that’s what you’ll get. Which, I guess, is fine. Murakami essentially writes the same novels over and over, too, and I love him as much.
What’s different about DeLillo’s new book The Silence? Well, it’s not a novel, per se, even though it’s being marketed as one. It’s more the length of a long short story or a short novella. It’s also more like a couple of scenes from a longer novel or – better yet – a play (he’s written those, too) that isn’t finished. Maybe he had a deadline but didn’t feel like writing.
Another part of it (and, really, one of the reasons I generally can’t make it through his novels anymore) is that all of the characters sound exactly the same. That’s an issue with just about everything he writes, but in this tiny space, it’s magnified. If he doesn’t identify who’s talking, it’s easy to get characters mixed up.
Now for the plot part. This time, instead of some dude running away from the media, said media goes out. It just turns off. DeLillo isn’t clear if it’s just all media and communications or if all power is included. The whole situation is confusing. It’s mostly people in a room having conversations that are just parallel monologues or just standing up and talking. That’s it. Say that’s scene 2. Scene 1 is two of those characters on a plane that almost crashes because it loses communications and (maybe?) power. It could be an EMP, but there are no complaints of overnight darkness in the apartment building.
See what I mean? It doesn’t make much sense. There’s no story arc and no resolution. Instead of running away from media, the characters essentially become the media by reciting what the media would be saying. For instance, Max is hosting a football watch party when the media goes out. That includes TV, phones, etc, etc. So he stares at the TV and says what he imagines would be said including the commercials.
This “novel” is a big unfinished jumble. If you want to read DeLillo – seriously, it doesn’t sound like it here, but he’s one of America’s best living authors – read just about anything else he’s ever written. I suggest White Noise or Americana. I hear Underworld might be his best novel, but it’s huge and I haven’t made it through it. Maybe someday. Don’t waste your time here. I guess the publisher would accept anything DeLillo submitted just because of who he is. He’s 83 now, so maybe they’re worried about how many novels he has left in him?
I’ve read a lot of DeLillo, but this is the first time I’ve read something that’s objectively bad. And what’s weird is that it’s bad mainly because it’s not finished. It’s just a couple of scenes. DeLillo needs to suck it up and finish this novel or play and then submit it. Two scenes is only part of the story.
By the way, I asked Netgalley for an advance copy of this “novel” as soon as I heard of its existence because any new DeLillo excites me, so thanks to them. They love librarians, so I can usually get advance copies of whatever they have, which is nice. That pretty obviously didn’t affect my review here, which I’ll probably selectively copy and paste into the required Goodreads review.