Mao II by Don DeLillo

I’ve read almost all of DeLillo’s novels. I didn’t enjoy this one. It’s about a famous novelist who has gone into seclusion, like J. D. Salinger. There are three other principal characters: a young man and woman who live with the novelist and work as his assistants, and a woman who is devoting her career to taking photographs of writers and is given the unexpected opportunity to photograph the famous but mysterious author.

The four characters come and go throughout the novel. There’s a flashback in which the young woman is married at Yankee Stadium under the auspices of the Unification Church. She later ministers to the homeless in New York City. The young man spends most of his time organizing the novelist’s papers. The novelist agrees to travel to London, and then to Greece, in a strange attempt to free a hostage being held by terrorists in Beirut. The novel ends with the photographer visiting one of the same terrorists to take his picture. She has moved on from photographing writers.

DeLillo’s language is poetic, as usual, but there doesn’t seem to be much point to this book. The people all talk the same, in DeLillo’s own style. Observations, often unclear or inaccurate, are made about the modern world. There are long, repetitious scenes in which nothing of interest happens. Mao II won a literary award in 1992. I would have voted for something else.  (1/15/12)

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