But I digress. Don LeLillo. Yes, drawn in by the dustcover and hooked with the mini summary outlined on the back. Yes, I shall give this a shot, I said to myself. And at first, I thought it was a brilliant piece of literature. And I think it's still too early in my digestion of its content to say otherwise. None the less, this novel was a difficult one to get through. It was kind of like biting into a tough steak - tasty, but full of tightly bound fibers that leave you chewing for ages; so much so, that in the end you swallow the chunk of it, more or less whole, just to be done with it. And then taking another bite, because you are going with the optimism that maybe, just maybe, the next piece will be better and you keep going this way until your plate is empty. Leaving you with a big ball of half-chewed gristle in your stomach.
This is what it felt like to read this novel. Not that there weren't some brilliant passages. Like this one: "Then I smiled at her foolishly and she answered with the unembellished look of a feeble nun who has begged successfully for money and found no hand quite willing to touch her own." A fantastically rendered description - I can actually feel what he's saying there. And then near the end of the book he offered up this fantastically tasty and easy to chew morsel: "When I came out of it, I was not even amazed at the ease with which I could put aside the previous night. It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams." How true. And DeLillo has this way of referencing pieces of literature of which I'm a huge fan; and I'm not sure if I love that about him or hate it. I can't decide whether it's a pretentious cop-out and that's where I get stuck on decided whether he's brilliant or just cheap shit. Because he does it so effortlessly; yet his descriptions are so consistently rich that they almost risk becoming an ongoing string of cliches, which is completely irritating. But at the same time, I can't decide if the references are vague enough to be a mark of genius, which just makes me angry with myself for being so wishy-washy about declaring a definitive opinion on the matter. Damn you, Don DeLillo! This is what I'm talking about here: "From this window I can see the ocean, far out, rocking in that blank angry sheen which foul weather sets upon all waters. Later I'll walk on the beach for an hour or so. If the weather has cleared by then I'll be able to see the coast of Africa, the great brown curve of that equatorial loin. But right now it is a pleasure to anticipate slipping once again (a paragraph hence) into a much more filmworthy period in my life. There will be no more fireworks when the century turns. There will be no agonies in the garden. Now that night beckons, the first lamp to be lit will belong to that man who leaps from a cliff and learns to fly, who soars to the tropics of the sun and uncurls his hand from his breast to spoon out fire. The sound of the ocean seems lost in its own exploding passion. I am wearing white flannel trousers." He is Prufrock, wondering whether he should part his hair from behind or eat a peach. And he is also Thompson noting the high water mark left by the 60s, looking into the horizon full of the wretched digression from love and daisies to war and napalm.
Certainly he encapsulates the feeling of borderline insanity in a fantastically believeable way - enough that it often left me feeling as if I was suffering from a bout of mild vertigo during certain passages. And like Hunter S. Thompson, he cleverly captured the appalling underbelly of America - the dirty truth beneath the flashy tinsel and tempting plastic that you want so desperately to believe in; that you almost have to believe in, just so you can survive knowing that, despite all the good things about the country, you belong to a country that puts on the face of happy persona to cover up the truth that it is entered into some sort of race, base and human, full of lust to succumb to the most primitive and carnal of desires.