Mao II is about words and images, novelists and terrorists, and is haunted by the intermingled spirits of such diverse figures as Andy Warhol, the master of emptiness, and Mao Zedong, the icon of a world of revolution. The action unfolds around Bill Gray, a reclsuive writer who escapes the failed novel he has been writing for many years, to enter ...
Mao II is about words and images, novelists and terrorists, and is haunted by the intermingled spirits of such diverse figures as Andy Warhol, the master of emptiness, and Mao Zedong, the icon of a world of revolution. The action unfolds around Bill Gray, a reclsuive writer who escapes the failed novel he has been writing for many years, to enter the world of political violence, Semtex explosives and hostages. Stranded by Bill's dangerous passage are his brilliant, fixated assistant, Scott, and the strange young woman who is Scott's - and Bill's - lover. The novel's pages are filled with powerful explosions of dark imagery - the Hilllsborough football disaster, the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini - and it begins and ends with two of the most extraordinary marriage ceremonies in contemporary writing. Mao II is no less than a book-length dispute between literature and political terror, a story that takes us from New York to London, to Athens, to the no-man's-land of Beirut - terror's modern republic.
"Years ago, I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture," says Bill Gray, DeLillo's protagonist. "Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness."
Of all contemporary American novelists, Don DeLillo has his finger on the Zeitgeist, a spooky ear for the electronic static that clings to and distracts our minds, an unerring antennae for the hidden structures of power behind the throne. His 1991 novel Mao II is one of his finest and eerily predictive of the dark world to come. It concerns itself with the cultish massmind, the terrorist as agent of consciousness, our image-saturated world, and our apocalyptic moment.
Crowds are ubiquitous in the novel: mass weddings at Yankee Stadium presided over by Rev. Sunmyung Moon, Tiananmen Square's democracy students, the Ayatollah Khomeini's funeral, soccer riots. Bill Gray is a novelist in seclusion (Salinger? Pynchon?) who is drawn into a world of political violence and perhaps becomes a sacrificial victim of the world he is obstructed from rendering in words. The beautiful drifters populate the novel: Scott, the novelist's assistant, an escaped Moonie, a photographer of writers.
The novel's title refers to an Andy Warhol print and its endless multiplication of images in which we find ourselves awash. Read DeLillo for the way we live now.
Publishers Weekly, 1992-05-11 This tale of a reclusive novelist drawn back into the world by acts of terrorism reconfirms DeLillo's status as a modern master and literary provocateur. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1991-04-12 Each of DeLillo's previous nine novels ( White Noise ; Libra ; etc.) has been a tour de force. This newest work is another remarkable achievement. It is almost as if DeLillo's words have value apart from the story they recount; sentences chill, scenes amaze, chapter endings reverberate, and the reader is transfixed. A reclusive novelist, Bill Gray, is drawn back into the world by acts of terrorism and by the visit of a woman who has come to photograph him for her ongoing and endless project to capture the images of the world's authors. Gradually, the novel, dense but accessible, concerns itself with the inevitable conflict between the power of the crowd and the power of the individual. Which is the motor of the world: The novelist, who may write alone in his room and yet affect masses? The terrorist, who is an individual working in concert with a larger movement which he may or may not control? The ``master'' who controls masses? (The lover of Gray's assistant has been a Moonie: the opening scene, a mass wedding, is a brilliant set piece). The beauty of DeLillo's prose enlivens such seemingly dry questions. Mao II reconfirms DeLillo's status as a modern master and literary provocateur. 75,000 first printing; BOMC selection; first serial to Esquire and Granta. (June)
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