cover image Mao II

Mao II

Don DeLillo. Viking Books, $19.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83904-9

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)