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on 7 June 2001
This is one of DeLillo's early books which seem to get little of the attention heaped on his more recent efforts post-White Noise. However, along with 'The Names' this is one of his best, with his characteristic love of language already fully formed.
In this case the comparison he makes is between the language of American football, and that of nuclear holocaust - an idea that reappears in the first section of 'Underworld'. As a geeky Brit I know next to nothing about American sports, so it must be a testament to DeLillo's talents as a literary stylist that I remained fascinated by the often lengthy descriptions of games.
The most fascinating aspect, however, is the examination of nuclear language. DeLillo's insights into the hinterlands of late 70s detente are profound, and pre-date respected postmodern critiques which are seen as intellectual masterpieces.
None of this should take away anything from the fact that this is a great read - full of humour and the joy of language.
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VINE VOICEon 12 November 2010
I'm a big DeLillo fan.

He's one of my favourite authors, Underworld is in my top ten favourite books.

I'm a huge admirer of his style of writing, his world view, his intelligence and the way he can craft poignant and moving novels around big ideas.

To date I have enjoyed every one of his books that I've read. So I picked up End Zone expecting the same.

It began okay, the style is intact, the control of language, the big idea. But somehow the novel just doesn't hold together.

By the end I was annoyed and disappointed with it.

Gary Harkness is a college American football player who over a season becomes obsessed with the possibility of nuclear war. The football becomes a metaphor for combat, the complicated plays become military maneouvers and Gary devours book after book about the man made apocalypse.

All familiar DeLillo territory. But End Zone falls short. There are stylistic blips, strange chapter structures, verbatim reproduction of lectures that run to 3 or 4 pages and have none of his sparkle, could be copied from textbooks. And whilst this book is funnier than most of his (White Noise excluded), the central metaphor is contrived and nowhere near as effortless as I would expect from DeLillo. The surrealism seems forced and self-conscious. The dialogue doesn't fit with the characters, the scenes have no cause and effect, just a series of vignettes tagged together.

Maybe the problem is one of translation, American football is unfathomable to my English mind. Maybe it doesn't seen as pertinent now cold war is just a memory and we've got different universal fears. But either way End Zone just doesn't ring true in the way I expect from a DeLillo novel.

This is an odd book, almost as if a lesser talent was trying to write a DeLillo book and not quite getting it right and left me empty.
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on 10 May 2015
The story looks simple - protagonist Gary Harkness decides to go to Logos College in West Texas to focus on his football. But DDL has already announced his real intentions here as Logos is "the rational principle that governs and develops the universe", or, theologically, "the divine word or reason incarnate in Christ", echoes of which are to be found in various characters finding spiritual relief in the desert surrounding the institution. And, yes, readers, this is enough to signify that we are being set up for another glorious philosophical spoof (think The Names and White Noise) by a writer whose prose flashes like forked lightning across the night sky, throwing familiar concepts into vividly transformed relief and getting us to think differently about them. Part Two, for example, is an impressionistic account of a college football game and, as in the brilliant opening section of Underworld describing a baseball match, DDL's language in describing the dynamics of sport is peerless - what a journalist was lost to us by his decision to become an author - though what a writer we gained. "Much of the appeal of sport derives from its dependence on elegant gibberish," observes our man with customary asperity. Mr DeLillo, much of the appeal of your fiction derives from the exact same thing. Stunning stuff!
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on 28 July 1998
Please read this novel if you are interested in current American fiction. Delillo is an excellent writer, and this novel provides a great introduction to his style.
Read this book if you like humor, football, language, words, life and death. It is well worth your 10 bucks and 4 hours.
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on 18 July 2015
For someone who knows virtually nothing about American football this wasn’t an easy novel for me to read. The only two Delillo novels I hadn’t read were this and Americana, his first and I’m determined to complete the set. I think it was Martin Amis who said that when we say we love an author we generally mean we love half of the novels written by them. This is certainly true for me with regards DeLillo. I hated Ratner’s Star and was left indifferent by Point Omega, Cosmopolis and Players. However Underworld, Mao 2, White Noise and Libra are all among my favourite novels of all time.
This was Delillo’s second novel and there’s a sense of him straining to find his stride and voice. The mesmerising urban lyricism of his middle period is not quite on display here. There are, though, several of his favourite motifs – most prevailingly his use of jargon to create an atmosphere of misinformation, disenchantment and detachment. “The pattern match begins with a search for a substring of a given string that has a specified structure in the string manipulation language”
It’s essentially a novel about power. The yearning to acquire power and the means available to us for acquiring it nowadays. The central character is a star running back for a collegiate football team. He’s ambivalent in his strivings for power. He has a penchant for self-destruction. For sabotaging his prospects. Football, like war, is a power struggle of synchronised strategy, bluffed manoeuvres, ordered systems of advancement and a constant parallel is both drawn up and deconstructed in the novel between football and war. “War is the ultimate realization of modern technology. For centuries men have tested themselves in war. War was the final test, the great experience, the privilege, the honour, the self-sacrifice or what have you, the absolutely ultimate determination of what kind of man you were. War was the great challenge and the great evaluator. It told you how much you were worth. But it’s different today. Few men want to go off and fight. We prove ourselves, our manhood, in other ways, in making money, in skydiving, in hunting mountain lions with bow and arrow, in acquiring power of one kind or another. And I think we can forget ideology”
The central female character is massively and purposefully overweight. She is wilfully renouncing the power of her beauty. “It’s hard to be beautiful. You have an obligation to people. You almost become public property. You can lose yourself and get almost mentally disturbed on just the public nature of being beautiful. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. You can get completely lost in that whole dumb mess. And anyway who’s to say what’s beautiful and what’s ugly?”
One hugely memorable scene is an impromptu game of football played in driving snow. There’s a lot of humour and wilful absurdity (one character is learning by heart Rilke’s Duino elegies in the original despite not knowing a word of German; another collects insects).
I’m finding this is one of those novels that seems much richer and cleverer in retrospect when I think about it than it did while reading it.
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on 28 September 2009
If you like Don De Lillo, you will enjoy this light, surreal novel about American brutality. Conflating football and nuclear war makes some sense, and the characters seem like domestic versions of Joseph Heller's Catch 22, moved to the early 1970's. It is not as good as classic De Lillo from more recent days, but is still well above the average literary novel for its wit and themes. Good, but not great.
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on 8 December 2012
People complain that End Zone is a slight novel but its all the better for it in my opinion...short, funny chapters in that trademark DeLillo style. Also had a huge influence on Infinite Jest.
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on 23 January 2016
All the deep thinking, wit and observations of his other books, but put together in a more perfectly readable form than elsewhere.
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on 11 January 1997
This is my favorite book. I have read most of DeLillo's other books and found them to be everything form pompous to strained to boring. But this is a gem. It is not a sports book and while I'm sure a lot of people would want to intellectualize about it, I loved it because it is just plain funny. Unlike some of his other books, DeLillo seems to let himself go and fully explore what has to be a marvelous if somewhat bizarre imagination. I'd describe it but you wouldn't believe it if I did.
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