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Not up to his usual standard
on 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.