The Angel Esmeralda

By Don DeLillo

(Scribner, $24, 224 pages)

Who is this author?

“Don DeLillo makes some people’s brains ache,” says a reviewer for The Guardian. That may be true, but reading him is worth taking that chance, say his many fans and literary prize juries, who have awarded him such honors as the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, American Book Award and many others.

A Bronx boy, Fordham University graduate and erstwhile advertising copywriter, DeLillo has been writing for more than 40 years, and his novels (some would say masterpieces) include “White Noise,” his 1985 breakthrough book about a college professor and his family in the Midwest after a toxic accident, “Libra” and “Underworld.” He’s also a playwright and essayist.

His explorations of contemporary life pinpoint how banal our culture can be, and his work has been acknowledged as influential by such admired younger writers as David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen.

What is this book about?

DeLillo sets these stories everywhere from Manhattan to the West Indies to outer space, but they all have to do with people feeling trapped: on an island in the Caribbean that visitors cannot leave, in a spaceship orbiting earth before launching their weapons — “the banning of nuclear weapons has made the earth safe for war” – and in the violent world of the South Bronx. They show the development of his style from jazz-inflected flights in the early work to the spare and powerful expression of his more recent stories. His characters include astronauts and terrorists, athletes and nuns, teenagers obsessed with a stranger and stranded tourists.

Why you’ll like it:

DeLillo’s big novels are amazing works, but if you are a newcomer to his writing, “The Angel Esmeralda” offers you what amounts to a crash course in his style and subjects and a chance to find out whether you’d like his longer books. If you are already a fan, it offers short but powerful explorations of the themes you found compelling in his novels.

What others are saying:

 “His prose is masterly and austere, he has a deconstructionist’s obsession with the arbitrariness of language, and his interest in human beings often seems less a matter of passionate engagement than of clinical detachment,” says the Washington Post.

“All of these pieces possess the same cunning, grace and laser-guided prose of his novels, and touch on the great DeLillo themes,” says author Sam Lipsyte.

Says the Los Angeles Times: “It’s as if in putting together “The Angel Esmeralda” DeLillo had decided to construct a primer, a guidebook to his literary life. More to the point is that in this collection, as in his novels, DeLillo challenges us to see a world defined by our projections, a world in which the only reality is the one we create. “

When is it available?

It’s available now at the Hartford Public Library. 

Do you have something to say about this book, this author or books in general? Please post your comments here and I will respond. Let’s get a good books conversation going!

Comments are closed.