Sunday, August 08, 2010

DeLillo on writing

An interesting feature on Don DeLillo in today's Observer. DeLillo's approach to plotting is not to, not in any organised way, but rather to let the story tell itself. Speaking of Point Omega, he says: "I had no idea what would happen and absolutely no idea what would happen later on in the novel." This is the only way I can write. If I sit down and try to establish a plot I get completely stuck.

The writer of the piece, Robert McCrum, makes this observation:

After Underworld, an 800-page tour de force, DeLillo's career turned towards the miniature: The Body Artist (2001), Cosmopolis (2003), The Falling Man (2007) are much slighter books, a rallentando that suggests a writer moving inexorably into the minor key of old age. Not that you'd find this in the demeanour of DeLillo.

I think the conclusion that small equates to minor key and a gradual slowing down is an odd one. I haven't read Point Omega yet, but I've read the three McCrum mentions here, and I don't accept that they are the work of a man easing into comfortable old age. They are challenging - intellectually and in essence. Like Saul Bellow, whose short fiction I mentioned recently, small can be profoundly complex.

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