Mao II

by Don DeLillo

Hardcover, 1991

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Viking (1991)

Description

Writer Bill Gray enters the world of political violence leaving his two friends stranded as hostages.

User reviews

LibraryThing member eshen
A fascinating read, with themes of capital excess, terrorism, and the media. The story centers mainly around Bill Gray, a fiction author, and the two assistants he lives with. Written in masterful prose with unrealistic, detached and philosophic dialog. All of DeLillo's works have this same sort of dialog-- it's a love it or hate it kind of thing, but don't assume it's out of laziness or inability to write proper dialog, it's fully intentional and only adds to the depth of symbolism the story has.

Although not DeLillo's best novel, it's definitely worth a read even if the themes are not as fleshed out as they could have been.
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LibraryThing member browner56
The set piece that opens Mao II establishes the tone of the novel perfectly: a huge crowd of people has gathered in the stands at Yankee Stadium to witness the mass wedding ceremony of 13,000 followers of the Korean cult leader, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The estranged parents of one young woman search despondently to find their daughter on the field, but she is anonymous in the midst of thousands of identically dressed brides who are standing next to the identically dressed grooms they barely know. The crowd, it seems, has swallowed the individual as the betrothed couples symbolically pledge their allegiance to both the movement and their Moonie master.

More intense scenes of crowds follow in this book that is as much about ideas and images as it is about plot and story. Several people are crushed to death at a soccer game as a horde of gate-crashers push the capacity of the stadium past its limits. A million people gather in a great square in the China beneath a portrait of Mao Zedong. A woman wanders through a New York City park that is overrun by a nameless, faceless throng of homeless people, trying to help in what little ways she can. Two individuals sit in the seclusion of an apartment and watch on television as hundreds of thousands mourn at the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini. As the author himself puts it: “The future belongs to crowds.”

The plot of Mao II embeds another of its provocative themes: how terrorists have supplanted the role of novelists to shock and capture the public’s collective imagination. Bill Gray is in self-imposed exile after his early success as a novelist made him a celebrated figure. Protected by a young assistant and his girlfriend—a deprogrammed Moonie—Gray has spent the last 23 years working a new book that he may never finish. Two events bring him out of isolation: the arrival of photographer obsessed with capturing the images of famous writers and a request from his former editor to aid in freeing a poet who is being held hostage by radical Maoist revolutionaries in the Middle East. The protagonist’s increasing involvement in the rescue attempt, along with the juxtaposition between the hostage and Gray himself, is the story line that drives the narrative.

This novel was written right after White Noise and Libra and immediately before Underworld, which places it squarely in the middle of the most productive part of Don DeLillo’s lengthy and remarkable career. Although Mao II lacks some of the depth and complexity (and even some of the dark humor) of those other works, it is still a compelling piece of fiction that challenges the reader throughout. DeLillo is masterful when it comes to embedding captivating thoughts into taut, well-crafted sentences. He is also frequently prophetic. The terror motif the defines this work anticipated both the Oklahoma City bombing and September 11th by several years; in fact, his occasional descriptions of the twin towers are simply haunting. More than a quarter-century after its publication, this remains relevant story-telling.
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LibraryThing member ben_a
I bought this five days ago, and am about 100 pages in. My impressions: Finely written, closely observed, jam-packed with thought, and I doubt I am going to finish it. So far the gears are moving brilliantly, but they have not connected with any mechanism that makes me care. The characters are alienated, their relationship to anything outside themselves remote. (1.31.2007)

So I finished it. Thanks largely to a couple of long plane rides. Either I called it early or I was a prisoner of my early bias, but it did run to type. It didn't end with a bang, or a whimper, but more of the slow hiss of air escaping from a punctured balloon. The initial scene is a marvel, depicting a Reverend Moon mass marriage in Yankee stadium while the narration flickers from the consciousness of one of the "brides" to a 3rd person observation of her desolate parents watching from the grandstand. There are many virtuoso set pieces like this, many quick sharp asides like the recitation of of brands (Midori, Kirin , Suntory) which becomes an "esperanto of jetlag." Yet nothing -- or not enough -- connects these elements. They remain alone, disjointed, like the hooded hostage in the Beirut basement. Perhaps this is the point, but gears that mesh and move without making a change are not part of the mechanism.
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LibraryThing member gazzy
Amazing detail to characters is to me DeLillo's gift, and plot is unnecessary as the reader is merely following these people around.
LibraryThing member strandbooks
This is the first novel I've read by Don DeLillo. I thought the characters and plot was good, but the dialogue was unbelievable. Every character, whether it was the reclusive writher, the Moonie girl, the cosmopolitan photographer and even the terrorist at the end, had the same way of speaking. Since it is not like any sort of real life dialogue I think it was even more obvious. Here's an example from the beginning:

"Whire I live, okay, there's a rooftop chaos, a jumble, four, five, six, seven storeys, and it's water tanks, laundry lines, antennas, belfries, pigeon lofts, chimney pots, everyting human about the lower island--little crouched gardens, statuary, painted signs. And I wake up to this and love it and depend on it. But it's all being flattened and hauled away so they can build their towers"

On a side note I found it eerie that a book written in 1991 that does have a sub plot regarding terrorism also mentions the Twin Towers multiple times. One of the characters hates them and it comes up throughout the book.
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LibraryThing member angelovesposito
I love this author and his insights but I do noy always understand where it is going. I read this after White Noise and I will some more of his books.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
I wasn't sure what to make of DeLillo's work when I first read it. There were so many strands to juggle, and all of them seemed to cry out so loud for my attention. I didn't know where to look without being told, or what to think without clear signposting.

It was perhaps the first properly "modern" book I read, and I still think of it sometimes, now that I'm more comfortable with that world.… (more)
LibraryThing member darwin.8u
This book made me no longer want to just read. It made me want to be a writer. Although not his absolute best fiction, it does belong in the top tier of Delillo's work.
LibraryThing member KRaySaulis
When you read this book read each chapter twice. Read it once in your head and get the visuals. Then read it out loud. Taste the words. There is poetry here.

I wish there were a few less "talking heads" however I think he did this because the flow is so strong and the rhythm would be broken by "she said" and "he laughed."

There's just something about the word choice and the repetition, especially toward the end, that you have to say out loud even if you're standing alone at the front desk of the hotel you work in... which I am...
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
This is a Typical DeLillo - which is by no means bad. On the contrary.

First, I'd like to say that DeLillo's writing style is as ornate and expressive as ever.

This is more of a rambling discussion, a loose connection of thoughts on crowds, mass movements, the Unification Church, writers, New York, baseball, terrorism, and post-modernism. Sometimes DeLillo goes for multi-page conversations, and sometimes for little aphorisms which you can repeat to impress your friends and sound wise.

Again, the usual caveat with DeLillo: it's not really a novel so much as it is a collection of elements with the most tenuous connection of plot. It may almost tempt you to call it 'dull' and give up, but then you're jerked awake by a turn of phrase or insight. His musings on crowds and mass movements are intensely fascinating. The Ayatollah and Mao and Reverend Moon scenes are probably the best in the book.

So if you're a devotee or dewy-eyed admirer, go right ahead.
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LibraryThing member DinoReader
There is a review by "Brad" dated January 15, 2010 that is very good and sums up how I feel and discusses the themes well.

I did like White Noise better; I thought Mao II was spotty.
LibraryThing member devandecicco
When I was a kid, and perhaps even to this day, I believed that Bob Dylan had all the answers. A whole generation of good-intentioned folkie-activists and beatniks thought the same I suppose. The point being is that too often we put all our hope in writers, as if they will reveal everything to us. Mao II explores the cult of personality around the writer; how worship of something/someone can be analogous to terrorism or cult worship. It takes many twists and turns around this idea, revealing how broken and suffering the life of a writer can be. It only becomes more confusing when you add a really odd sexual relationship to it. Highly recommended to anyone who is fascinated by artists...a little too much.… (more)
LibraryThing member devandecicco
When I was a kid, and perhaps even to this day, I believed that Bob Dylan had all the answers. A whole generation of good-intentioned folkie-activists and beatniks thought the same I suppose. The point being is that too often we put all our hope in writers, as if they will reveal everything to us. Mao II explores the cult of personality around the writer; how worship of something/someone can be analogous to terrorism or cult worship. It takes many twists and turns around this idea, revealing how broken and suffering the life of a writer can be. It only becomes more confusing when you add a really odd sexual relationship to it. Highly recommended to anyone who is fascinated by artists...a little too much.… (more)

Language

Original language

English

Local notes

Signed by the author

Barcode

5533
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