Mao II

ISBN: 0140152741
ISBN 13: 9780140152746
By: Don DeLillo

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About this book

"One of the most intelligent, grimly funny voices to comment on life in present-day America" (The New York Times), Don DeLillo presents an extraordinary new novel about words and images, novelists and terrorists, the mass mind and the arch-individualist. At the heart of the book is Bill Gray, a famous reclusive writer who escapes the failed novel he has been working on for many years and enters the world of political violence, a nightscape of Semtex explosives and hostages locked in basement rooms. Bill's dangerous passage leaves two people stranded: his brilliant, fixated assistant, Scott, and the strange young woman who is Scott's lover--and Bill's.

Reader's Thoughts


I could feel DeLillo grappling with something important as I read this book, trying to deliver something profound, and that feeling made me want to press on, to see where he was going, even though I found most of his narrative a slog.There were astounding moments. The funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini was gorgeous prose. The discussion between Bill and George about the power of the terrorist to affect change was tense and convincing. Karen's time in the homeless shantytown was poetic and always shifting. But nothing in Mao II was easy; DeLillo made us work for every piece of wonder he embedded in his text. And along with these moments of genius was the promise of something profound pushing me on.DeLillo fulfilled his promise to me, but considering the myriad opinions concerning what Mao II was about, I am sure what I found profound is only one possibility.So here's what Mao II was about for me: insignificance. Not the usual evocation of existential nihilism, but a workable insignificance in the face of our search for impossible significance. It wasn't telling us to give up because there is no meaning, but telling us to simply recognize that whatever meaning we find for ourselves is significant for that and nothing else. DeLillo engages with issues and artifacts and concepts that our culture endows with the illusion of significance: architecture, the world trade center, terrorism and terror, belief, love, belief in love, religion, home and homelessness, art, the artist, photography, great men, and writing. Yes, even writing. All of it is insignificant beyond ourselves. And the search for significance in these things is equally insignificant. It's a subtle shift from the nihilist perspective that nothing means anything, but the shift is a profound one (even if DeLillo is only adding to the voices of those who've already spoken about this possibility). It was the pay off I was hoping for. I am only sorry that it wasn't enough to make me love this book. I wanted to love Mao II. But I'll have to cope with simply admiring it and its author. I've been afraid to engage with DeLillo. His reputation is daunting, and so are the issues he tackles. But now that I've begun I am confident that somewhere in his body of work is a book I will love as much as I admire this one. I hope that book is Libra.


On the one hand, DeLillo would appear to care more about the sentence as an art form than anyone I can think of this side of Donald Barthelme (and let's be clear: Barthelme might have cared as much as DeLillo does, but I don’t think he could do some of the things DeLillo seems to do almost instinctively –– certainly not over the course of whole novels).And yet, in the early stages of many DeLillo books you get preposterous crap like this:"He wanted to fuck her loudly on a hard bed with rain beating on the windows. Please Jesus let me work. Every book is a bug-eyed race, let's face it. Must finish. Can't die yet. He struck enough keys to make a sentence and thought about going down to say goodbye to her but it would only embarrass them both. Got what she came for, didn't she? I'm a picture now, flat as birdshit on a Buick."So I've got a theory: In order to be the Don DeLillo who doesn’t apply his hypertalent for word and phrase to this kind of overwrought silliness, he needs to be operating within a conceptual arena appropriate to his particular set of gifts (which I guess I’d provisionally describe as on the one hand a relentless impulse to impose nomenclatural order, to use language as a kind of basket in which what we know of experience can be perfectly arranged {i.e. precision}; but on the other an uncanny capacity to send those blade-tipped sentences lancing into regions of experience that are ordinarily impervious to probe, to use language as a weapon that opens up the obscure {exploration? illumination?} {as I read it, The Names is in some respects a meta-meditation on DeLillo’s own obsession with language as both tool of demystification and portal into further mystery}), otherwise he seems to slip into the kind of sonorous wheel-spinning for which less enthusiastic readers sometimes take him to task. At his best, DeLillo is simultaneously a lyric poet and a philosopher of the postmodern age, arraying the expression of his far-ranging thought as a jewelry store’s worth of sentence-gems –– but he isn’t always at his best. My theory (and in interviews DeLillo has nearly said as much) is that he needs to write his way into knowing what he wants to write about. So a typical book can take fifty or a hundred pages to warm itself up. Sometimes –– as in, for instance, White Noise –– this kind of pre-game calisthenics can be quite entertaining: the miniature set-pieces on campus and in Gladney’s home are of course quite funny, though that book’s first part only hints at the shape the whole novel will ultimately take. Sometimes –– as in Mao II and, to a lesser extent, The Names –– the wait for DeLillo to get going is kind of a drag. But pace a substanceless parody I once read on McSweeney’s website, DeLillo rewards the reader’s patience with genuine vision, the latter stages of every novel I’ve read (six now, and counting) ascend into series of skywalks lined with windows opening onto pure mystery, and until I come to the end of a novel unaltered, I will continue to work through his oeuvre (maybe omitting The Body Artist, which I’ve heard from a number of sources is pretty unequivocally bad) even if it means wading through the occasional “Please Jesus let me work.”


I'm in kind of a DeLillo hangover, where the images and ideas are still raw in my brain, and they kind of hurt, but I am better for having read them. In Mao II, DeLillo delves into the world of a renowned author and later links him to terrorism, drawing a comparison between writers and terrorists as societal participants. He is also concerned with the crowd as a cultural function or force. DeLillo's cultural commentary is prescient and spot-on. His observations are unspoken universal truths and when coupled with his incredible, dense imagery, they are discomforting, to the point that at times I had to put the book down and take a breath to curb physical manifestations of anxiety. Yeah, his dialogue is stilted, but that has never bothered me that much. To me, it is meta-dialogue, dialectical in function. I can't describe the effect DeLillo has on me, except to say that he makes me look at the world differently.

Gregory Frye

This is a strange book. Valuable truths and insights. Existentialism before plot. Pregnant sentences before plot. Of course, you don't read Don DeLillo necessarily for plot, do you? Not to say there is no plot. You read him because he is a master of the craft, his sentences are whispers in your ear. In your heart. This is how good novels are supposed to be. With enough room for interpretation. Like a poem about recluse writers who don't want to publish anymore, terrorists weary of Western influence, Mao Zedong from guerrilla wilderness tactics to complete, uniform revolution free of outside voices. Echoes from that Beatles song, pop hiss of analog sound. Picture Chairman Mao. What would Andy Warhol say?


"...but all the bursts are in one spot and there is no sound."


What can you say? This is a good collection of situations and ideas. It might be the most digestible dose of DeLillo. (Most people would say White Noise, but this is more serious, however you want to take that.) It's not a great story, but there are interesting moments. The opening, set in a baseball stadium, is excellent, maybe even superior to the baseball stadium opening of Underworld, because it's less labored. Yeah, this might even be my favorite DeLillo. It's good to read him when you're writing, because he takes such care with his sentences, but they're not so showy that a particular style will rub off on you. Towards the end you get that sinking feeling that he hasn't actually been steering this ship at all, that he's going to let it crash rather than put any of the pieces together. In the early 90's, was this thought of as a refreshingly honest approach to narrative?

Alan Chen

I really like the way the novel began: Bill is a reclusive writer a la J.D. Salinger, Scott his uber fan turn secretary and Karen the ex-moonie are 3 people who live together and are interdependent upon each other. Their back stories are fleshed out when Brita comes to photograph the author. It begins with Delillo's usual quirkiness but seems to go in a traditional narrative where the story expands as we get to know the characters and we develop a sense of who these people are. Then, in a little past the middle of the novel Bill takes off on it's own and the rest of the novel becomes much more experimental fiction. Bill becomes ever more zany and there's a crazy plot by some leftists in Beirut where they seek attention by capturing a writer and Bill decides to go to take his place of him. Karen wanders off in New York and waxes philosophical while acting like she's on psychedelics and Scott becomes OCD in creating lists while waiting for Bill to come back. I'm annoyed that the main characters I enjoy so much in the first half of the book become, well weird, without any foundating-building that led up to it. I still enjoyed the novel, I appreciate Delillo for his style and big ideas, hence the 4-stars. If someone is going to ramble about the human psyche I rather it be a talent like his. "Fear has it's own ego, hasn't it?""We all know how the thing we secretly fear is not a secret at all but the open and eternal thing that predicts its own recurrence."


Mao II tells the very postmodern story of a postmodern writer, his postmodern assistant who keeps the old man afloat, and the very postmodern pyschoward who lives with both the men and once got hitched in a mass-marriage ceremony while a member of the Unification Church.Bill, the writer, is a recluse; did I mention that? Yea, he’s like your Thomas Pynchon/Salinger type writer who loves being far away from anyone and everyone. Well one day Bill is photographed by a photojournalist named Brita. And well, you know, stuff happens from there. This whole plot is spliced with musings on idolization of world leaders, the horde mentality, writing, death (lots of death), and themes in DeLillo’s transcendent prose.Don’t be mislead by the flippancy; I really enjoyed this novel. I really enjoyed the writing style, the characters and trying to figure out just what in the heck DeLillo is getting at here, and I really like DeLillo (it’s no Underworld though). I know the preceding sentence seemed like a paragraph from a high school lit-term paper, but I don’t apologize cuz I read the book


Mao II is second book I have read of Don DeLillo's after White Noise. As with WN, most of the characters are rather impenetrible, larger-than-life characters who are all fascinating in their own rights. They serve to evoke thematic imagery and aver sweeping socio-political statements rather than to generate sympathy, and to this end, serve the plot well for this is a book of grand ideas: being seen and hiding, the formation and sublimation of identity, public consciousness, Mao-esque con-formity, terrorism, and religious cults. From a composition standpoint, many passages and sections are brilliant and riviting, but the dialogue between the icy characters is often over-blown, awkward, and sometimes unintentionally laughable. Thankfully, aside from one stunningly long conversation between self-sequestered novelist Bill Gray and photographer Brita, these are kept to a minimum. The plot is eliptical and occilates between spheres of the inner and outer worlds of persona. Mao II leaves you a little breathless and is worth reading slowly to tease out the nuances of DeLillo's provocative social critique.


Bill Gray lleva quince años escribiendo su tercera novela. Reescribiéndola, corrigiéndola una y otra vez y convenciéndose en cada oportunidad de que no está lista para publicarse, a pesar de que ya está terminada. Es un escritor de culto, enfermo, alcoholizado, con predilección por ciertas drogas, conocido por el aura de misterio que envuelve su figura —hace décadas que no se publica una fotografía suya— y por el poder de una obra breve, pero contundente. Vive en una cabaña a la que sólo se puede acceder con su autorización y la ayuda de su asistente Scott que junto a Karen (una muchacha con un traumático pasado), son los únicos acompañantes de este recluido escritor.Brita Nilsson, una fotógrafa que ha escogido como objetivo único de su lente a escritores —parte de un proyecto inacabable—, se dirige a fotografiar al más ansiado de sus especímenes. Bill Gray sostiene con ella una profunda charla sobre la naturaleza del retrato y sus connotaciones, mientras ella agota varios carretes intentando capturar la imagen que busca. A Bill le piden que colabore en la liberación de un rehén suizo que se encuentra en manos de un grupo maoísta en Beirut. Al principio la ayuda es simbólica (dar unas lecturas en solidaridad al rehén), sin embargo Bill es convencido de que para salvarlo debe comprometerse por completo. Es entonces cuando se inicia un viaje que lo llevará a cruzar las fronteras de la seguridad occidental, un camino suicida en el que no tendrá ninguna garantía.Asistimos a varias historias paralelas, Scott y Karen viven, cada uno a su particular y obsesiva manera, la ausencia de Bill. Scott se embarca en la clasificación pormenorizada de los archivos de Bill en la cabaña que bulle de papeles acumulados en toda una vida de trabajo compulsivo y descubre un secreto de la juventud del escritor. Karen se interna en los rincones más sórdidos de la Gran Ciudad y se rodea de un grupo de marginales que le permitirán ver un cuadro más amplio de la naturaleza humana.Las multitudes juegan un papel importante desde el inicio de la novela. Las observamos reunidas en distintos lugares del planeta y a través de la televisión, —“el futuro pertenece a las masas”, dice el final del prólogo— como una metáfora constante de la pérdida de identidad, el individuo desintegrado en una masa irracional, que se conduce por los impulsos de la emoción y desconoce los principios de la razón. Una dura crítica a los regímenes totalitarios que buscan desaparecer las ideas del individuo y reemplazarlas por el dogma del líder, que impone su imagen, su efigie a todo lo que lo rodea y se vuelve más poderoso que cualquier concepto o idea.La analogía que hace el autor entre los escritores y terroristas es también muy interesante, la influencia que tienen ahora los últimos comparada con la que alguna vez tuvieron los primeros (o todavía la tienen, como fue el caso de la fatwa que el ayatolá Jomeini promulgó contra Salman Rushdie por Los versos satánicos dos años antes de que se publicara Mao II). DeLillo nos entrega en esta novela una profunda reflexión sobre la naturaleza del individuo y su autonomía y sobre las masas y la alienación que representan, con una precisión estilística que hace pensar en cada uno de sus párrafos como en una obra de relojería.


I once read an interview with DeLillo, where he claimed that he often liked to change or rearrange words in his sentences for the sound or effect it created, even if it ended up changing the meaning of the sentence entirely. For me, this just smacks of irresponsibility for someone held in such high literary esteem, and demonstrates his overriding pretentiousness as a novelist.The characters in this novel speak without any realism, seeming to communicate only in profound aphorisms to pound home the message of the book, and not one of them is at all likeable. I struggled on with it until I got about two-thirds of the way through, when I realised that I didn't care about any of them, or anything that happened to them, and thus it would be pointless to continue reading. Even when I skipped to the end to find out the fate of the "reclusive writer" Bill Gray, I still wasn't at all moved.The only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because I'd heard the character was based on JD Salinger, but then Salinger's own work has so far failed to grab me in any real way, so maybe that should have been an indicator. I have yet to read a good book by DeLillo, though I have since seen worse examples of his work in "The Body Artist" - and I know it's a minor point, but Bill Gray, as a character name? Surely someone of DeLillo's stature can come up with something a little more imaginative than that...


The final sequence of Mao II’s prologue explicitly states one of the major themes of this dense and klaedioscopic novel, “The future belongs to crowds”. The prologue, probably the most engaging section of the novel, describes a Unification church mass wedding at Yankee Stadium through the eyes of dislocated parents searching for their daughter in amongst the mass of Moonies. It is a thematic firework that echoes throughout the rest of the novel. Mao II is a book filled with crowds, from the walk through a teeming park in New York to the mourners at the Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral, if this had been a sociological paper then it would have been an investigation on collective identity at its most obscure. The imagery and description of the crowds that De Lillo employs is quite amazing at times, he brings a chaotic and breathless tone to the real historic events that he crafts into the narrative, the funeral of Khomeini, in particular, is a masterclass of authorial illustration. Mao II feels like an attempt at a state of the nation novel, written in 1991; however, perhaps the most lasting impression that the narrative left on me was the uncomfortably predictive nature of the novel, the mass hysteria of crowds when faced with historically important events and the move towards the inevitable war on terror. Mao II has perhaps gained importance that it did not have when released, because in a post 9/11 world, the nature of terrorism, as discussed in Mao II becomes something more vital to understand, and De Lillo askance writing offers no solutions.De Lillo’s customary flat dialogue and humourous eye for a detail is very much part of the mix here, however, the book is slight on characterisation, the main character acts predominantly as a defined counterpoint to crowd behaviour and his solitude seems very much in keeping with the prevalent theme of the novel. However, he never convinces as real, nor does he ever become particularly interesting. It is flaw, for me, in what is otherwise a startling novel.


I had pretty high expectations before starting it, as I have seen some extremely appreciative articles about him and his books. I expected a novel in the style of contemporary realism. Instead I got a novel full of interminable descriptions, lack of actual events and also centered on characters thoughts. Just the type of literature that I don't like.The premise is hard to find. DeLillo probably wanted to write this novel in order to draw attention to several events from contemporary history that are unrelated. Taken together, the author thought that they may stand up for something, but I was unable to understand what was that. Especially as the characters seem not to be affected in any way by these events. This is why I will give it a 1.Regarding the form, I liked three descriptions: the opening scene of a mass marriage of several thousands people from a religious group held on Yankee Stadium, the scenes from Beirut during Lebanese Civil War and the Tienanmen protests. But the rest of the novel was not at all interesting for me. Especially the dialogues were extremely poor as all characters spoke alike and it was pretty hard to follow it. I will rate it with another 1 for form, as I cannot ignore the important flaws for the sake of the couple good written pages.In terms of originality, without being totally new, I believe the novel was pretty original, in terms of the 3 main events described and in terms of the approach used to incorporate these unrelated events in a story with minimal connections to these events themselves. Even though it had some originality, I do not think that in this context this was a good thing. This is why I will give it a 3 for the level of originality.In terms of characters, I believe they are all just voices of the author, without too many distinguishable features. So I will rate it with a 1.Regarding the complexity and difficulty, I must acknowledge that this novel was probably pretty difficult to write. And perhaps it ended up being so complex that I am unable to understand it thoroughly. So I will rate it with a 3 for complexity and difficulty, thinking that perhaps there is more hidden under the surface that I was not able to reach to.In terms of credibility, there aren't too many debatable things in this novel. The 3 historical events I already mentioned are basically described journalistic like. Besides them there is only the Bill Gray story. As described in the synopsis he is a writer that has published only two novels severla years back from the present time, and works now on his third novel for few decades without managing to finish it. His story contains few facts but out of them, his self imposed isolation seems the least credible. Taking all into account my rating for credibility is 4.The last criteria is edition. I enjoyed this little book published back in 1997 that I was still able to find in bookshops last year when I bought it. The paper was slightly too grey and it started to smell like some of my older books. Aside from that, I also was not able to understand the cover connection with the content. This are the reasons why I will rate it with a 2.To summarize, I could not relate the story of Bill Gray (that anyhow has no actual conflict closure) with the 3 historical events I already mentioned are also present in the novel. Maybe just the point that contemporary literature ignores important contemporary events, but I don't believe it at all. All in all, my final rating for the novel is 2.14, which I will round it to a 2 on Goodreads system.+--------------------------+-----------------+| Criteria | Rating |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Premise | 1 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Form | 1 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Originality | 3 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Characters | 1 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Difficulty/Complexity | 3 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Credibility | 4 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Edition | 2 |+--------------------------+-----------------+|Total | 2.14 |+--------------------------+-----------------+For more details on how I rated and reviewed this novel, please read these guidelines.


Images, both static and moving have been a recurrent motif with Don DeLillo. (In many of his works you have a character seeing the grainy images on TV with the volume turned down in a dark room) .In 'Mao II', he combines them with the themes of cults, crowds and creates a disturbing and unsettling work. Bill Gray, author of 2 acclaimed books has been living as a recluse for the last 20 odd years. Working on a uncompleted novel the whole time, never satisfied with his output, living in a secluded place in anonymity, a place haunted by words, Bill himself is possessed by words that occupy his entire existence but seem to elude him the more he tries to grasp them to make sense of his novel and indeed his life. One of his pet peeves about the position of novelists in society is"There's a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorists.Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated."Living with him are Scott his assistant who was a restless wanderer until he read Bill's works and managed to track him down and Karen, a former member of a religious cult, now deprogrammed. All 3 of them are restless in their own way and have formed a curious bond that enables them to live together in anonymity. This spell is broken when Brita a photographer whose mission to photograph as much writers as possible, is allowed to take photos of Bill. During the photo session she passes on a message from Bill's old friend which sets of a train of events which results in the unraveling of their lives, including Brita.DeLillo's works are as much about ideas as they are about the characters and their motivations, indeed in some cases the ideas are what drive the novel. Here he brings together visuals, crowds and cults which may seem disparate at first glance but are actually linked closely together. When one talks of cult whether it is religious, terrorists, or sports based, they are all recognized by a leader. What better way to imprint the leader into the consciousnesses of the cult members other than photos or television images. Once the images are imprinted, the cult swells and becomes a crowd and there is a loss of individualism. DeLillo shows us searing images of huge crowds, whether it be in the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, or at Tienanmen square, the mass wedding in the prologue or the thousands of homeless at a park that Karen sees each of them has the power to shift our perspectives. An to prove the power of visuals, the crowds at the Khomeini funeral and Tienanmen square are see in the television, but they still have the power to move you and as Karen wonders"..if millions watched, if these millions matched the number on the Iranian plain, doesn't it mean we share something with the mourners, know an anguish, feel something pass between us, hear the sigh of some historic grief?"These words published in 1992, makes even more sense now when we feel a pain shared with the mourners of school shooting thousands of miles away from where we are. In novels like these where ideas play a predominant role, it is easy for the novelist to go overboard and the entire book and it's characters to become a playground for his rants and pet peeves, but Delillo avoids these pitfalls. Make no mistake, you can sense his voice throughout his novel, but not in a way that puts you off the book and that's because he gives his characters enough emotional heft to be visible to us and make us feel for them as much as we feel for their (Delillo) ideas. Whether it be the restlessness of Bill, his anger at the downgrading of the importance of novelists (as he sees it), his doubts about own work, afraid where the work is leading him to are all as important as his ideas. Like when Bill feels"He had a foreboding, the little clinging tightness in the throat that he knew so well from his work, the times he was afraid and hemmed in by doubt, knowing there was something up ahead he didn't want to face, a character, a life he thought he could not handle."we get an idea of the fear that a writer feels when he thinks that the book or a character is getting away from his control and taking a life of it's own, wanting to live on it's own terms rather than that of the creator. And when Bill goes off on a dangerous attempt into a hostage situation it makes sense in view of his earlier comparison about novelists and terrorists and hence it doesn't come across as something that has been put in the book just for effect. Similarly we empathize and understand (or try to) Scott binding himself with Bill, his obsession with organizing everything to make Bill's work as easy as possible so that he can concentrate on his writing alone. That's why when Scott stays alone in their house after Bill and Karen leave, working on meaningless organization of the house and papers is as poignant as the experiences of Karen where there is a whole chapter devoted to the homeless community living in a New York park, a multitude of crowds living in destitute, an old lady even living under plastic covers. DeLillo's writing is nuanced and it's not just the imagery that he conjures that takes our breath. He can also take a mostly ignored fleeting moment and give it a concrete form, like when Bill is waiting for Brita and Scott to come, the house is completely silent and"When they got out and walked to the porch steps he went to the door of his workroom and listened to them stamp their feet on the mat and come in downstairs, mingled voices, the ruffle of people entering a house, shaking of coats, making all the incidental noises of transition, the sigh of the full body, homeyness and deep relief, the way it seemed a danger and a lie."All of us have experienced this moment, when we open the door and enter a silent house, the murmur of voices and the manner in which the house seems to wake up after a deep slumber. But it takes a DeLillo to point it out to us. A line or a phrase to elevate a thought and realms that we never thought was possible or even existed. Take what Britta says about New York"Sick and dying people with nowhere to live and there are bigger and bigger towers all the time, fantastic buildings with miles of rentable space."Now this is a standard line where one points out the inequality in society. I am not disputing the validity of the statement but it's something most people could write. Now read the same paragraph with the line that follows."Sick and dying people with nowhere to live and there are bigger and bigger towers all the time, fantastic buildings with miles of rentable space. All the space is inside. "The last line throws a googly at a us and creates a seeming paradox. Theoretically there is space everywhere, it is infinite and we occupy space, but DeLillo says that all the space is inside. Which is true when we take space to only refer to a standard human habitat suitable for living and not 'space' as a concept. From that point of view, we see that millions are homeless (i.e) without space while the space for living is all inside the homes.The novel ends with Brita travelling to Beirut to take picture of Rashid, a revolutionary leader there, but it's like the novel is starting again. Rashid a leader of people (cult, crowds) is to be photographed (maybe after a long time just like Bill) and this photo would perpetuate and imprint his memory into the minds of his followers (cult, crowds), even if he is no more. This novel requires your patience, to make sense of the imagery, the characters, the prose which is subtle enough to be ignored if we are distracted for even a bit. At no point does the novel opens up to us from the readability point of view, there is no concession given to us and we have to be relentless in forging ahead keeping our eyes (and ears) open for what DeLillo will tell us next. This is not your ideal first DeLillo book, that would be Americana. This book is to read when you have an idea of his works and motifs so you have an idea of what to expect.


"What terrorists gain, [us] novelists lose. The degree to which they influence mass consciousness is the extent of our decline as shapers of sensibility and thought. The danger they represent equals our own failure to be dangerous."

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