Running Dog

ISBN: 0679722947
ISBN 13: 9780679722946
By: Don DeLillo

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Reader's Thoughts


My reaction to this book was much like my reaction to Libra. DeLillo is a fine, fine writer who has doubtless control over his subject. In this book, a journalist for a formerly radical newspaper starts to investigate a senator who seems to have a penchant for erotic art and gets herself immersed in the sordid world of erotic art and its Holy Grail: a reel of porn shot in Hitler's bunker during the last days if the Third Reich. DeLillo has a wonderful way with black ops - the intricate handling of matters, the incestuous nature between operatives, but like the aforementioned book, I suffered a tad bit of ennui during the middle. The array of names doesn't get tough to follow, but the progression of the work gets a little slow. DeLillo doesn't disappoint at the end, though, which is spectacular and muses upon what great novelists muse upon - just who IS a human being, anyway? DeLillo has complicated answers, and maybe answers we don't even like.


A bizzare novel dressed up as a conventional modern-day conspiracy novel, it features some very colorful and memorable scenes and paints a wonderfully gritty (and almost surreal) portrait of NYC in the early '80's.

Eric T. Voigt

I've heard him acting like he made a stunning turn in his literary life after the 80s began, after The Names was released, but damn, DeLillo's good anytime he's writing. Everything he's written is my favorite. I was like "where do I stack this alongside or against his other work?" and then thought about it and put it right there, in the middle, with the rest.

Behnam Riahi

The following review has been copied from http://behnamriahi.tumblr.comRunning Dog, written by Don DeLillo and published by Alfred A. Knopf, is a third-person novel following several points-of-view, most notably journalist Moll Robbins and secret agent Glen Selvy. When an art dealer comes upon an erotic film made in Hitler’s bunker, everyone wants to get their hands on it—senators, pornographers, transvestites, and even one crazed Vietnam vet. Only no one has seen the film and it exists in rumor alone. Working for a politician wishing to keep his collection secret, Selvy is sent out to get his hands on it when he finds himself in the throes of romance with a journalist for a magazine named Running Dog, Moll Robbins. Except Moll wants the scoop on whom Selvy represents, though Selvy isn’t really out to protect the politician’s interest at all—only setting him up for a bigger fall, despite he himself being set up to be hunted down. As the film emerges, Selvy is forced to make haste to the ends of the earth, like a running dog.This is one of the books that my ex-roommate, Wyatt, gave me. It’s the third I’ve read by DeLillo, including Americana and End Zone. And it’s not the last DeLillo book I intend to read this year, though every novel I manage to pick up by him is extraordinarily different from each other. As far as modern novelists go, DeLillo is by far one of my favorites because of his careful use of spirituality tied to sentiment and the context of that in the absence of sentiment. DeLillo writes about departures: David Bell in Americana leaving the world of television to find his roots, Gary Harkness in End Zone abandoning football to understand nuclear holocaust, and now Glen Selvy, the pivotal character of Running Dog, truly running away from his governmental roles to complete all of his unfinished business. These departures not only resound with an audience familiar with deep-seeded feelings of disconnection, but they directly relate to some measure of honor and expectation for the end, like one man looking both at his past and his future. Of course, I can’t tell you everything that happens. That would spoil it for you.Kicking off this review, I’d like to start by pointing out some of the more unusual things about this book: It isn’t all that long, but there are so many goddamn characters. There were moments while reading this where I’d catch a name and had to scroll back a few pages in order to remind myself just who that name belonged to. DeLillo is no stranger to unnecessary amounts of characters though and very rarely does he ever tie up the ends of their stories. Some people just continue to live on, as though unaffected by the events in the novel, and we just have to let them live on that way. While I did long to see what happened to some folks, I found myself engaged to exactly what this novel was about—the big movie introduced at the very opening of the novel.Apart from that, there isn’t much that I disliked about the novel. The points-of-view, though all told in the same voice, are unique, in that DeLillo carefully conveys each person’s beliefs and frustrations as a reflection of those characters in following their pursuits. Points-of-view tend to shift with paragraph breaks, so it’s easy to see when you’re looking through someone else’s eyes as the story progresses forward and he makes no secret about who exactly you’re watching the world from. Only on very few occasions does he meander from one point-of-view to another, but it’s appropriate nonetheless in how seamless it works and what exactly that shift represents. One of the more interesting things about this book is that, in a lot of ways, it is a parody of a conspiracy thriller, though parody might be a strong word. Laced in the criminal activities of the characters of this novel is a very primitive sense of spirituality and complex layer of philosophy that determine each character’s path and motivations from beginning to end. It isn’t so much the action but the integrity of the characters in their beliefs that push the story forward, although DeLillo seems no stranger to action either. Each fight scene is carefully choreographed, with the characters spaced out clearly on the map of the battlefield, no different than how he placed characters on the football field in End Zone. These fights not only convey action, but also intent and strategy while revealing the enormity of each individual character’s determination to survive these conflicts.Much like in a military thriller, DeLillo shows familiarity with firearms, military vehicles, protocol. And in spite of the year this novel is set in, sometime in the 1970’s, the novel feels frighteningly modern. There’s no cell phone use and while that could, theoretically affect a story from that era, it doesn’t—the novel is completely acceptable at face value as a modern story. In fact, if not for the mention that it’s set in the 70’s, I would’ve simply assumed it was set in 2014, although, by that theory, he published it awfully quickly. Nonetheless, the use of technology like military-grade weaponry flawlessly edges the story forward without blunting the audience with unnecessary jargon or outdated images. Although, I guess the Vietnam vets are still young enough to kill people. I’m not sure that’s plausible in the 2010’s, but I wouldn’t doubt it. What makes this novel brilliant is the item that ties it all together—the secret film from the Nazi bunker. DeLillo engages the audience by creating a curious mythos around a fictional item and perpetuates that by building the drama of others trying to get their hands on it. Even while Glen Selvy is off, running for his life, we’re still engaged to that item and exactly what it contains. Is Hitler in an orgy? You don’t know until you get to the end, but you want to know so badly. The big reveal of the film itself ties the whole story together, including Moll and Glen’s connection to each other, and creates a finale that’s both beautiful, meaningful, spiritual, and without the staggering sentiment so common in literature that comes to a “romantic” conclusion. The very fact that this film is the center of the conflict doesn’t deter us from the character’s individual conflicts either, as we find ourselves watching the world through two scopes: the first being that the film is the holy grail and the second being that the film’s existence is a reasonable excuse for other, darker intentions to be unleashed. As noted in my other reviews, DeLillo is still a word-smith. Though his similes and eloquence aren’t nearly as loquacious as they were in his debut novel, he continues to write things in a way that only a skewed perspective on the military, wars, and their aftermath could. As though experiencing feelings and events in the story for the first time as an adult himself upon starting it, each phrase refines the prose to the point of perfection by capturing original concepts about so many cliched expectations of how a gun feels, how a man bleeds, what love is. The clever use of language is only an addition to the plot itself though—he never hammers an idea into our head. He states events as though they’re minutiae, though brilliantly, and leaves it on the audience’s pallet as other events occur as a result. Hints of a film-shaped cookie tin carried off in a paper bag mean more to the story than by stating directly what one character’s intent with the cookie tin was—it’s left up to the audience to find the truth in the beauty, the Hemingway mentality of omission. The very things that aren’t written are the things we have to pay attention to, thus making the story that much more engaging as the audience discovers what they already know when they peer past the great beauty of his writing.Don’t buy this book if you’re easily bored or lost—it’s not a slow book but it’s one that requires a careful eye and a strong memory. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t wait to finish it and now that it’s over, I already miss it.

Alan Chen

The eponymous Running Dog is a newspaper that reports on the more out there news: conspiracies, unsubstantiated political rumors and such. Story starts with a mystery: a woman dressed to the nines (turns out to be a man) is killed in the wrong part of town. Turns out he was murdered because he had a a sex tape of Hitler. DeLillo has a fascination with Hitler because White Noise had a similar theme but similar to White Noise this novel isn't about Hitler but uses him as a central figure. Anyway, it starts off as a classic mystery. There's a Senator with a secret collection of smut. An assistant (Selvy) who may be double dealing for an organization that the Senator wishes to topple (PAC/ORD) Another organization (Mudger) that may or may not work with PAC/ORD that Selvy is conversing with and a beautiful reporter with long legs (Moll) that is after the story. There's a lot of sex in the novel but it's not lascivious. Instead it shows the machinations people go through to get and create porn. Sex is seen in its myriad of facets: power, degradation, lust, boredom etc. By the middle of the novel everything changes tho. Everything takes a postmodern turn and the story becomes less about the porn and more just a dissolution of the characters. Everyone is chasing everyone else for the porn. No one is certain who has it and they are uncertain what is even on the film. Selvy runs away to a training base to make a last stand. Moll's boss refuses to print her article because it turns out she is in trouble with the IRS. The Senator and the other power players are working against each other but it's all senseless. That's what I take away from it, they are all hungering to possess the object but they don't even know if it has any value. Earlier in the novel Selvy collected enough evidence for PAC/ORD to take down the Senator but he was told not to because the powers that be stil wanted the film. The ending resolves nothing and we are left wondering how the characters end up but it delineates that all the over exploited sex in modernity is, like the film, senseless.


so far, so excellent. short and an easy read. i've read enough of DeLillo to be confident that i'm going to like the rest (less than half to go). It includes all the trademark wordplay, perfect choice of names, and double, triple, and quadruple entres and questions without clear cut answers. It keeps the novel moving and interesting the whole time. * Having finished the book basically right after i wrote the first part of this review i can easily say i stand by my original impression. But what is the book actually about? This is a good enough novel that i can say it doesn't even matter. Just read it if you've heard quality things about DeLillo and are curious to try one of his books.

Mark Sacha

Like Don, I believe in words. In other people's literature I've learned to realize the terror of the nameless, but in Don's, I appreciate the power of a name and the poetry most of all. Whether it's language/religion, technology/surveillance or business/violence, the links that are made in Running Dog and all of his books are powerful, sometimes straying close to crypto-babble but always bearing a semblance of a truth that permeates the easily comprehensible layers of the everyday, to see into things and through them and beyond them in ways that are meditatively sharp. This novel strikes me as the author hitting his stride, still shy of his most well-known mid-career efforts but containing almost all of their elements. Film and history and speech, everything is connected and nothing is ever clear.The primary narrative thread that traverses Running Dog is the search for a pornographic video allegedly staged in Hitler's bunker hours before the end of the war. This item, closer to a relic, brings together politicians, journalists, art sellers, trained killers, and a handful of other players whose lives it unsettles. It is both desired and feared, killed for, and treated on a spectrum from respect to disgust. Words have power, but so do images, and moving ones especially. In a profoundly unsettling moment, the film's viewers realize they are witnessing something on screen, in a way, in advance of the audience present in the scene in 1945.Some of the most prescient stuff in the book, first published in 1978, has to do with data collection and surveillance. Lines like "When technology reaches a certain level, people begin to feel like criminals" and "The facts about you and your whole existence have been collected or are being collected" have gone from seemingly stylized representations of paranoia to documented fact. It's not the type of thing where I imagine Don sitting around his living room mumbling "I told you so", but his tendency to have been right about things, sometimes a long time in advance, is impressive. Add to that his clear attention to making his books aesthetic achievements as well, employing a prose that is sometimes stilted and arcane but never limp, and you have, in my opinion, one of the best people in the biz.


Cross between dialogues in Delillo's White Noise alongside some of the kinds of language the author developed way back when he wrote Americana, with a twist of Denis Johnson's style such as one might have read in Angels. A strange exploration of obsession and collection with this kink of suspected underlying government or splinter off-giveernment spy societies. At points you may feel this will never come together or ask yourself "What are all these characters doing here?" But in the end, the book leaves off with a peculiar resonance that I feel many will enjoy reflecing on. I adore Libra, Mao II, White Noise, so enjoyed very much reading more of Delillo's well-written prose as I imagine others will.


A dizzying, headlong mash-up, involving a bent Senator, smut peddlers (ahem, I should say, dealers in erotica), paramilitary cadres, journalists, ex-ARVN rangers, Mafia figures, shadowy government agents, all more or less in pursuit of a rumored print of an orgy in Hitler's reichsbunker. In the event, the film when it is recovered reveals something much stranger than what had been purported.


A strange book, oddly compelling but at the same time strangely boring. A whole lot of people trying to get their hands on a tape of Hitler having an orgy.

Patrick Mcallaster

A really classy airport thriller. DeLillo even admits in an interview this is a fairly conventional book. Still, some of his hallmarks show up: clever dialogue, conspiracy, Hitler, Oswald/Kennedy, edge of the world (desert), etc.


Non è mai facile raccontare, spiegare le emozioni che suscita o non suscita un romanzo di Delillo. "Running dog" non è altro che una ricerca che coinvolge tutti i protagonisti di questa faccenda. Una ricerca che ha come oggetto un filmato, un video con le immagini di Hitler. Un video che darà il via a una ricerca spietata, una ricerca di possesso. "Running dog" tratta diverse tematiche: lo spionaggio, il thriller, l'arte erotica e che mostra attraverso la visione di un filmato che tutti vogliono la nostra sete di possesso, il nostro potere. Non è sicuramente una delle opere migliori di Delillo, ma è una ulteriore perla che si aggiunge alla collezione di questo straordinario autore.


I had no idea Don DeLillo wrote a novel meant to be turned into a Coen brothers movie. There's a good deal of snarky, dark and black humor. The plot revolves around a whole number of people trying to get a hold of an old film reel that is purported to be of a sex orgy in the bunker in the last days of the third Reich. Maybe even Hitler's in it. Having read a number of DeLillo's work there's a lot of the same kind of stuff. There's the usual DeLillean talk that all seems to revolve around it's own strangeness, lots of various phrases that buzz through the character's heads, some of it disconnected entirely from the conversation they're having. I don't know whether I like this aspect of DeLillo or not. It's probably his most unique characteristic in all of his writing but a lot of it tends to be unbelievable. There's a desert scene present as well as in Point Omega and there's a going back into one's past as in Part II of Americana. If you've ever seen Burn After Reading by the Coens this seems to have a lot of the same goofiness about it yet it retains very serious characters all very obsessed with getting this film. Something I didn't expected to happen was the actual revelation of what was on the film. But we find out in a scene by scene basis what all the fuss is about. The plot seems to spiral into a strange unusual reality that is not so strange for DeLillo but would be for any new readers to his work.

Aaron (Typographical Era)

Don DeLillo novels are usually great in spite of their lack of plot, not necessarily because of it. Here though, surprisingly, we're presented with a murder mystery of sorts revolving around paranoia, porn, cross-dressing, government officials, Hitler, and a reporter for a magazine not named Millennium.I didn't dislike this one, but it did feel a tad forced in places and a bit unresolved at the conclusion. Otherwise though, this one is standard DeLillo fair, including his trademark conversationally disjointed dialog.


It took me several times to get going in this novel. In the final day to the Third Reich, Hitler and his entourage make a porn film in the bunker were they are all held up in. This is the story of the search to find the film.

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