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Don DeLillo and the feel of how it is

A prophetic novelist gets to the heart of the postmodern condition

Photo: Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

Don DeLillo is more like a poet than a novelist. I don’t mean to say that his work is “poetic” in the vulgar sense of being melancholy or having florid descriptions of landscape and weather. Rather, that it’s interested in language before it’s interested in reality; in sound before sense; that his distinctive attention to the cadence of sentences is what makes DeLillo most DeLilloish; and that he’s pretty uninterested, or only slantwise, in the usual novelist stuff like characterisation, story and plot.

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