November 6, 2018
Five takeaways from Don DeLillo’s Guardian interview
by Michael Barron
Don DeLillo, possibly, probably, nearly ok definitely the greatest living male American writer gave a rare interview to the Guardian’s theatre critic Xan Brooks.
The occasion for the interview was for another rarity: the London opening of DeLillo’s play: Love-Lies-Bleeding. That single sentence may carry a few mini-bombs for some readers. People in London read DeLillo? DeLillo writes plays? Is he the greatest living American male writer?
Oh, but there’s a whole article littered with DeLillo related intrigue. Don’t have time to read the article? Bullshit. Don’t really want to read the article, but still curious to know what’s in it? Ok, fine, here’s a few choice bits.
1. DeLillo’s working on a Trump-related novel.
“I’m working on a piece of fiction set three years in the future. But I’m not trying to imagine the future in the usual terms. I’m trying to imagine what has been torn apart and what can be put back together, and I don’t know the answer. I hope I can arrive at an answer through writing the fiction.”
2. The best quote of the interview feels straight out of a DeLillo novel.
“But what’s significant to me is that all of [Trump’s] enormous mistakes and misstatements disappear within 24 hours. The national memory lasts 48 hours, at best.”
3. DeLillo the playwright doesn’t mind actors taking script liberties.
“When Valparaiso was staged,” he says, laughing, “I kept going to see it. But on about the 10th performance, one of the actors suddenly decided to say the lines in a thick French accent. It was kind of funny. I mean, if you mess around with my sentences in a novel, you’re going to get in trouble. Whereas with a play, you have to hand it over. It finally becomes more theirs than mine.”
4. DeLillo patronized the bejesus out of this past New York Film Festival.*
“Last month, he binge-watched five pictures at the New York film festival…I’m trying to recall what just screened in New York. Did he catch Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”? ‘No!’ he says, stirred. ‘We couldn’t get in. But we saw a Polish film that was very good.’ Paweł Pawlikowski’s “Cold War“, about tragic lovers strung across the the iron curtain? ‘Yes, that’s right,’ he says. ‘It was very good. And beautifully filmed in black and white. I’m all in favour of black and white.'”
Double-take: Even famous novelists don’t get to cut arthouse cinema lines.
5. DeLillo has no plans to retire.
“Retirement, he thought, wouldn’t suit him the same way. ‘Everybody is different and there are always distractions. But I feel I have an idea in my mind I need to work on. And when I’m able to sit down and put my fingers on the typewriter, things are moving along pretty well. These days I’m much slower. I can’t work at the same pace. But what the hell, I’ll keep going. It’s what’s keeping me alive.’”
*While our house style capitalizes Film Festival, the Guardian’s house style does not.
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.