From one of the greatest writers of our time, his first collection of short stories, written between 1979 and 2011, chronicling—and foretelling—three decades of American life
Set in Greece, the Caribbean, Manhattan, a white-collar prison and outer space, these nine stories are a mesmerizing introduction to Don DeLillo’s iconic voice, from the rich, startling, jazz-infused rhythms of his early work to the spare, distilled, monastic language of the later stories.
In “Creation,” a couple at the end of a cruise somewhere in the West Indies can’t get off the island—flights canceled, unconfirmed reservations, a dysfunctional economy. In “Human Moments in World War III,” two men orbiting the earth, charged with gathering intelligence and reporting to Colorado Command, hear the voices of American radio, from a half century earlier. In the title story, Sisters Edgar and Grace, nuns working the violent streets of the South Bronx, confirm the neighborhood’s miracle, the apparition of a dead child, Esmeralda.
Nuns, astronauts, athletes, terrorists and travelers, the characters in The Angel Esmeralda propel themselves into the world and define it. DeLillo’s sentences are instantly recognizable, as original as the splatter of Jackson Pollock or the luminous rectangles of Mark Rothko. These nine stories describe an extraordinary journey of one great writer whose prescience about world events and ear for American language changed the literary landscape.
The nine short stories of DeLillo s first-ever collection span 30 years. Grouped around three historical moments and ranging in subject and setting from an earthquake in Athens to a snowbound college town, they offer both a compact way to observe the evolution of DeLillo s writing and a highly palatable entr e into the work of the National Book Award winner (for White Noise) for the uninitiated. Human Moments in World War III features two Americans manning an orbital intelligence-gathering craft who begin receiving old-time radio signals while considering humanity at war; war, among other things, is a form of longing. In the title story, two nuns in the South Bronx encounter the near-feral Esmeralda Lopez, who, for a brief time, is transfigured into a rallying symbol for the impoverished community. And in Hammer and Sickle, a white-collar criminal in a minimum-security facility watches his two young daughters deliver financial news on a children s program. DeLillo s keen interest in the human experience of American historical and cultural moments is on clear display, and his full expressive range from steady spareness (sometimes verging on disorienting frigidity) to roguish attitude and tender intimacy is showcased well. While there aren t any surprises, this is a welcome addition to DeLillo s oeuvre for fans and newcomers alike.