Don DeLillo

American novelist, playwright and essayist
I'm a novelist, period. An American novelist

Donald Richard "Don" DeLillo (born November 20, 1936) is an award-winning American novelist, playwright, and essayist, best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

See also Cosmopolis



  • I think fiction recues history from its confusions.
    • '"An Outsider in this Society": An Interview with Don DeLillo' by Anthony DeCurtis, South Atlantic Quarterly, #89, No.2, 1988
  • I'm a novelist, period. An American novelist.
    • 'An Interview with Don DeLillo' by Maria Nadotti, Salmagundi #100, Fall, 1993
  • I am not particularly distressed by the state of fiction or the role of the writer. The more marginal, perhaps ultimately the more trenchant and observant and finally necessary he'll become.
    • 'The American Strangeness: An Interview with Don DeLillo' by Gerald Howard, The Hungry Mind Review, #47 , 1997
  • I think fiction comes from everything you've ever done, and said, and dreamed, and imagined. It comes from everything you've read and haven't read...I think my work comes out of the culture of the world around me. I think that's where my language comes from.
    • 'Exile on Main Street: Don DeLillo's Undisclosed Underworld' by David Remnick, The New Yorker, September 15, 1997
  • Popular culture is inescapable in the U.S. Why not use it?
    • '"Writing as a Deeper Form of Concentration": An Interview with Don DeLillo' by Maria Moss, Sources, Spring, 1999
  • The figure of the gunman in the window was inextricable from the victim and his history. This sustained Oswald in his cell. It gave him what he needed to live. The more time he spent in a cell, the stronger he would get. Everybody knew who he was now.
    • In Dallas, pt. 2 (1988).

End Zone (1972)Edit

  • I think what'll happen in the not-too-distant future is that we'll have humane wars. Each side agrees to use clean bombs. And each side agrees to limit the amount of megatons he uses. In other words, we'll get together with them beforehand and there'll be an agreement that if the issue can't be settled, whatever the issue might be, then let's make sure we keep our war as relatively clean as possible.
    • Ch. 16
  • Of course the humanistic mind crumbles at the whole idea. It's the most hideous thing in the world to these people that such ideas even have to be mentioned. But the thing won't go away. The thing is here and you have to face it. The prospect of a humane war may be hideous and all the other names you can think of, but it's still a prospect. And as an alternative to all the other things that could happen in the event of war, it's relatively acceptable.
    • Ch. 16
  • War is the ultimate realization of modern technology.
    • Ch. 16
  • I reject the notion of football as warfare. Warfare is warfare. We don't need substitutes because we've got the real thing.
    • Ch. 19

Great Jones Street (1974)Edit

  • I had centered myself, learning of the existence of an interior motion, a shift in the levels from isolation to solitude to wordlessness to immobility. When Opel occupied that center I became the thing that swirled.
    • Ch. 11
  • Evil is movement towards void.
    • Ch. 15

The Names (1982)Edit

  • I've come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version.
    • Ch. 1
  • If I were a writer, how I would enjoy being told the novel is dead. How liberating to work in the margins, outside a central perception. You are the ghoul of literature. Lovely.
    • Ch. 4
  • In this century the writer has carried on a conversation with madness. We might almost say of the twentieth-century writer that he aspires to madness. Some have made it, of course, and they hold special places in our regard. To a writer, madness is a final distillation of self, a final editing down. It's the drowning out of false voices.
    • Ch. 5

White Noise (1984)Edit

  • Who will die first?
    • Ch. 4
  • I want to immerse myself in American magic and dread.
    • Ch. 5
  • All plots tend to move deathwards. This is the nature of plots.
    • Ch. 6
  • Every disaster made us wish for something bigger, grander, more sweeping.
    • Ch. 14
  • To become a crowd is to keep out death.
    • Ch. 15
  • I heard a noise, faint, monotonous, white.
    • Ch. 39
  • No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die.
  • I've got death inside me. It's just a question of whether or not I can outlive it.
  • California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.
  • The family is the cradle of the world’s misinformation. There must be something in family life that generates factual error. Over-closeness, the noise and heat of being. Perhaps even something deeper like the need to survive. Murray says we are fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts. Facts threaten our happiness and security. The deeper we delve into things, the looser our structure may seem to become. The family process works towards sealing off the world. Small errors grow heads, fictions proliferate. I tell Murray that ignorance and confusion can’t possibly be the driving forces behind family solidarity. What an idea, what a subversion. He asks me why the strongest family units exist in the least developed societies. Not to know is a weapon of survival, he says. Magic and superstition become entrenched as the powerful orthodoxy of the clan. The family is strongest where objective reality is most likely to be misinterpreted. What a heartless theory, I say. But Murray insists it’s true.
  • The power of the dead is that we think they see us all the time. The dead have a presence. Is there a level of energy composed solely of the dead? They are also in the ground, of course, asleep and crumbling. Perhaps we are what they dream.
  • It was important for him to believe that he'd spent his life among people who kept missing the point.
  • When I read obituaries I always note the age of the deceased. Automatically I relate this figure to my own age. Four years to go, I think. Nine more years. Two years and I'm dead. The power of numbers is never more evident than when we use them to speculate on the time of our dying.
  • Fear is unnatural. Lightning and thunder are unnatural. Pain, death, reality, these are all unnatural. We can't bear these things as they are. We know too much. So we resort to repression, compromise and disguise. This is how we survive the universe. This is the natural language of the species.
  • We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book. "No one sees the barn," he said finally. A long silence followed. "Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn." He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others. We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies." There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides. "Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism." Another silence ensued. "They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.”
  • He thinks he's happy but it's just a nerve cell in his brain that's getting too much stimulation or too little stimulation.
  • He'd once told me that the art of getting ahead in New York was based on learning how to express dissatisfaction in an interesting way. The air was full of rage and complaint. People had no tolerance for your particular hardship unless you knew how to entertain them with it.
  • The nonbelievers need the believers. They are desperate to have someone believe." "As belief shrinks from the world, people find it more necessary than ever that someone believe...Those who have abandoned belief must still believe in us. They are sure that they are right not to believe but they know belief must not fade completely. Hell is when no one believes.
  • Who knows what I want to do? Who knows what anyone wants to do? How can you be sure about something like that? Isn't it all a question of brain chemistry, signals going back and forth, electrical energy in the cortex? How do you know whether something is really what you want to do or just some kind of nerve impulse in the brain? Some minor little activity takes place somewhere in this unimportant place in one of the brain hemispheres and suddenly I want to go to Montana or I don't want to go to Montana. How do I know I really want to go and it isn't just some neurons firing or something? Maybe it's just an accidental flash in the medulla and suddenly there I am in Montana and I find out I really didn't want to go there in the first place. I can't control what happens in my brain, so how can I be sure what I want to do ten seconds from now, much less Montana next summer? It's all this activity in the brain and you don't know what's you as a person and what's some neuron that just happens to fire or just happens to misfire.
  • Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, mass killings, et cetera. We can relax and enjoy these disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.
  • The supermarket shelves have been rearranged. It happened one day without warning. There is agitation and panic in the aisles, dismay in the faces of older shoppers.[…]They scrutinize the small print on packages, wary of a second level of betrayal. The men scan for stamped dates, the women for ingredients. Many have trouble making out the words. Smeared print, ghost images. In the altered shelves, the ambient roar, in the plain and heartless fact of their decline, they try to work their way through confusion. But in the end it doesn’t matter what they see or think they see. The terminals are equipped with holographic scanners, which decode the binary secret of every item, infallibly. This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of our age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.
  • The world is full of abandoned meanings. In the commonplace I find unexpected themes and intensities.

Mao II (1991)Edit

  • The future belongs to crowds
    • At Yankee Stadium
  • When a writer doesn't show his face, he becomes a local symptom of God's famous reluctance to appear.
    • Part 1, Ch. 3
  • "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."
    • Part 1, Ch. 3
  • "Remember literature, Charlie? It involved getting drunk and getting laid."
    • Part 2, Ch. 9
  • "Stories have no point if they don't absorb our terror."
    • Part 2, Ch. 10
  • Terror makes the new future possible. All men one man, Men live in history as never before. He is saying we make an change history minute by minute. History is not the book or the human memory. We do history in the morning and change it after lunch.
    • In Beiruit

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