Zero K by Don DeLillo
Okay, people, I’m now officially 21 reviews behind. The unholy combination of a new summer teaching gig, reading-but-not-reviewing, and currently being on vacation at my parents’ house has sort of let the reviewing fall away. But my mom is working tonight, and everyone else is sort of doing their own thing. Let’s do this. I’m starting with a review I drafted, oh, I don’t know, a month ago (confirmed by Goodreads that I did indeed read this 5 weeks ago).
My sister is an avid reader like me, and while her literary tastes are more diverse, literary fiction is absolutely one of her chosen genres. She finished reading Zero K by Don DeLillo right before I got it from the library and put out a plea on Goodreads that would SOMEBODY read this book so she could understand what she just read. I have read three DeLillo books—White Noise, Falling Man, and Cosmopolis—so I was game.
Guys, I have no idea what I just read. Literally. Really. DeLillo is one of those postmodernists writing from the 1970s and 80s in its heyday (and I love White Noise, so this is not upsetting or disturbing to me), so everything is falling apart, evasive, slippery, and crowded with ads, endorsements or jingles. There are moments of salience juxtaposed with cacophonous moments that just don’t make sense.
The basic plot is that our protagonist’s father is a billionaire with a much younger second wife whose health is failing. Jeffrey accompanies his father and Avis to a compound in which she intends to be cryogenically frozen and restored when technological advances have caught up to her condition. When Jeffrey’s father Ross then seeks death as a response to his general malaise, Jeffrey revolts. Interspersed are a love story, whispers of natural disaster and economic collapse, and a critique of rampant consumerism.
The problem is, the book is so very stream-of-consciousness, that I scratched my head and asked, “Am I reading this correctly?” Literary fiction is often characterized by a certain style and a diminished focus on plot, which I accept. But I’m not sure that DeLillo’s style serves to heighten the subject matter or elevate the discussion surrounding it. And I’m still not sure of what I just read. I don’t know if I recommend this book or not. I can’t even decide if it’s brilliant or garbage? So I thought a 3 star rating would put it squarely in the middle.