Ranking the DeLillo

Apropos of last week’s post on the worst DeLillo, I was pointed to this somewhat tongue-in-cheek ranking of DeLillo’s books.

So here’s my take on their take:

1) Kinda ballsy to put The Names in the “classics” category. White Noise and Libra are kind of easy picks for the “classics,” and I’m not sure that Libra qualifies (though it did drive George Will into a fit of pissy rage, and that deserves credit). (Also check out that new Penguin Classics White Noise package w/the Powers intro. Didn’t notice that one when it came out last year.) Lastly, I get why they made Pafko a classic, but at this point I don’t really consider it a DeLillo book.

2) Sorry, but if Underworld isn’t a classic, then nothing from DeLillo is. Players feels about right here, as does Great Jones Street, if only because DeLillo was still getting his motor running at that point. (I do love that book, though.) The positioning of Mao II here seems fair, though you could argue its classic status.

3) I get why Ratner’s Star is a “For Fans Only,” but I also don’t. A lot of people who know Jack about DeLillo could have a lot of fun with this one. Maybe Running Dog is a little blah for fans. Americana is about right here. End Zone is a lot deeper than the NY Mag people understood. Should at least be a 2. Amazons should be a 5. Game 6 should be an “Avoid,” or at best a “Watch While Drunk With Friends.”

4) Haven’t read The Body Artist or Cosmopolis or DeLillo’s theater.

Falling Man should be a 2. Point Omega sounds like a 2 as well.

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The Names is often considered among the best amongst serious lit critics it seems. I second your thoughts on the status of Underworld and your thoughts that Ratner’s Star is highly underrated. Ratner’s Star, to me, is the best bridge between both Delillo and Pynchon and Delillo and DFW.

For my money, Libra is second only to Underworld. Haven’t read The Names though.

It seems like their reasoning behind not giving Underworld classic status was solely due to the length of the book. Apparently, DeLillo can’t win when it comes to book size, long or short, with critics.

The Names, White Noise, Libra, Mao II and Underworld is one of the great five novel runs in 20th Century American literature. I feel sorry for people who don’t like DeLillo.

I will also chip in on behalf of The Names–my personal favorite among all of DeLillo’s books. And I agree wholeheartedly with Chris’s characterization of “one of the great five novel runs in 20th Century American literature.” I probably rate Running Dog and Americana a little higher than Team New York, but otherwise that’s a terrific list.

“The man alongside studies the fingernails of his right hand…In time he begins making the sound either or both of them make when troubled by anxiety, critical choices, nameless dread…It’s a prolonged hum, the speech sound m.”

I knew something was wrong with that NY Mag listing when they put Underworld at number 2. That may be one of my favorite DeLillo novels ever.

Same with Endzone. I can see why some wouldn’t like it but for more perceptive readers, it really is a gem in its take on football and destruction.

Haven’t read Cosmopolis but have heard better things than that ranking.

Favorite DeLillo (in no particular order):
1.) White Noise – Don DeLillo
2.) Underworld – Don DeLillo
3.) Libra – Don DeLillo
4.) Endzone – Don DeLillo
5.) Mao II – Don DeLillo

Extremely predictable listing I know but hard to argue with.


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