Friday, August 14, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 18 (Don DeLillo)


Libra
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
DeLillo, Don
Libra


Purchased some time in the mid-nineties, most likely at St. Mark's Bookshop in NY.

As I finished writing the previous sentence, I realized that it wasn't true. In fact, this is not even the copy of the book that I read. This one has someone else's shameful scrawl all over it. That being the case, I think this might be a copy purchased more recently at Rust Belt Books, when Lori went on a Don DeLillo tear a few years ago. A memory now is bubbling up of having read the hardcover edition of this book and of having purchased said hardcover at The Strand.

Memory is pretty fickle, though.

One of the great things about living in New York, if you are someone who reads and writes, is that there are hundreds upon hundreds of writers there, and many of the ones who go on to publication and fame either live there or get their careers started there, which means an inordinate number of the books get published in the United States take place, at least in part, in New York City. Thus, one is given the repeated and pleasing experience of reading books that take place in the same place where your live.

When I read most of the books I read by Don DeLillo, I was living in the East Village. Most of the books I read have at least a chapter that take place in New York, this one included. They always provided me with this strange sense of walking through a grandiose, fictional replica of the world I lived in, in which the streets I walked felt saturated with significance, not to mention a kind of ominous dread, which seems to be the main emotion in D's books.

I haven't thought about them in a long time, but thinking back now, I realize that several document a New York that had already become a different New York by the time I read them, and which has become another New York two or three times over since. Reading the following excerpt, however, I am struck by how the experience described could have taken place in any one of those New Yorks.

In The Bronx

This was the year he rode the subway to the ends of the city, two hundred miles of track. He liked to stand at the front of the first car, hands flat against the glass. The train smashed through the dark. People stood on local platforms staring nowhere, a look they'd been practicing for years. He kind of wondered, speeding past, who they really were. His body fluttered in the fastest stretches. They went so fast sometimes he thought they were on the edge of no-control. The noise was pitched to a level of pain he absorbed as a personal test. Another crazy-ass curve. There was so much iron in the sound of those curves he could almost taste it, like a toy you put in your mouth when you are little.

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