Posts Tagged ‘don delillo’

Aught Lang Syne: The Decade in Literature, Part II

In case you missed Part I of our quick glimpses of the decade’s most noteworthy fiction, you can check it out here.

White Teeth — Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith’s first novel came out in the first month of the Aughts, and seemed to be an important, symbolic moment for literature at large. For one, it led critic James Wood to coin the term “hysterical realism,” a catch-all term for the kind of “big novel” Smith and many other young writers of this decade were writing. While the term was used pejoratively, it is an important indicator of the ambition of certain modern novelists. Smith’s novel traces two families through the entire second half of the century, covering World War II and the 1990s. The scope is an important theme, highlighting the grasp past events have on our modern lives, whether we like it or not.

–John S

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius — Dave Eggers

The novelistic memoir that propelled Eggers to full-on Voice of the Generation stature, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius does its best to live up to its name. Eggers manages to be meta without being condescending and to be funny without sacrificing poignancy. In crafting a deeply personal story that resonates universally, Eggers proved—for the first time—that he is a fascinating and compelling storyteller of the highest order.


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The Plague and Allegorical Representation

Summoned to give evidence regarding what was a sort of crime, he has exercised the restraint that behooves a conscientious witness. All the same, following the dictates of his heart, he has deliberately taken the victims’ side and tried to share with his fellow citizens the only certitudes they had in common—love, exile, and suffering. Thus he can truly say there was not one of their anxieties in which he did not share, no predicament of theirs that was not his.

These words, coming toward the end of Albert Camus’ 1948 allegory of German occupation, The Plague, serve as both the revelation of the novel’s narrator* and the mission statement of its author. The Plague is at once a very informative and very misleading title, for the novel is, practically, about a plague that overtakes the Algerian city of Oran. Theoretically, however, the novel is less about disease than about the mental shackles placed on an imprisoned population, with the plague acting as a stand-in for the occupation of France during World War II.**

*Shh…it’s kind of a secret. And I mean “kind of” here literally, in that it’s only “kind of” a secret.

**Funny story: I first read The Plague in high school on my own with no knowledge or inference of its allegory, even though it was pretty explicit upon my re-reading in college. It is a testament to Camus’ abilities as a writer that the novel works regardless.

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