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The Last Don

Don DeLillo weighs in on September 11 and comes up short.

11:01 PM, Nov 25, 2001 • By DAVID SKINNER
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The overall effect is the opposite of DeLillo's best work. The first glance is the best glance. Close inspection shows the essay to be rather ordinary Internet-wowed commentary-by-numbers. William Greider lite (if such a thing is possible). Which has to be depressing for partisans of the novel, given that DeLillo is perhaps the most serious of our socially engaged novelists. Indeed, he is a leading example for the argument that novels should share in explaining the great events that exhaust the powers of journalists.

DeLillo has written that novels--much like his recent "Underworld"--need to tell stories about crowds, society, the public. Novels should be more than homes to a scattering of private characters laboring away anonymously, far from the big events of their times. The question has now become widely debated in literary circles: Is it possible for novels to communicate the power of great social events? With novelists like these, it doesn't seem likely.

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.