Here, right off the bat, I am going to confess that which would become obvious in a few weeks anyway. My favorite living author is Don Delillo.
I am an insatiable reader of both English and Spanish who reads as much fiction and poetry as I have time for. It’s all about truth and the truth is rarely found in non-fiction, with the possible exclusion of STEM-course texts. As the extreme example, autobiographies are, how shall I say, bullshit. They are the adult extensions of the stories I handed to my mother when she went to the pantry intent on baking cookies and found the chocolate chips missing. At best, they are two-dimensional depictions of the person the author sees and loves while looking into something less than a full-length mirror. Moving on, has anyone truly been helped by a trip to the self-help section? If so, why hasn’t it just shrunk away as readers continue to “fix” themselves instead of having grown ever larger.
An outstanding author of fiction can take the truth, whether beautiful, boring, ugly, shameful, or indictable and spread it realistically among characters as they get fleshed-out. Praise-worthy human nature. Despicable human nature. Human nature expressed illegally. But real human nature. And by these truths the readers can see their society for what its worth.
I have yet to be exposed to an author who does this better than Don Delillo. From Americana to Point Omega, he has shown us for who and what we are in these United States. Our hypocritical bent along with the vacuous things that drive our lives stand out prominently in his works.
White Noise and Underworld are my favorites among his works. Here is a quote from White Noise that may give a glimpse of why I admire him so much:
“The supermarket shelves have been rearranged. It happened one day without warning. There is agitation and panic in the aisles, dismay in the faces of older shoppers.[…]They scrutinize the small print on packages, wary of a second level of betrayal. The men scan for stamped dates, the women for ingredients. Many have trouble making out the words. Smeared print, ghost images. In the altered shelves, the ambient roar, in the plain and heartless fact of their decline, they try to work their way through confusion. But in the end it doesn’t matter what they see or think they see. The terminals are equipped with holographic scanners, which decode the binary secret of every item, infallibly. This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of our age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.” Don Delillo, White Noise