A Don Delillo novel reviewed by Lorrie Moore. When I saw this, I nearly 'creamed my jeans'.
Basically, Moore says Mao II isn't Delillo's best (See: White Noise and Libra). Mao II is, however an "exploration of the relationship between writers and terrorists". Delillo argues, through characters like Karen--who is equally fascinated with reclusive writer Bill Gray as she is with reports of acts of terror (and who was also once some kind of cult)--that terrorists and novelists, in particular, occupy the same cultural space. However, where the novelist has failed, the terrorist has succeeded, effectively and symbolically taking the writer hostage. Furthermore, Moore argues that Delillo's inspiration for this sort of "writer taken hostage" scenario was Salman Rushdie.
From reading Mao II, I have formulated a sort of double faceted theory on Delillo's success. The two reasons Delillo is successful are:
1. His 'mystic American object-to-subject exploration'.
Delillo has this way of speaking to the reader. He will take an object, and explore it with descriptive language until the object takes on a mystic presence in both the character and the reader's cultural consciousness. Buildings, baseballs, pills, typewriters, etc etc...move through the thought process in autistically obsessive ways until one is convinced of the object's cultural weight.
2. Delillo is unafraid to talk about anything. He writes about everything, as Moore has mentioned in her review of Mao II. He is unafraid of taking on crazy perspectives. Child math prodigies, rock stars, terrorists, hostages, 9/11 terrorists, graffiti artists, people in one of the twin towers during 9/11, someone seeing people in Russia with Nuclear deformations, etc...
All in all, Moore made the poignant remark that Delillo's writing is, unlike her own, somewhat void of emotional weight, however, it is the cultural exploration that sort of causes the reader to drift through his novels with such attachment.