Tuesday, March 10, 2009

End Zone. Don DeLillo.

New York: Pocket Books. 1973.

Why read it? Novel. The lives of college football players. Gary comes to a small Texas football- ambitious school along with a number of other recruited young men, all of whom have weird obsessions. When the players are not philosophizing about life and the meaning of existence—they are presented as people whose lives are defined by football. When there is no game to prepare for, life is a series of rumors, discussed and embellished, relating to the team.

An interesting sequence is the pick-up football game in the snow. Gradually the off-season players reduce the complications of modern football to the straight run and hit—no deception, no passing. The players need the activity and rhythm of football to give their lives meaning. It is only when engaged in this rhythmic activity that they give evidence of being alive—in motion, but they go through the motions like robots.

Philadelphia Inquirer: “End Zone is no mere football novel any more than Catch-22 was a book about airplanes. Through it runs the same strains of madness, the same wit and wonder.”

Sample Quotes:

“I respect Tweego in a way…thinks in one direction, straight ahead…just aims and fires…has ruthlessness…a distinctly modern characteristic…systems planner…management consultant…nuclear strategist…a question of fantastic single-mindedness. p. 38. ………. “Billy Nast, a reserve back on defense…was in the process of memorizing Rilke’s ninth Duino Elegy in German, a language he did not understand.” p. 51. ………. “So many people have someone else stuck inside them: like inside that big large body of yours there’s a scrawny kid with thick glasses; inside my father there’s a vicious police dog, a fascist killer animal…. Everybody has something stuck inside them; inside me there’s a sloppy emotional over-weight girl…hard to be beautiful…. p.53.

“This is the custom among men who have failed to be heroes; their sons must prove that the seed was not impoverished.” p. 14. ………. “History is no more accurate than prophecy.” p. 60. ………. “I become fascinated by words and phrases like thermal hurricane, overkill, circular error probability, post-attack environment, stark deterrence, dose-rate contours, kill-ratio, spasm war. p. 17.

“Much of the appeal of sport derives from its dependence on elegant gibberish.” p. 90. ………. “Most lives are guided by clich├ęs.” p. 54. ………. “Out on a deep pattern, I watched the ball spiral toward me, nose dropping now, laces spinning, my hands up and fingers spread, eyes following the ball right into my hands, here, now, and then lengthening my stride, breaking toward the middle, sensing myself on large-screen color TV as I veered into the end zone.” p. 49.

“War is the ultimate realization of modern technology.” p. 65. ………. “We prove ourselves, our manhood, in other ways than going off to war, in making money, in skydiving, in hunting mountain lions with bow and arrow, in acquiring power of one kind or another.” p. 65. ………. “Today we can say that war is a test of opposing technologies.” p. 65. ………. “Words don’t explain, they don’t clarify, they don’t express; they’re pain killers; everything becomes abstract.” p. 66.

I think Don DeLillo is a first-rate writer. You can sense his insights into life from some of the preceding quotes. Although End Zone is about much more than college football, you will realize that the novel does portray accurately the nature of college football, the physical punishment, the pain of loss, the almost robotic ritual of the game. Because of DeLillo’s ideas, End Zone is one of my favorite modern novels. RayS.

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