One day in the aughts, a colleague at The New York Times Book Review, D.J.R. Bruckner, known to all as Don, wandered over to my cubicle.

Don was very tall, slightly stooped, had enormous hands and feet, and had been on Nixon's enemies list.

He was visibly shaking. He pointed to his right. ''If I have to read one more 2,000 word review of a John Updike book,'' he said. ''I am going throw myself out that window.'' I've omitted his obscenities.

''Pouring another shot of Paranoia'' : Author Don DeLillo, unlike Updike, has not stupefied his with literary overproduction. His slim new novel, ''The Silence'' is his 17th since his first, ''Americana''  appeared nearly 50 years ago.

But about him I feel a bit of what my former colleague felt about Updike : I have a curious disinterest in reading [or conjuring] another searching think piece about his oeuvre. I'm writing this away from my own window.

It's hardly that DeLillo isn't worthy of scrutiny. He is our Laureate of paranoia and dread, a man who fully tapped into the mood of his age, as vital at his peak as any writer alive. It's a plum assignment to review him, and critics [and novelists moonlighting as critics] get revved up  to do so.

Everyone yearns to fire the big guns, the way every actor yearns to play Hamlet. The very ambitious reviews blend in my mind.

Because I don't want to read another of these reviews, I'm going to try not to write one. Perhaps I can pretend we're sitting at a bar, you and I, a socially distanced six feet apart, somewhere outside on the patio.

DeLillo's new one is pristine disaster novel with apocalyptic overtones. It's a Stephem King novel scored by Philip Glass instead of Chuck Berry.

A plane from Paris to Newark crash lands. Two of the main characters are on this flight, and they survive. Power grids have gone down all over the world. Aliens? The Chinese? The Joker? QAnon?

DeLillo, who released a chemical ''airborne toxic event'' in ''White Noise'' [1985] is an old-hand at scenarios of this sort. With the electricity cut, one man comments, in lines that could have appeared in nearly any of DeLillo's books :

''The semi-darkness. It's somewhere in the mass mind. The apuse, the sense of having experienced this before.

Some kind of natural breakdown or foreign intrusion. A cautionary sense that we inherit from our grandparents or great grand-parents or back beyond, People in the grip of serious threat.''

''The Silence'' was completed before the arrival of Covid-19, but it is a smug psychological fit with our current moment. We are, DeLillo writes, ''all escorting each other through the mass insomnia of this inconceivable time."

When the end of the world arrives, Ian McEwan wrote in ''Saturday'' [2005], hot showers will be among the first thing to vanish. DeLillo writes about what we'd most now.

''Think of the many millions of blank screens. Try to imagine the disabled phones. What happens to people who live inside their phones?''

What's happening out there?

''The Silence'' is a minor, oddly frictionless DeLillo novel. In terms of his career, it is not waterfall but spray. Posterity will be kind to him, but it will take note of this production.

The novel performs a kind of disc check of what's lodged in our own teeming late-night thoughts. Existence is a cursed stock on which we've invested, the author suggests.

Yet his best writing here reminds us that, as he puts it, and as you I order another round from our gartered server. ''Life can get so interesting that we forget to be afraid.''

The World Students Society thanks review author Dwight Garner. 


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