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Surprising literary ventures

Gary Dexter

11 December 2007

12:16 PM

11 December 2007

12:16 PM

Amazons Don DeLillo

Who is Cleo Birdwell?’ begins the flyleaf text of this book. ‘The simple answer is that she’s a New York Ranger, a schoolteacher’s daughter from Badger, Ohio, who becomes the hottest thing in hockey.’ Well, not quite. The simplest answer is that she’s Don DeLillo, author of White Noise, Underworld and Falling Man, publishing pseudonymously early in his career. Amazons is a woman’s first-person confessional account written covertly by a man. Not content to stop there, DeLillo makes this a book almost entirely about sex (there is very little hockey in it). Every ten pages is a new sexual encounter in which the characters go at it rather in the way Marvel superheroes fight — each coital manoeuvre is accompanied by witty repartee (‘Is that you?’ asks one character feeling for an orifice. ‘No, it’s my wire-haired terrier. He likes to go climbing with me’.) Among its grotesques are the unforgettable Merle Halverson, who has a swimming pool-shaped kidney and Sanders Meade, who illustrates the maxim that ‘If a man’s name sounds right whether you say it forward or backward, it means he went to Yale.’ One last point might be of some interest: ‘Cleo Birdwell’ contains the letters of ‘DeLillo’ — with only the letters ‘B Crew’ remaining.


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