Cults, the desert, natural disasters. Artists, bankers, terrorists. Cash machines, food packaging, secret installations. Mediaspeak and scientific jargon. Crowds and capital. Language and death. Just as it used to be possible to play Ballard Bingo with the work of the late 20th century’s other great literary monomaniac, so Don DeLillo’s themes have remained astonishingly consistent in the 45 years since Americana, his first novel, appeared. The unswerving focus has a lot to do with why, like Ballard, he has so often been charged with prophecy: in cryptic gallows comedies such as White Noise and The Names, with their sinister wonder-drugs and murderous language cults, or the spacey and frigid Mao II, with its ‘new tragic narrative’ of ‘midair explosions and crumbled buildings’, he seemed to be telling us stories about the confused 21st century long before it arrived.