Don DeLillo was raised just steps away from one of the city’s most famous culinary destinations, Arthur Avenue, which is widely considered the Little Italy of the Bronx by locals. DeLillo stayed in his home borough through university, attending Cardinal Hayes High School and later receiving a degree in Communications from Fordham. After graduating, DeLillo took a copywriting job at Ogilvy & Mather. In the evenings, he would write short stories, some of which were published. But he quickly tired of his circumstances, and quit his job in order to concentrate on writing his first novel.
Americana was published in 1971, and wasn’t greeted with much acclaim or publicity. He wrote several additional novels throughout the decade and into early in the 1980s before he finally made a breakthrough with readers and critics alike with The Names in 1982. From there, DeLillo found his voice. But it was his next novel that would cement him in the literary stratosphere.
1985’s White Noise was met with universal acclaim from both the critics and the public. The term ‘Airborne Toxic Event’ became a part of the lexicon, and his work inspired an entire generation of postmodern writers. From then on, each new novel was highly anticipated, and none of his subsequent work disappointed. He went on to produce, in succession, three more masterpieces: Libra, Mao 2, and Underworld, which many consider his greatest literary achievement.
DeLillo’s work has always maintained the uncanny ability to predict real issues that we grapple with today; from pharmacology saturation to mass media overload, the rise of a cult of personality, the collapse of financial markets, white collar crime run amuck, environmental issues, and the rise of a high-tech terrorism. As fellow author Joshua Ferris mused about DeLillo, “you don’t read him for plot-driven vehicles,” you read him for his voice, his themes, and his humor.