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What the Critics Say: ‘The Angel Esmeralda’ by Don DeLillo

By Periscope @periscopepost
What the critics say: ‘The Angel Esmeralda’ by Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo novels. Photo credit: Stephen Cummings,

Award-winning American novelist Don DeLillo has released his first collection of short stories, The Angel Esmeralda. The nine stories span three decades, having originally appeared in various literary magazines.

Short and sweet. In The Times (£), Chris Power suggested that DeLillo’s “highly stylised prose” works better in the short form, and suggested this may be why DeLillo’s post-Underworld novels have not been as long as their predecessors.

Does size matter? Writing in The Guardian, Steven Poole argued that some readers struggle with DeLillo novels such as Underworld and Ratner’s Star: “Minds skid on the glacial beauty of his fictive thought. Perhaps a slower pace, encouraged by the short-story form, will facilitate a better grip,” he said. But fans of the novels should also find much to enjoy, according to Poole, who said that DeLillo’s typically excellent dialog and talent for imagery is very much in evidence in these stories.

Contemporary. Poole also praised the longevity and contemporary relevance of the themes DeLillo has chosen: “It would be condescending to say that, over the three-decade span of this collection (and the 15 novels since 1971), DeLillo has kept up with modern culture; more accurate to say that culture keeps catching up with him,” he wrote.

Consistent. John Banville said in The Financial Times that the stories of Esmeralda are consistently good, despite being written over the course of three decades, “as if DeLillo the writer had sprung fully formed into the world and had no need of or inclination towards progress, or modification, or stylistic innovation”. Banville also noted that the tone is consistent throughout the stories, which means the breadth of the settings and action is easily overlooked.

Genius. DeLillo’s collection was warmly welcomed by The Scotsman‘s reviewer, who singled out the story ‘Midnight In Dostoevsky’ for particular praise: “Reading The Angel Esmeralda reminded me why DeLillo is a genius, and made me optimistic about whatever he writes next.”

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