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I am a sick man. I am a jealous man. Endowed with a certain Mediterranean vigor I am spiteful, sickened to death by Tom Brokaw’s shit-eating grin, disgusted with my family and former friends, fearful of aloof dot-commers in a Biblical way, their SUV’s, their palm pilots, their material stink swarming around me. But I will be honest with you. I harbor such strange opinions because I have fallen into the literary life. A noble calling, you might say. But I did not choose this hell, this torture that even the most vile of Chinese sadists couldn’t stomach. I have yet to find my own voice. I have yet to be original in any sense of the term. I am a garden-variety critic, a poetaster with no skill, only taste. I am a scab, aware at all times, night and day, that I am derivative, the new and improved version of what already came before. I want to be an artist, a sayer of truth. But I am blocked. Hindered and haunted by the words of another. To make a long story short, I am obsessed with Don DeLillo.

A confession, gentle reader, of what lies behind.

I have been in contact with others who share my obsession, chat room buddies, friends of friends who pick up used copies of White Noise to give away at parties, and last but not least, The Don DeLillo Society, an academic clique of which I was once a proud member. Founded in 1999, we organize and sponsor panels on DeLillo at various literary conferences. We are the gauntlet of DeLillo criticism. If you want to say something about DeLillo you must first go through us. We are in the know. Nothing that DeLillo writes, says, or does eludes our grasp. We understand how DeLillo relates to contemporary issues of race, gender, and class. We have come to realize the subtle workings of his mind and how they relate to our own.

I was recently forced to resign from the DeLillo Society after a colleague suggested that we write a book together about DeLillo’s depictions of media violence. I had thought of this already! So I punched him in the nose. I was soon fired from my University post and he is suing me. I am suing the University for wrongful termination. The Chronicle of Higher Education has gotten involved (too involved if you ask me!), milking the story for its salacious metacommentary.

I am now unemployed, a stay-at-home dad with no prospect of gainful employment. But in order to maintain appearances, I will let you in on my imaginary—where I am coming from and what I take for granted when I speak of things DeLillo. I have never been to prison. I was born in Akron, Ohio but tell people I’m from Cleveland. I love cats. When I was twenty-two I applied to law school but was rejected by every goddamn one, a sign, I believe, of things to come. I am quick to anger. A victim, plain and simple.

My life can be summarized by my cultural obsessions beginning with my mother’s soap operas in the summers between second and third grades—Days of Our Lives and Another World— intrigue, murder, and sex whose narrative was jointed and deferred. I quickly moved onto KISS—KISS tapes, KISS jacket, KISS dolls, KISS cards and the prized #18, a solitary Ace Frehley on guitar, a sparkling, spacey vision of silver and white. Only my friend Brett Beadow had been blessed with #18, at that time a point of contention and awkward jealousy. I then spent five years thinking about nothing but baseball cards, arranging and rearranging them in plastic pockets, stealing packs from the drug store, memorizing statistics and perfect mint prices, going to card shows and collecting every Pete Rose card there was, every year, all mint, all Charlie Hustle, from the 1963 rookie card to the 1984 Fleer update. After the cardboard heroes lost their luster, I moved onto more sophisticated fare. Before DeLillo there was Galaga, Prince, Led Zeppelin, and Bon Jovi, Civil War battle reenactments, Laurie Anderson, semiotics, and Moby-Dick to name only a few.

I fell into the words of Don DeLillo on November 16, 1997 (now a family holiday). That was the day I first began reading Underworld. It took eight days of slow, methodical turns, one page at a time, copious notes, tears, and illumination. I would read sections over and over again. I would spend hours on a single paragraph. The first line a coded message, a direct challenge to the reader, hanging there, waiting for me to decipher it.

He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.

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