Friday, November 20, 2020

The Silence by Don DeLillo

DeLillo's latest, a novella of just over one hundred pages, is long enough to be both imperfectly stimulating and imperfectly annoying. 

It's set amidst a very sudden and simultaneous end to human technology, loosely defined, emblemised by a blank screen on Superbowl night, 2022.

It begins a little earlier on a flight from Paris to New York which features a couple of factual inaccuracies about such a situation which irked me in a way that I was never going to get over in a mere 90 pages.

DeLillo is old enough to recall a world without email, a world where many are yet to invest so much of themselves outside of themselves, in cyberspace. When we founded our company in the early 90s, it's most replicated function was to persuade clients to adopt email, to inhabit the interwebs. Did we really help bring about an irreversible change? Would a sudden return to the world my parents were born into be so utterly apocalyptic?

"E-mail-less. Try to imagine it. Say it. Hear how it sounds. E-mail-less.”

One of the characters is a young physicist fixated on Einstein and relativity and sits squarely at the intersection of the stimulating and annoying in this book. As far as the former state of mind goes, I gathered that DeLillo was asking if technology is all that underpins our sense of a shared present and that without it, we'd be locked into a terrifying subjectivity.

Still, there's something rather #firstworldproblems-y about this scenario, or at least something suggestive that the USA's problems are inherently bigger problems than anybody else's.

One line will however stick with me, resonating perhaps more for the specific personal and collective moment in which I came across it...

"Life can get so interesting that we forget to be afraid."




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