He spoke in our voice, European, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway threatful. Walking back and forth on the platform, a black young guy concluded a long, loud speech : “I have told you all. Now you know who I am!” It was so loud that it should have been heard in the next metro stations.
I would have liked Don DeLillo to have been right there. I'm quite sure he would have enjoyed it; standing among the commuters, waiting for the subway train to come. He would have liked the gross, almost bombastic monologue the guy delivered, as if he was an actor - quite good indeed – rehearsing on stage where the set was still under construction.
As far as I could understand, he was beckoning to some ancestors to help him to come back home because, among others strange reasons, he also declared "France is dead" (not so wrong indeed). He was likely to list some obstacles in his way, so he warmed his voice in order to placate whoever tried to throw him out of his own country again. The crude part was about buggering someone I couldn't catch the name. Then, some people, who had seemed to be secretly enjoying his intention for what seemed to be nothing less than a third world war, gave up their kind of smile for a more appropriate frown in which they secretly hoped to be enough to repel the guy from speaking directly with them, just in case. He was a strong man, cap headed, who walked like an athlete ready to beat the hop-step-and-jump's world record.
I thought about Don DeLillo because I had gone to see him in the flesh three months ago, for a reading at the Odeon Theater. DeLillo was there to read extracts from his latest novel – Point Omega - with the French actor Charles Berling, reading the French translated parts.
It was said that he felt very impressed to be in Paris for this event; maybe in the way his character Owen Brademas, in The Names, said : "I've come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version."
I was so moved by his performance that I quickly set out for the bookshop where I heard he was scheduled to sign books, near Bastille. I was prepared with just two questions:
"Why did you change your first name from Donald to Don?” (hum)
"What was your objective with ‘Amazons’? How could you have kind of rejected such a good book that you partially wrote under the pen name of Cleo Birdwell?"
Unfortunately, it was not the right day. He had done the book signing the day before. My silly questions would never meet his perhaps silent answer, but I might have won his well-known business card he used to give that read “I don't want to talk about it” and frame it as a trophy. Sigh.
DeLillo's voice is peculiar, slightly hoarse and the way Don DeLillo was standing to read in the Odeon Theater made me think about the young boy he probably used to be in any Italian church of the New-York streets, reading those Saint-Luke's tales.
I had read the long first chapter of Point Omega maybe three times myself before Don DeLillo came to read it “for me” again. It was an experience which fit well with that installation of Douglas Gordon at the Moma which inspired him, for the Point Omega's prologue. A Hitchcock movie that the contemporary artist had project so slowly in order to make the original movie lasts 24 hours. The way DeLillo writes the passage is definitively astonishing; and when it came to Berling reading in French, the actor muddled along with his hands in his pants pockets. It's not something you can read just like that, indeed. It was not that Berling did badly – he stumbled over very few words - but I would have enjoyed listening to the edgy black guy from the subway reading the French version of DeLillo.
I have written this post in English, in order to practice my English writing and in the hopes of creating a sort of DeLillo Church, where the churchgoers have to read extracts from Don DeLillo’s novels (and plays!), without-their-hands-in-their-pockets-please!
“And now, Sisters and Brothers, let’s listen to our runaway friend from the Ivory Coast reading the Libra’s first chapter for us!
- This was the year he rode the subway to the ends of the city, two hundred miles of track”…
Uh huh, would Don DeLillo enjoy that ?
I didn't finish Point Omega; I'm still reading the first chapters of ‘Ratner's Star’ again and again and each time I feel – or need - to hear 'my' Don DeLillo’s voice.