Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Pablo PIcasso made the above self-portrait at the age of 90. The drawing is called Self Portrait Facing Death and was made in 1972. Mixing strength and vulnerability the image shows the introspective self trying to stare down death itself.

Pablo Picasso demonstrated a great artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th Century he experimented with various techniques and ideas and moved through various stylistic changes. He became one of the greatest and most well-known artists of the 20th Century.

After evolving through realism and developing his talent in the 1890s, Picasso entered his Blue Period around 1901. The paintings of this period are somber and depict austere compositions of gaunt mothers, prostitutes, and beggars. He also produced the etching The Frugal Repast (1904) which depicts a blind man and and a sighted women seated at a table. Blindness is a recurrent theme in this period.

The Rose Period started to happen around 1904, and is characterized by a more positive feeling with orange and pink colors, featuring acrobats and circus people. He also produced his famous portrait of Gertrude Stein in 1906, who was a major collector of his work.

Picasso became influenced by African artifacts and these forms started to find their way into his paintings starting with Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and pointed the way to his cubist period.

Along with George Braque, Picasso developed Analytic Cubism around 1909. They took apart objects and analyzed them in terms of shapes. Often elements of wallpaper and newspapers were pasted into the compositions creating collages.

In the period after the upheaval of WWI, Picasso changed his style again and produced work in a neoclassical style. He was also influenced by surrealism and turned to more harmonious colors and an overall biomorphic sensuality.

Picasso also produced works in various mediums and was constantly drawing. He made this portrait of Igor Stravinsky in 1920.

Picasso produced Guernica, one of his most political and powerful paintings in 1937.  The painting was his depiction of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. This large canvas expresses the inhumanity, brutality, and hopelessness of war. In 1951, he would create another strong political statement with Massacre In Korea.

Picasso continued to produce art all through his life, constantly changing his style yet still incorporating and morphing ideas that he had developed in earlier periods. He was interested in the human condition and created work that was both personal and political. While a skilled draftsman, he also pioneered abstraction, and approached his work with a child-like wonderment and intensity. He produced an amazing and diverse body of work that influenced all artists who followed.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Frank Zappa was one the most interesting musicians and composers of the 20th Century. He produced a diverse body of work that included elements of rock, jazz, classical, electronic music, and theatrical humor. His influences included R&B, Doo-Wop, Be-Bop, and the work of avant-garde French composer Edgar Varese, whose work emphasized timbre and rhythm, and was an early practitioner of electronic music. Zappa created experimental sound collages that combined all of these elements, and was an excellent and original electric guitarist. He also produced and directed films and music videos and even designed many of the album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band The Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.

In the early 1960s, Zappa was living in LA and did various music related work to make a living. He created soundtracks for low-budget films and wrote and produced songs for local bands. He also gained experience recording music with a five-track tape recorder which was more sophisticated than most studios that had mono or two-track. At this time he spent entire days recording and experimenting with overdubbing and audio tape manipulation. Aided by his income from film composing Zappa took over a studio and named it Studio Z. Zappa earned enough money to allow him to stage a concert of his orchestral music in 1963 and broadcast and record it. This led to an appearance on The Steve Allen Show where he played a bicycle as a musical instrument. 

In 1966, Zappa and The Mothers were gaining attention in the LA underground music scene. They were discovered by Tom Wilson who produced records for Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkle. He signed them to a contract on Verve Records, and the Mothers of Invention recorded the groundbreaking double album Freak Out! The album mixed R&B, doo-wop, musique concrete, and experimental sound collages that captured the freak subculture of LA at that time. Freak Out! had a raw, but sophisticated sound and established Zappa as a radical new voice in rock music. The lyrics had dada elements, praised non-conformity, and questioned authority and were influenced by the Beats like Allen Ginsberg and comedians like Lenny Bruce.

Absolutely Free came out in 1967, and focused on songs that defined Zappa's compositional style of introducing abrupt, rhythmic changes into songs made up of diverse elements. Plastic People and Brown Shoes Don't Make It contained lyrics critical of the hypocricy and conformity of American society. The Mothers satirized everything including the counterculture of the 60s.

Lumpy Gravy (1967) was Zappa's first solo album which intertwined orchestral themes, spoken words, and electronic noises using radical audio editing techniques. 

Zappa and the Mothers moved to New York and had an extended gig at the Garrick Theater. We're Only In It For The Money came out in 1968, and featured songs that ruthlessly satirized the hippie and flower power phenomena while using innovative audio editing and production techniques. The cover photo parodied The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album and initiated a life-long collaboration between cover designer Cal Schenkel and Zappa.

Crusing With Ruben and the Jets came out in 1968 and took a different approach by presenting  a collection of doo-wop songs both as satire and as a tribute to the genre. Zappa was influenced by how Stravinksy took the forms and cliches of classical music and warped them in his neo-classical period. Zappa applied this idea to the doo-wop songs. There is even a reference to The Rite of Spring in one of the songs.

Zappa was constantly using tape editing as a compositional tool and he applied this technique of combining studio and live elements into a whole on Uncle Meat (1969). He dubbed this process xenochrony (strange synchronizations) and also believed in conceptual continuity where any project or album was part of a larger project. This allowed for musical themes and lyrics to appear on later works in different forms. The major piece on Uncle Meat was King Kong, one of Zappa's greatest compositions. 

Around this time, Zappa continued to develop the business side of his career and formed Bizarre Records and Straight Records which were distributed by Warner Brothers. Zappa produced the double album Trout Mask Replica for Captain Beefheart and produced the last live performance of Lenny Bruce.

In 1969, Zappa released his masterpiece jazz/rock fusion album, Hot Rats. The album fuses the compositional sophistication of jazz with rock's down-and-dirty attitude. There is a loose and gritty quality to the extended jams and a tight elegance to the shorter pieces. Besides some great guitar work by Zappa, there are also great contributions by Ian Underwood, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lowell George, and Don "Sugarcane" Harris, as well as an amazing vocal by Captain Beefheart on Willie The Pimp. The song's greasy blues riffs work perfectly with Beefheart's Howlin' Wolf theatrics. On the other hand Peaches en Regalia is a beautiful instrumental of shifting instrumentation. The album peaks with The Gumbo Variations with sizzling sax work by Underwood. This is simply a great album, and probably my favorite Zappa recording.

In 1970,  Zappa released two albums of live material from the earlier Mothers incarnation. Burnt Weeny Sandwich opens and closes with 50s pop covers, but the best pieces are Holiday in Berlin and The Little House I Used To Live In that features a virtuoso piano solo by Ian Underwood. Weasels Ripped My Flesh featured more complex material and improvised stage madness. It segues between arty experimentation and traditional song structures. Odd rhythms and time signatures, dissonance, and wordless vocal noises collide with avant-garde jazz and straight ahead rockers. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask, Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue, and My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama all appear on this recording.

Later in 1970, Zappa formed a new version of the Mothers that included Aynsley Dunbar, George Duke, Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons, and ex-Turtles Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (Flo and Eddie) on vocals. They produced several albums in this period with probably 200 Motels (1971) being the highlight. 200 Motels was a soundtrack to a film that featured The Mothers, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel, and Keith Moon. It was co-directed by Zappa and was filmed in a week at Pinewood Studios outside of London. The film deals loosely with the life on the road of a rock musician. It was one of the first features photographed on videotape and transferred to 35mm film which allowed for wacky special effects.

In 1971, Zappa suffered two setbacks while touring in Europe. Their equipment was destroyed in Montreux, Switzerland when an audience member fired a flare that started a fire and burned the Casino they were playing in to the ground. This of course was immortalized in the Deep Purple song Smoke On The Water. A week later at the Rainbow Theater in London the band used rented equipment and during the encore Zappa was knocked off the stage by an audience member and suffered serious fractures and head trauma and injuries to his back, leg, and neck. He also suffered a crushed larynx that caused damage to his voice. When it first happened the band thought Zappa had been killed.

At this point Zappa disbanded the Mothers and turned back to the studio and started writing jazz/rock music scored for wider instrumentation. Waka/Jawaka came out in 1972, and is comprised of two extended instrumentals and two shorter pieces. Big Swifty is a theme and solo showcase and became a live favorite. The album featured the work of keyboardist Don Preston, trumpeter Sal Marquez, and saxaphonist Mike Altschul.

Next came The Grand Wazoo (1973) which was also mainly an instrumental jazz/rock album and one of Zappa's best. It tells the story of two warring musical factions but the major focus is on Zappa's skills as a composer and arranger. The compositions are melodic and consistently engaging while being shifting and complex. Hot Rats is probably the peak of Zappa's jazz/rock fusion efforts, but The Grand Wazoo comes close and is an essential recording for anyone interested in the music of Frank Zappa.

Later in 1973, Zappa again changed directions and released the watershed album Overnight Sensation. The album took social and sexual humor and put them into tight song structures, but with excellent musicianship and great solos. There are jazzy chord changes and funky rhythms combined with a technically accomplished guitar rock feel. Zappa's voice takes over the storytelling and the lyrics are brilliant, clever, explicit, controversial, and hilarious. Dirty Love and Dinah-Mo-Humm are satirical takes on male stupidity. Montana is great both musically and lyrically and features an amazing uncredited backing vocal from Tina Turner and the Ikettes, and a great Zappa guitar solo.

Apostrophe (1974) followed in the same direction and was full of dirty jokes and clever instrumental passages. It has the narrative feel of a willfully absurd concept album and is very entertaining.

Roxy and Elsewhere (1974) is a double live album and one of my favorites. It is a bridge between his comedic rock records and his more complex jazz/rock instrumental compositions. Napoleon Murphy Brock is the vocalist of an excellent band that includes George Duke, Ruth Underwood, and the Fowler Brothers. Penguin in Bondage and Cheepnis are hilarious and the combination of Son of Orange County and More Trouble Every Day is emotionally powerful and is perhaps my favorite Zappa live performance.

One Size Fits All came out in 1975 and alternates between humorous rock songs and more challenging instrumentals. Inca Roads, Florentine Pogen, and Sofa all became classic tracks and live favorites.

Bongo Fury (1975) captures live performances of Zappa with Captain Beefheart during their brief reunion tour of 1975. It is a pastiche of live and studio performances. The album has both technically complex jazz pieces and surreal spoken word pieces by Beefheart.

Zoot Allures (1976) sounds stripped down compared to the albums before and after it, and contains lots of bass and whispered vocals to create a work of slow, dark, sleazy rock. The Torture Never Stops is ten minutes of suggestive lyrics, crawling riffs, searing solos, and female screams of pain. Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station and Disco Boy frame the other numbers on the album and are lighter and more humorous. Black Napkins and Zoot Allures contain some of Zappa's most impressive guitar solos.

In 1977, Zappa In New York came out and presented a double live album recorded at the Palladium. It contains versions of songs from Overnight Sensation, One Size Fits All, and Zoot Allures, as well as other humorous works such as Titties and Beer and The Illinois Enema Bandit.

Zappa had a four record box set called Lather to be put out in 1977, but due to conflicts with Warner Brothers the material was released on various albums including Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt, and Orchestral Favorites. There is some very good music here including The Adventures of Greggery Peccary and Strictly Genteel and would point to way to further orchestral works in the future.

Sheik Yerbouti (1979) continued with tighter melodic songs of social satire and sexual preoccupations.

Zappa ended the decade with his rock opera Joe's Garage (1979). It is comprised of three acts and uses Zappa's xenochrony technique, in which guitar solos from older, completely unrelated recordings were extracted and overdubbed onto new songs. Ike Willis is the voice of Joe, leader of a stereotypical garage band who journeys through the miasma of the music business. The Central Scrutinizer provides a character with a menacing mechanical voice that narrates the story and invades Joe's psyche with McCarthyism 50s era paranoia. At the end of the story, music become illegal. It was inspired by the 1979 Iranian Revolution which outlawed public musical expression. The story parodies groupies, sexual repression of the Catholic Church, Scientology, struggling musicians, and the censorship of music.

In late 1979, Zappa's movie Baby Snakes premiered in New York. It contained footage from concerts in New York around Halloween 1977 that featured guitarist Adrian Belew, and also had several extraordinary sequences of clay animation by Bruce Bickford. 

In 1981, Zappa released Shut Up and Play Your Guitar which is simply a collection of guitar solos. They are edited out of their original context, and show what an ever-inventive player he was. Later in the 1980s he would release another album of this nature simply called Guitar.

In 1982, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch was released and featured tighter satirical rock songs and more complex rock instrumentals. It even contained a hit Valley Girl that included the vocals of Zappa's daughter Moon Unit who was 14 at the time. The song pastiches and satirizes rich girls from the San Fernando Valley and their particular way of talking.

The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano made a recording of Zappa's work in 1983. The music is moody and ponderous, slow with dramatic passages and is clearly influenced by Stravinsky. Other recordings of orchestral work would come out, but Zappa's music was quite difficult to play and he was not always happy with the results.

In 1984, Them or Us came out and was Zappa's last studio rock album. It contains a little of everything that Zappa explored throughout his career and even contains a cover of the Allman Brother's Whipping Post.

Also in 1984, Zappa brought out Thing-Fish an ambitious three-record set in the style of a Broadway play dealing with a dystopian scenario involving feminism, homosexuality, manufacturing and distribution of the AIDS virus, and a eugenics program conducted by the US government. It was controversial and misunderstood and is one of Zappa's more obscure works.

In 1985, Zappa testified before Congress against what he saw as the coming censorship of music. He later released an album Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers of Prevention where he included a sound collage that included tape loops of the voices from the congressional hearings.

Zappa also became interested in the Synclavier as a compositional and performing tool and considering the complexity of his music, he felt it would allow him to realize anything he wanted. Jazz From Hell (1986) is a great example of the music he created with the Synclavier and features the composition G-Spot Tornado.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Zappa released several live albums including Broadway The Hard Way, Make A Jazz Noise Here, and a series of 6 double-cds called You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore that contain live work from his entire career. There were also releases of numerous bootlegs of live recordings.

In 1990, Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostrate cancer. He devoted most of his remaining energy to modern orchestral works and Synclavier works. In 1993, he completed Civilization, Phase III, shortly before his death.

In 1992, Zappa was approached by Ensemble Modern, a German chamber ensemble who wanted to play his work at the Frankfurt Festival. Zappa even conducted one of the pieces but was too ill to attend all of the performances, but was still exhilarated by the experience. The recordings of the concerts appeared on the Yellow Shark (1993) which was the last album released during Zappa's lifetime.

Frank Zappa was a musical genius who created an amazing and idiosyncratic body of work that included elements of rock satire, jazz-rock fusion, guitar virtuoisity, electronic wizardry, and orchestral innovation. Today his legacy is being carried on by his family and numerous recordings are constantly emerging. His son Dweezil with his group Zappa Plays Zappa still performs the music of his father.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Point Omega was published in 2010 and is the latest novel by Don DeLillo. He has paired down his prose and narrative into a beautiful, poetic, and obscure work of mystical minimalism within a structure of barely over one hundred pages. Point Omega does not come to a simple and clear conclusion, but it does make a powerful statement about the mystery of our existence.

DeLillo has always been interested in the strangeness of America and its elements of greed, spectacle, and paranoia. DeLillo has the ability to step aside and take an objective look at America. He examines how information, consumerism, militarism, technology, and even sports have played a part in shaping the American consciousness. In DeLillo's fiction technological apparatuses such as televisions, filmic images, autos, airplanes, computers, toxic events, and nuclear bombs all have a psychological influence on the identity of the characters. Point Omega is about a desire to escape this overload of information and technology and come to point where our consciousness becomes clear, but it is probably too late as we are headed towards extinction. 

Point Omega has three sections. The first is titled Anonymity and the last is called Anonymity 2, and they bracket the longer central section. Both sections take place one day apart and they describe a scene in a gallery at the Museum of Modern Art in New York where the film installation 24 Hour Psycho by the Scottish artist Douglas Gordon is playing. Gordon has slowed down Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho so it takes a full 24 hours from start to finish. There is no sound as the soundtrack has been removed. The screen is in the center of the gallery so the viewer can go behind and watch the film in a flipped version as well. The slightest camera movement creates a meaningful shift in time and space and everything in the film can now be analyzed in increments. The illusion of a continuous and seamless reality that is created by 24 frames of film being projected in a single second has now been defeated. Of course very few people can actually watch a film for 24 hours straight, so most of the viewers in the gallery watch from a few moments to several minutes and then move on, except for the anonymous character in DeLillo's book. He is fascinated by the film and feels you need to watch it with great concentration. He spends hours at a time in the gallery and has come on several different days. He desires to see the film from start to finish in a full 24 hour period, but the gallery and museum are not open long enough. He desires to transmigrate into the film. 

In Anonymity he sees two men who come in and watch the film for a while who will play a major role in the central section of the book. In Anonymity 2 he encounters a young woman who will also have a presence in the central section. These are revealed to the reader with a few sentences but are crucial to the narrative. The anonymous narrator also is obsessive and at times mirrors the disturbing character of Norman Bates in Psycho. At one point he imagines the guard in the gallery shooting himself in the head.

The central section consists of 4 chapters. In the first chapter Jim Finley an independent filmmaker has come to the California desert home of Richard Elster a retired academic who was brought in by the Bush administration and played a role in developing the strategy for the war in Iraq. Finley wants to make a film of Elster in one single take with only his face against a textured wall, telling his story as he wishes about his role in shaping the Iraq war. Elster is intrigued, but unsure if he wants to do it. Is this a way for him to explain and justify himself or is Finley just trying to elicit a confession? Point Omega makes a strong anti-war statement here as it describes Elster's view of the war as an abstraction and puts him in with the Neo-Cons who conceived the war in Iraq in the first place. The planners have no emotional attachment to the war, but simply move men and equipment around on a map putting their theory into practice. Elster even talks of wanting to have a Haiku war, reducing it to simple and pure act. But now he has come to the desert because of his disillusionment and guilt. He wants to get away from the world of news and traffic, from the sensory overload, and slow time down. Finley has come to convince him to do the film, but ends up staying for an extended period becoming Elster's companion.

In the second chapter Elster's daughter Jessie arrives and changes the dynamic. The book now concentrates more on the interaction between Finley and Jessie. She has been sent to her father by her mother because she is concerned about a relationship Jessie is having with a mysterious man. Elster and the mother have been long divorced and Jessie seems to have a warm but detached relationship with her father. Finley is intrigued and attracted to her and even has sexual fanatasies about her, but still finds her hard to connect with. At the end of Chapter 3 she mysteriously disappears. Was she murdered, or did she commit suicide, or did she simply get lost in the desert?

In Chapter 4 the authorities are called and they all search for the missing Jessie. Elster is so traumatized by his daughter's disappearance he becomes paralyzed and ill and Finley now become his caretaker. His movements are described by Finley in a similar way to how the images move in the slowed down film installation. A knife is found at an old bombing range near the ranch called the Impact Area. Is it a murder weapon? And of course it is a knife that is the murder weapon in Psycho. We never find out what happens to Jessie, but there are a few narrative elements brought out that suggest a couple of scenarios.

In Anonymous 2 Jessie gives her number to the anonymous man. Is he the man she has been seeing that concerns her mother? Is he a Norman Bates? Has he found her in the desert and taken her or killed her. There is also a strange sequence where Finley is alone searching for her in the desert. He talks about the vast silence but this is broken by the presence of a buzzing fly. Is this a reference to the fly in Psycho that crawls on Norman Bates at the end of the film? He also describes a scene of making love to Jessie but he is outside of himself watching. Did Finley have something to do with her disappearance?

In a way it doesn't matter because with Point Omega, DeLillo is more concerned with philosophy, timelessness, and extinction. The title of the book comes from the evolutionary philosophy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Omega Point represents  the highest complexity and most fully developed consciousness towards which civilization can aspire. In a way, Point Omega is saying we are moving away from this and that we overload our consciousness with fragments of information and thought that eventually we will bring on our own extinction. In the end, Finley  drives himself and Elster out of the desert and back into the city where time speeds up and information and noise bombard our senses.

Don DeLillo published his first book Americana in 1971. The novel centers around a former television executive turned avant-garde filmmaker named David Bell. As he travels through America he creates an autobiographical road movie. The first half of the novel is a critique of the corporate world, while the second half articulates the fears and dilemmas of contemporary America. The title of the book was no accident as DeLillo wanted his literature to encompass the whole culture.

End Zone (1972) takes place at a small college in Texas and is narrated by a football player during the team's first integrated season. It is meditative and playful with the protagonist contemplating nuclear warfare and extraterrestrial life.

Great Jones Street (1973) centers on rock star Bucky Wunderlick who narrates the novel. He is dissatisified with his famous life and retreats to an unfurnished apartment on Great Jones Street in Manhattan and tries to simplify his life. The book also includes a drug that wreaks havoc on the language centers of the brain and a domestic terrorist organization.

Ratner's Star came out in 1976 and tells the story of a child prodigy mathematician who arrives at a secret installation to help decode a mysterious message that appears to come from outer space. It mixes quirky humor, science, and mathematical theories with the emotional distance and sadness people feel.

Players (1977) follows an affluent Manhattan couple whose casual boredom leads to a willing participation in chaotic detours including becoming aware of violent terrorists who are targeting Wall Street. 

Running Dog (1978) follows a journalist as she tries to infiltrate a black market of wealthy erotic art collectors in and effort to find a rumored porno film of Adolph Hitler made in his bunker in the climactic days of the fall of Berlin.

Moving into the 1980s, DeLillo started to slow down and examine what he was doing more closely. The Names came out in 1982 and was a complex thriller about a risk analyst who crosses paths with a cult of assassins in the Middle East. It is set mostly in Greece and explores many themes including the intersection of language and culture, the perception of American culture from both within and outside its borders, and the impact that narration has on the facts of a story.

In 1985, DeLillo published White Noise which brought him much acclaim by winning the National Book Award. Set in a midwestern college town, the book follows a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor who is pioneering the field of Hitler Studies, even though he can't speak German. He has been married five times to four women and has a brood of children and step-children. Him and his wife Babette become obsessed with death after an airborne toxic event which is caused by a chemical spill from a rail car contaminates the area in which they live. The book also involves an organization that simulates evacuations and an experimental drug called Dylar, that is a treatment for the fear of death, but has a multitude of side effects.

White Noise is encyclopedic and uses montage in its use of language describing consumerist America. The style  is quite different to the minimalism of Point Omega. It deals with many of DeLillo's themes including media saturation, novelty intellectualism, underground conspiracies, and the disintegration and re-integration of the family.

Libra was published in 1988, and is a speculative fictionalized take on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald leading up to the assassination of JFK in 1963. DeLillo researched the subject exhaustively, including reading a good portion of the Warren Commission Report. In DeLillo's version of the event the plot is intended to fail and has been instigated by disgruntled CIA operatives who see it as the only way to guide the government into a war with Cuba. Oswald is portrayed as an outcast whose communist views cause him difficulty in fitting into American society. He is not shown to be a madman but to be well-read and intelligent. The book also indicates that he is dyslexic which gives him difficulty in both writing and reading. He is not portrayed sympathetically, nor is he castigated. He is treated fairly, but is difficult to identify with.

Libra also includes other real life players in the assassination including Win Everett and Guy Banister who are presented as the chief conspirators in the plot. A parallel story follows Nicholas Branch, a CIA archivist assigned the monumental task of piecing together the disparate fragments of Kennedy's death. He concludes that the effort will be neverending and the whole truth is ultimately unknowable.

Mao II (1991) deals with the position of the novelist in a media and terrorist dominated society and was clearly influenced by the fatwa placed upon the writer Salman Rushdie and the intrusion of the press into the life of the reclusive writer J.D. Salinger. The book's main plot centers around the kidnapping of a novelist by a Maoist terrorist group. The prologue reveals a major theme of the book that the future belongs to crowds. The opening scene is an amazing description of a mass-wedding of the Unification Church at Yankee Stadium. Mao II refers to a series of prints of Mao by Andy Warhol.

In 1997, DeLillo published his magnum opus Underworld. It is considered his masterpiece by many and won several awards and is considered one of the finest novels of the 20th Century. Underworld is an 832 page novel that spans 41 years of American life and incorporates baseball, Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover, nuclear test sites, and the New York Giants beating the Brooklyn Dodgers on Bobby Thompson's infamous home run at the Polo Grounds in 1951. Underworld's first 60 pages describe this event in amazing detail. The Soviets had nuclear bomb tests on the same day and both stories played out in the newspapers the next day. The baseball that Thompson hit appears throughout the novel and ties the various sections together. There is another great descriptive passage by DeLillo of the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island. The title came to DeLillo as he thought about the radioactive waste below the ground. The waste and byproducts of history are constantly dissected and discussed throughout the novel and resurface from the underworld, or subconscious of the American people who would rather bury the things they don't want to confront.

DeLillo has produced 4 novels since Underworld and are smaller and less ambitious, but he has stated that the books dictate themselves and perhaps eventually a grander book will come again. In my opinion less can be more and for me Point Omega is a near perfect book. It is paired down to the essence.

The Body Artist (2001) is a novella barely over 100 pages and explores the grieving of a young performance artist following the sudden death of her older husband. It deals with Freud's theory of melancholia and is sometimes described as a ghost story.

Cosmopolis (2003) is influenced by Joyce's Ulysses and covers one day of time and includes the theme of a father-son separation. It is about a billionaire asset manager who makes an odyssey across Midtown Manhattan in order to get a haircut. He travels in a luxury stretch limo that is outfitted with television screens and computer monitors, bulletproofed and floored with marble. His Voyage is obstructed by various traffic jams, funeral processions, and a demonstration that turns into a riot. He has sex with women including his wife and is stalked by potential assassins. Through the course of the day he loses huge amounts of money for his clients by betting against the rise of the yen. By the end of the day he has come to financial ruin.

Falling Man was published in 2007 and concerns the impact on one family of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. It is an intimate story encompassed by a global event. It opens with an amazing description of a man emerging from the dust and chaos in downtown Manhattan. The protagonist tries to resume his domestic routine but his existence has been altered and he now must change the direction of his life. The title refers to a performance artist who while wearing business attire suspends himself upside-down with a rope and harness in the pose of the man in the famous photograph of the same name taken by the photographer Richard Drew.

This leads us back to Point Omega.