You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

America’s greatest living novelist is still keeping it weird.

Timothy Hiatt/Getty

Don DeLillo has often been called a recluse, but he has always resisted the term. In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, he said that privacy was simply a precondition of his work. “The novel had become an incentive to deeper thinking,” he said. “That’s really what writing is—an intense form of thought.” But that didn’t mean that he was reclusive per se. “I’m not reclusive at all,” he continued. “Just private.”

Over the years, one of DeLillo’s frequent themes has been the claustrophobic nature of celebrity, and his fiction suggests that it is a particularly harsh affliction for writers; at least once in the past two decades, DeLillo said that he would never do another interview.

But all of a sudden, Don DeLillo is everywhere. His fifteenth novel, Zero K, drops next Tuesday and he appears to be on a bona fide junket. Over the last few weeks, DeLillo has given a series of interviews about Zero K and will make appearances in New York, Los Angeles, and London. Best of all, he is still keeping it delightfully weird. Here’s an answer he gave to a (weird) question from The Los Angeles Times’s Carolyn Kellogg:

If this is three-dimensional reality, what is the reality of fiction?

I’m thinking of two dimensions of a screen or a page on which people read. We hope, writers hope, that in fact their characters are living in a three-dimensional world, first in the writer’s mind, then in the minds of readers.

When I’m conceiving a scene, do I see it in three dimensions? It’s not so easy to answer what appears to be a simple question. I see it—I see characters, I see people, I see streets, cars—and they seem to exist in this special level of mental reality. I could not distinguish the features of a character’s face when I have an idea concerning this character, when I see him or her in a room, and in most cases the room itself is fairly generic—except when I’m actually describing a room—this does happen somewhere in “Zero K”—and then I see a room much more clearly.