(1997) that “everyday things represent the mostoverlooked forms of knowledge.” Benjamin taps into these forms of overlooked knowledge, often by examining what he calls a “dialecticalimage,” a startling juxtaposition of two opposing elements, boundtogether in a way that disrupts a typical understanding of either of theelements. DeLillo too, I argue, exposes everyday life through dialecticalimages—say, a Molotov cocktail in a Coca-Cola bottle—and indeed, thisis DeLillo’s primary strategy for exploring, to quote from Father Paulusagain, “the depth and reach of the commonplace.”
The Radiance of Dailiness: DeLillo and the Everyday
makes asubstantial contribution to the field of contemporary American literarystudies. Most significantly, I reframe Don DeLillo, often consideredalongside Thomas Pynchon as one of the principal postmodernistnovelists of our age, as a realist writer, firmly grounded in the modernmaterial world. I insist that DeLillo, even at his most surreal or stylized,is a writer of realist fiction. This reformulation of DeLillo counters thetrend in DeLillo studies, which has been dominated in recent years bypoststructuralist readings that focus on the philosophical ormetaphysical side of DeLillo. While these influential studies—such asDavid Cowart’s
Don DeLillo: The Physics of Language
(University of Georgia, 2002) or Joseph Dewey’s
Grief and Nothing: A Reading of DonDeLillo
(University of South Carolina, 2006)—have expanded ourunderstanding of DeLillo in important ways, they concentrate on theinstitutional or cosmological indeterminacies which haunt DeLillo’sfiction, leaving DeLillo’s emphasis on materiality unaccounted for.
I do not present my study of DeLillo as an exhaustive chronologicalreading of his oeuvre, the format of most books in the field. Rather, Ihave structured
The Radiance of Dailiness
thematically, with eachchapter devoted to a specific category of everyday objects. This designallows for a fluid discussion of key objects across DeLillo’s fourteennovels, allowing me to make my own startling—and revealing— juxtapositions of DeLillo’s work.
Introduction – “In the Commonplace I Find UnexpectedThemes and Intensities”
I open with a discussion of the recent trend in popular culture totake us “behind the scenes” of everyday life. Whether it is theso-called “CSI shot,” now common in many television shows andmovies, that tunnels a camera through the human body, or thepopularity of what the critic Bruce Robbins calls commodity3