Zero K - Media Watch

This page lists major known reports on Don DeLillo's Zero K leading up to its publication and beyond. Let me know if you see anything new.

The Spinoff (July 21, 2016) review from Thom Shackleford: The world we may soon wake up to, as warned in Don DeLillo's latest novel. A taste::

The structure is the book and the book is the structure; the same can be said of the prose. By beginning with The Convergence, with cold abstract death, we feel as if we've survived a drawn out chess game with oblivion – giving us a lust for life, a longing for even the smallest of moments which comprise our days and compose our identities.
(July 21, 2016)

The New York Review of Books (June 9, 2016 issue) review from Nathaniel Rich: When High Technology Meets Immortality. Situates Zero K in the ouevre:

Sustained self-examination is increasingly elusive in our era of maximum technological stimulation—an era DeLillo refers to at one point as the "scatterlife." But are we so scattered? And if so why? Is it simply the availability of the technology? Its narcotic pull? DeLillo suggests there is more to it than that. "All the voice commands and hyper-connections" do not just provide cheap distraction. They offer a sense of security. In the same way that the prospect of a cryogenic afterlife assuages the fear of death by protecting one's body tissue from decomposition, immersion in the virtual life of electronic communications makes the body vanish altogether.

Financial Times (May 13, 2016) review from Jason Cowley: Zero K by Don DeLillo.

Superstition and mass delusion are recurring themes in DeLillo’s fiction. The scenes set in the Convergence, especially those where Jeff discusses fundamental questions of existence with the wealthy individuals who have come there to die so that they might one day live again, are lucid and philosophically literate, in the usual DeLillo style. In one sense, the novel can be read as a long meditation on the metaphysics of personal identity.

The Guardian (May 24, 2016) commentary from Sam Jordison for the Guardian reading group: Zero K and making sense of 'late period' Don DeLillo.

While I originally took Zero K as a reflection on mortality and what it means to die, it now also seems to me to be about the artist’s contest with infinity. "All plots end in death" is developed into the question of what happens to stories once their creator moves on – or, how much of the creator remains in those stories. For instance, the first person we see anaesthetised and frozen is called Artis (genitive of "ars", if you’re a Latin fan – which is to say, "of art"). We are told that "death is a cultural artifact" and that their frozen clients will be "subjects for us to study, toys for us to play with". We are even shown frozen bodies arranged around the Convergence building like so many macabre sculptures.

The Guardian (May 15, 2016) review from Alex Preston: Zero K by Don DeLillo - profound and beautiful.

This is a book that is both beautiful and profound, certainly DeLillo’s best since Underworld, and will reward repeated reading. Like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, it forces us to confront the spectre of our own mortality, to ask deep questions of our motives in wishing to prolong our span on Earth. We finish the novel with a sudden recognition of the kindness of death, the balm of a bounded life.

(May 25, 2016)

UK coverage in advance of Zero K Picador release on May 19

The Guardian (May 11, 2016) review from James Lasdun: The problem of mortality:

I have to confess, reluctantly, that I found this section (which occupies two thirds of the book) hard to like. The whole notion of this fortified desert compound, with its enlightened but sinister scientists and slightly robotic functionaries (or "escorts"), seems ill suited to DeLillo's gifts. For all his prophetic genius he's a chronicler of reality, not a high-concept fantasist, and his lavish verbal resources seem to me wasted on trying to imbue this glorified meat-safe with consequentiality.

The Independent (May 10, 2016) review from Arin Keeble: Cryogenics, immortality and the fragility of life:

Clocks and wristwatches appear everywhere in the novel and initially questions of time give expression to Jeffrey's rudderless existence: "It occurred to me that I'd done this two or three days earlier, or maybe it was two or three years." But later, time is evoked as part of the beauty and tragedy of humanity – and perhaps as what defines it.

The Guardian (May 6, 2016) ran an interview with DeLillo by Xan Brooks: Don DeLillo: 'I think of myself as the kid from the Bronx' with some interesting thoughts on DeLillo's life:

"People always use the word 'identify'. 'Do you identify with these individuals?' And I really don't. I can't talk about characters outside the frame of the fiction. I identify with the words on the page. I identify with the paragraphs."

He wonders if he has another Underworld in him. "I would like to think so but the truthful answer is that I doubt it. I don’t think I'd be able to do it at that length, even if I knew I was going to live long enough. I don’t know why that is. I think you become a little more closed in on yourself. A little more physically and mentally tired."

(May 11, 2016)

The Millions (May 5, 2016) has a nice interview by Mark O'Connell: The Novel Still Exists: The Millions Interviews Don DeLillo.

TM: The new novel, like Point Omega before it, is permeated by a kind of eschatological mood. The opening line is "Everybody wants to own the end of the world." And there's a sense in the book, and in your work generally, of capitalism moving into an apocalyptic endgame. Is the prospect of future catastrophe — the reality of climate change, for instance — something that preoccupies you as you get older?

DD: I wouldn’t say these things preoccupy me. I would say that I’m aware of a level of concern that didn’t exist before. For a very long time, nuclear war was the thing that people were concerned with, at some level of consciousness. And that seemed to vanish at a certain point, but even that has a tendency to return in one way or another. Nuclear accidents, or all-out war between two or more countries. The concern is there certainly, and it can be almost palpable at times. Particularly when you see film footage or photographs of certain areas of the globe, in which enormous changes are taking place.

San Francisco Chronicle (May 5, 2016) review from Scott Esposito ran today: Zero K, by Don DeLillo.

The Convergence is creating a language for those in the deep freeze, one that will "approximate the logic and beauty of pure mathematics" and that "will not shrink from whatever forms of objective truth we have never before experienced." Artis' first-person thoughts from her sleep — which, sadly, only fill a handful of this book’s 274 pages — are among the most interesting writing DeLillo has done since the turn of the century.

The Christian Science Monitor (May 5, 2016) review from Steve Donoghue: Zero K is Don DeLillo's spare but bracing assessment of life's later years.

There are deep, slicing currents running through Zero K, despite its almost ascetic surfaces, and there are unforgettable little moments scattered everywhere in these pages, as when, late in the story, Jeff notices the deterioration of his once-formidable father; "His hands sometimes trembled," Jeff observes. "When I gripped his hands once to stop the shaking, he simply closed his eyes."

The Brooklyn Rail (May 3, 2016) review from Will Chancellor: Death Sentences (best review title?).

Of his post-Underworld novels, in which characters acknowledge their own mortality and gnash their teeth at finitude, Zero K is the most successful because it is the most confrontational. No longer content to keep death fixed in the periphery, DeLillo begins this novel in the crushing center and asks the reader to deal with the gravity.

(May 5, 2016)

Zero K now available. Reviews continue - a selection...

Vice (May 3, 2016) review by Frank Guan, title says it all: Don DeLillo's Zero K Is a Joyless Novel About Billionaires Freezing Themselves:

DeLillo, in his late period, has preserved much of his mastery of individual words, but his gift for shaping compelling individual characters (as opposed to loquacious system functionaries) out of those words has diminished greatly since the days of Libra and Underworld: In spite of the maudlin ending tacked to the end of the novel, its language, plot, and lack of character make it clear that the coldness has won out. (May 3, 2016) review by Niall Alexander: Gesso on Linen: Zero K by Don DeLillo:

Death in this sense, then, haunts DeLillo’s latest, which doesn’t make it the most welcoming of the award-winner's works—although I admired it immensely in the end, I enjoyed it not at all—but Zero K is significant in that it has something to say about a subject few authors would to dare to dream of addressing: the meaning of life, I mean. And as the man in the monk’s cloak says to Jeffrey while they chew through their food units: "What’s the point of living if we don’t die at the end of it?"

(May 3, 2016)

The New York Times Book Review (online May 2, 2016, in print May 8, 2016) ran Joshua Ferris Reviews Don DeLillo's Zero K. A taste:

Something feels not quite right about subjecting Don DeLillo to the ordinary critical apparatus. I don't read a DeLillo novel for its plot, character, setting; for who betrayed whom and how hard life with Mother was; for Phoenix days and Bombay nights; or for how to tune a fiddle. I read a DeLillo novel for its sentences. And sentence by sentence, DeLillo magically slips the knot of criticism and gives his readers what Nabokov maintained was all that mattered in life and art: individual genius. Sentence by sentence, DeLillo seduces.

Don DeLillo. Illustration: Daniel Clowes (from Vulture)

Vulture (online May 2, 2016, in print in the May 2, 2016 issue of New York magazine) ran a piece by Christian Lorentzen entitled The Genius of Don DeLillo's Post-Underworld Work. An appreciation for the late novels, including Zero K:

Underworld is the great social novel of nuclear dread, a panorama in the shadow of man's new divine powers of destruction. Zero K is its inverse: a post-Cold War elegy about people who believe they'll live forever. It's an almost anti-social book, written not into history but toward the future. What happens if death is not a certainty? How do you type on a keyboard without a period?

Flavorwire (online May 2, 2016) ran a review by Jonathon Sturgeon Don DeLillo's Total Art of Memory on Zero K:

Zero K, although it appears to resemble other works in theme, like Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island, is not like other books because it is a book of memory. Or it is one writer's memory of his own books; it is a novel scarred and weathered with Don DeLillo's own fictions. Strong enough to keep its eyes open against the dark of a peculiar American reverence for apocalyptic thinking, it has come down instead on the side of stories, of fictions, against the visionaries.

GQ (May 1, 2016) ran a review by A.O. Scott Don DeLillo's Zero K Is an Ice Cold Look at Life and Death:

There is plenty of implicit tragedy here—a son's anguish at losing the father he never really knew; a husband's rage at being separated from the younger woman he loves; a history of divorce and disappointment—but very little pathos. The flickers of human warmth in Zero K are like images picked up by infrared video. The book is as cold as its title.

NPR (April 30, 2016) ran a brief radio interview with DeLillo by Scott Simon Don DeLillo's Zero K Freezes At The Edge Of Immortality. Here's DeLillo:

"I think the essence of the novel is that Ross Lockhart wants to join Artis even though he is not on the verge of dying himself. Artis went into the cryogenic process because she was near death anyway. But he is a healthy man in his sixties, this is an incredible development in his life and in his son's life. The point is that this is a completely illegal process, and takes place in the deepest physical levels of the Convergence, in an area known as Zero K."

(May 2, 2016)

Los Angeles Times (April 29, 2016) review from Carolyn Kellogg: Don DeLillo's deep freeze: Zero K takes on death, futurists and cryonics.

Jeff's disbelief in the cryonics project should drive the plot, but the creators' haphazard, arrogant philosophies remain unconvincing; it's too easy to be on Jeff's side. Instead, it's the pas-de-deux between father and son — about the cryonics project on the surface, but actually much more — that seesaws the novel forward. Like his wife, Artis, Ross believes, and Jeff can't quite grant him his faith. "My father had grown a beard. This surprised me," he observes. "Was this the beard a man grows who is eager to enter a new dimension of belief?"

Los Angeles Times (April 29, 2016) also ran a short interview with DeLillo by Carolyn Kellogg: "A rare interview with Don DeLillo, one of the titans of American fiction". The startling admission:

Q: How do you balance being in and of the world and maintaining a writing space away from it?

A: It’s an interesting question. I think I’m only slightly away from the world. I’m aware of all of these things. And of course I do have friends, and my wife uses email. So it’s never very far away. And I do use an iPad just to do research. If I need to look something up, I try there. It would not necessarily have anything to do with the work I’m doing. I might want to check the title of a movie, or the director of a movie, and so I’ll just tap some letters on the iPad.

The Dallas Morning News (April 29, 2016) review from Chris Vognar: Zero K, by Don DeLillo.

The post-apocalypse may be all the rage in fiction and film, but Don DeLillo is way ahead of that. He’s the master of the pre-apocalyptic novel, the chief literary mapper of the dehumanized places our current world may lead us.

DeLillo is near the top of his game in Zero K, which comes about as close to science fiction as he gets.

Miami Herald (April 29, 2016) review by Doug Clifton: Don DeLillo - life, death and dystopia.

No one writing contemporary fiction deals with gloom, life and death conflict, paranoia and dystopia quite like Don DeLillo, at least no one so acclaimed. His new novel, Zero K, has all those elements, covered with a heavy blanket of enigma.

Like all of DeLillo’s works, this book is elegantly written. The language is clean, crisp and unadorned, yet soaringly eloquent. The plot is another matter. Zero K taxes the reader in ways his other works — Underworld, Mao II, Libra, White Noise — did not.

(April 30, 2016)

Lots of Zero K coverage!

The New Republic (April 27, 2016) review from Tony Tulathimutte: Back to the Future. The young novelist feels DeLillo's recycling and a little out of touch:

Whereas DeLillo's past inventions have always felt drawn from the bleeding edges of the present—the anti-thanatophobic drug Dylar in White Noise, or the trash-nuking project in Underworld—those in this book have already been exhausted by science fiction and reality, which makes him sound less cautionary than curmudgeonly. Though his characters dismiss sci-fi with mild disdain ("I hate the phrase biological mother. It’s like science fiction"), and we are reminded that "nothing here is speculative," there's little about the ramifications of cryonics, posthumanism, and nanomachines that hasn’t been explored by, say, Futurama.

Playboy (April 27, 2016) review by Calum Marsh: If You've Ever Felt Like a Slave to Your iPhone, Read Don DeLillo's New Novel. Overall very positive, though feels the novel has a "stilted start".:

All of this is a great pleasure to read, naturally. DeLillo's knack for making poetry of jargon electrifies every page. But then it always does. The trouble in recent years has been the sense of creative indifference that pervades the work. The novella Point Omega seemed a case of literary supertalent by rote; Falling Man and Cosmopolis, his two weakest books, felt gamely written but uninspired. Not so here. Zero K isn't simply DeLillo’s finest novel in nearly 20 years; it's his most vital and his most indispensible. For the first time since Underworld, the material is worthy of the gifts brought to bear on it. This book has the urgency and vigor its author has been wanting for two decades.

The Wall Street Journal (April 26, 2016) ran a piece by Brenda Cronin: Don DeLillo Tackles Cryopreservation in Zero K. A taste:

His 16th novel, Zero K, out May 3, began more than four years ago when he was transfixed by an image in his mind—not tied with any particular place—of a cluster of high rises at the edge of a river. "I asked myself, 'Who or what is in these buildings and what are they doing there?' " Mr. DeLillo recalls. On paper, he ended up transforming the vision altogether. "I decided to move the whole thing underground. I don’t know why."

London Review of Books (Vol. 38 No. 9, 5 May 2016) review by Christopher Tayler: Pure Vibe. Here's a bit:

The Convergence is filled with characters who are eager to share their views, or their riddling Zen koans, on such topics as terrorism, climate change, nuclear weapons and the omnipresence of the internet. After cyber-resurrection, "ahistorical humans" will speak a new language which will "approximate the logic and beauty of pure mathematics in everyday speech". ("The name of the language will be accessible only to those who speak it.") Oddly, perhaps, for people ostensibly planning to "colonise their bodies with nanobots", the Convergers are very down on "the puppet drug of personal technology" and often seem to be shooting for some version of Heideggerian authenticity.

The Washington Post (April 26, 2016) review by Ron Charles: Don DeLillo's novel Zero K captures the swelling fears of our age.

At its sharpest, the book is truly provocative; at its weakest, it sounds like another hectoring issue of Adbusters, e.g. "Technology has become a force of nature. We can’t control it. It comes blowing over the planet and there’s nowhere for us to hide."

Bookforum review by Sam Lipsyte, referenced below, now online: The Big Chill.

The novel has a simple, sturdy structure, but what drives Zero K is Jeffrey’s charged interiority. His mind creates a provocative brooding energy when faced with the hubris and immensity of the biotech spectacle before him, not to mention the tangles of discourse his father and the "vital minds" weave. Talking to one of the wizards in a glorious plastic English garden, he wonders if it's a case of "an old man getting carried away or was it the younger man’s attempt to resist slick ironies that mattered." Life is tough for Jeffrey. He's a young man in an old man's world, in an old man's book. But one senses DeLillo's affinity for this relative kid.

And - the book has reportedly been optioned for FX as a potential series. Story is from Deadline Hollywood by Nancy Tartaglione, April 27, 2016: FX Options Don DeLillo Novel Zero K For Scott Rudin Productions. Rudin has previously optioned Underworld.

(April 27, 2016)

The New York Times (April 25, 2016) review from Michiko Kakutani ran today: In Don DeLillo's Zero K, Daring to Outwit Death. Overall very positive, though feels the novel has a "stilted start".:

All the themes that have animated Mr. DeLillo's novels over the years are threaded through Zero K — from the seduction of technology and mass media to the power of money and the fear of chaos. This novel does not possess — or aspire toward — the symphonic sweep of Underworld; it's more like a chamber music piece. But once the novel shakes off its labored start, Zero K reminds us of Mr. DeLillo's almost Day-Glo powers as a writer and his understanding of the strange, contorted shapes that eternal human concerns (with mortality and time) can take in the new millennium.

(April 25, 2016)

The Australian (April 23, 2016) reviews Zero K with Don DeLillo's Zero K tackles issues of death and faith, by Don Anderson. From the review:

The novel is crammed with wars, with crowds, recalling "the future belongs to crowds". It is redolent of apocalypse, cryogenetic transubstantiation perhaps being a way of avoiding apocalypse. The spokesmen for the Convergence assure Jeffrey: "Death's a tough habit to break." What are we to make of the tone of this? Flippant or dead serious? The name Convergence, which sounds religious to Jeffrey, is according to his father an instance of "Faith-based technology. Another god. Not so different, it turns out, from some of the earlier ones. Except that it’s real, it’s true, it delivers."

The Sydney Morning Herald (April 22, 2016) ran an article on DeLillo and Zero K by Andrew Purcell Don DeLillo: The great American novelist on paranoia, prescience and immortality, with comments from the man. Here's a bit:

DeLillo does not own a mobile phone, but that hasn't prevented him making some typically acute observations in Zero K about "the loss of autonomy, the sense of being virtualised" that results from carrying a connected device everywhere. "There's a kind of built-in demand even in the smallest technological item that seems to rob people of their free choice in a way that was not the case earlier," he says.

The Atlantic (May 2016 issue) has a review of Zero K by Meghan Daum Death and Don DeLillo, putting the new novel in context of several of his previous works. Here's a taste:

When it comes to death, fear of the unknown is only part of the equation. There’s also the fear of missing out on what is already known, the grief of saying goodbye, the terrible thought of having your membership in the human race expire while loved ones continue without you. But in DeLillo's world, such membership is rapidly losing its advantages. Does this have something to do with the fact that the author is approaching 80? Is Zero K perversely intended as a self-soothing device as well as a work of apocalyptic science fiction? Is the apocalypse itself — the promise of it, the relief of it — the thing that soothes? Is death more palatable if the whole world dies with you?

(April 24, 2016)

I received word that Cero K will be released on May 10, from Seix Barral. The cover image is above.

Also it appears you can pre-order signed copies of Zero K from Barnes & Noble online.

Bookforum (April-May 2016 issue) let Sam Lipsyte loose on Zero K. Positive review, not online so far.

Prospect (April, 2016 issue) has a review of Zero K by Elaine Showalter A cryogenics cult: Don DeLillo's "Zero K". Here's the takeaway:

DeLillo does not quite convince us of wonder or cure our scepticism and fear. But his optimism is a welcome gift in this intense and deeply considered book.

(April 6, 2016)

Harper's (April, 2016 issue) has a 'story' online by DeLillo entitled "Plexiglass", an excerpt from Zero K. The title comes from the barrier in New York City taxicabs:

He was seated directly behind the driver and spoke into the plexiglass shield, undeterred by traffic noise and street construction. He was fourteen, foreign-born, a slant tower, six four and growing, his voice rushed and dense. The driver did not seem surprised to find himself exchanging words and phrases in his native language with a white boy. This was New York.

(March 23, 2016)

The New Yorker (Feb 22, 2016 issue) ran a 'story' by DeLillo entitled "Sine Cosine Tangent", pieced together from parts of Zero K. Online is short interview with DeLillo by Deborah Treisman entitled "Don DeLillo on Seeing Oneself in Words". Here's one reply:

Counting some unavoidable interruptions, I worked on the book for nearly four years. I have trouble accepting this number, particularly since this is a novel of average length. Why so prolonged an effort? My only response is that this is what the novel wanted and needed.

(Feb 15, 2016)

February 2, 2016: Barnes and Noble Review ran a piece by longtime DeLillo associate Tom LeClair entitled "Death and Life with Don DeLillo". Here's a piece:

As in Ratner’s Star, his gabby science fiction novel set in a remote research facility, the abstract setting of Zero K exists primarily to give DeLillo a chance to introduce "crackpot sages" who articulate positions and counter positions on the human desire for immortality. The billionaire Ross Lockhart funds the cryonic facility to freeze his younger, second wife and himself. His thirty-four-year-old son, Jeffrey, visits the facility twice, listens to the "sages," voices his opposition, and lives a desultory life in Manhattan that appears to be an intended alternative to the ambitious overreaching of cryonics. "Ordinary moments make the life," Jeffrey says he learned from his mother. Those at the facility want to leave "behind all the shaky complications of body, mind and personal circumstance."

December, 2015: Publishers Weekly ran a Zero K review. Here's a piece:

... a few components elevate Zero K, which is among DeLillo's finest work. For one, DeLillo has become better about picking his spots—the asides rarely, if ever, drag, and they are consistently surprising and funny. And his focus and curiosity have moved far into the future: much of this novel's (and Ross's) attention is paid to humankind's relationship and responsibility to what's to come. What's left behind and forgotten is the present, here represented by Jeffrey, the son whom Ross abandoned when he was 13. DeLillo sneaks a heartbreaking story of a son attempting to reconnect with his father into his thought-provoking novel.

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Last Updated: 21-JULY-2016