A 'memoir' by 'Cleo Birdwell'

This novel came out under the pseudonym Cleo Birdwell, but several sources at the time called this 'a collaboration' involving DeLillo, and within the first few pages it's very apparent that DeLillo was involved.

Published by Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1980, 390 pages.
British first edition published by Granada, 1980.
A paperback was published by Berkley in 1981.

Amazons editions.

No dedication.

What it's about:
"An intimate memoir by the first woman ever to play in the National Hockey League." Cleo Birdwell describes her adventures on and off the ice, with a fair number of amorous pairings.
Here's the original dust jacket copy.

First line:
"If a man's name sounds right whether you say it forward or backward, it means he went to Yale."

Check out the Amazons Media Watch for coverage of the novel.

A character in this book, Murray Jay Siskind (here a sportswriter), turns up later in White Noise as a "visiting lecturer on living icons." (Tom LeClair points this out in In The Loop.)

Notes on the collaboration:
DeLillo wrote this book with the help of a woman named Sue Buck, whom he knew from his advertising days (they worked together at Ogilvy & Mather). Buck contributed in particular to the small town background of Cleo Birdwell (in the novel it's called Badger, Ohio), the commercial shoot in Los Angeles, and other bits and pieces (such as background on the Jumping Frenchman disease). DeLillo wrote at least part of this novel during his early days in Greece.

This novel sits at an interesting point in DeLillo's career. He had published six novels in the 1970s, which had established a serious reputation, but not made a big dent in terms of sales. His next book, The Names, would begin to elevate DeLillo's standing to new heights. Amazons feels like a bit of a light-hearted breather before the next big push.

An article by Gerald Howard (editor of Libra) entitled "The Puck Stopped Here" published in the Dec 07/Jan 08 issue of Bookforum gives the whole story of and behind the book. Among the interesting facts:

DeLillo's editor at Knopf, his publisher at the time, was insufficiently amused, and so the two were allowed to sell the book elsewhere on the condition that DeLillo's authorship be hidden. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston picked Amazons up and proceeded to publish it with deadpan skill, slyly eliding the question of its factual nature. They hired a willowy model-actress to pose in full Rangers regalia for the four-color back-cover author's photo. This game gal also consented to travel to Chicago for the American Booksellers Association convention, where her appearance at the booth to sign galleys, again in a Rangers uniform, created an aisle-clogging sensation. As a result, Holt printed twenty thousand copies, roughly double DeLillo's usual run, and had to go back for a second printing of five thousand copies.

Back to DeLillo's novels.

Last updated: 01-FEB-2010