DeLillo's Joyce Connection

When Tom LeClair asked DeLillo, "Why do reference books give only your date of birth and the publication dates of your books?" he got the answer:

"Silence, exile, cunning, and so on."

It was pointed out to me that this line refers directly to James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. About five pages from the end of that book, Stephen makes the following declaration:

I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use - silence, exile, and cunning.

DeLillo was of course raised a Catholic, and may have felt a strong identification with Joyce's autobiographical work. In Americana on page 143 there is a reference to Joyce:

At Leighton Gage College I wanted to be known as Kinch. This is Stephen Dedaelus' nickname in Ulysses, which I was reading at the time.

For another DeLillo twist on the "silence" phrase, check out the first sentence of Chapter 7 in End Zone.

Douglas Keesey really pushes the Joyce connection (from page 194): "If DeLillo's short stories are his Dubliners, and if Americana is his Portrait of the Artist, then Libra is DeLillo's Ulysses, the masterpiece of his maturity."

The picture above was taken by Judy Engle at Kenny's bookstore in Galway, which is littered with photos of authors who have visited. The photo is signed by DeLillo, with the words "Silence, Exile and Cunning" below.

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Last updated: 19-FEB-2000