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Noted and Versatile Writer Don DeLillo Will Speak at Davidson Feb. 17

by Bill Giduz

Don DeLilloDavidson College invites the public to a presentation on Monday, Feb. 17, by Don DeLillo, one of the country's most celebrated authors of novels, short stories, plays and essays.

DeLillo will present Davidson's annual Conarroe Lecture beginning at 8 p.m. in Duke Family Performance Hall. There is no charge to attend, but tickets are required. They will be available beginning Feb. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Alvarez College Union ticket office. Tickets also will be available for a $3 convenience fee by calling the ticket office at 704-894-2135, or by reserving online.

Less than 30 years after the publication of his first novel, Americana, DeLillo has become one the most important writers of his generation. He has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. In 1999, he became the first American recipient of the Jerusalem Prize, awarded to writers whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society. He won the National Book Award for White Noise in 1985 and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Mao II in 1991, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction in 2010. He received the 2012 Carl Sandburg Literary Award, which recognizes "outstanding contributions to the literary world and honors a significant work or body of work that has enhanced the public's awareness of the written word."

Just last year he won the inaugural Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The award seeks to commend "strong, unique, enduring voices that-throughout long, consistently accomplished careers-have told us something about the American experience."

Already the subject of several books, DeLillo, 77, has achieved international prominence for his novels, plays and short stories that powerfully engage the political, historical and philosophical issues of our time. His works have covered subjects as diverse as television, nuclear war, sports, the complexities of language and terrorism. The Don DeLillo Society was founded in 1999 at an American Language Association conference for the benefit of readers and scholars throughout the world.

In The New York Review of Books he was dubbed "the chief shaman of the paranoid school of American fiction," and he has described his 16 novels as being concerned with "living in dangerous times." In a 2005 interview he declared, "Writers must oppose systems. It's important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments. I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us."

DeLillo lives in the New York City suburb of Bronxville. He is currently working on his 16th novel, whose main character "spends a lot of time watching file footage on a wide screen, images of a disaster."

He graduated from Fordham University with a bachelor's degree in Communication Arts in 1958, and worked for several years as a copywriter in an advertising agency. In 1964, DeLillo published his first short story, and began to work on his first novel in 1966 at age 30. Reflecting on his relatively late start in writing fiction, DeLillo said "I wish I had started earlier, but evidently I wasn't ready. First, I lacked ambition. Second, I didn't have a sense of what it takes to be a serious writer. It took me a long time to develop this."

The Conarroe Lecture Series at Davidson is named in honor of Joel Conarroe, a 1956 Davidson graduate and distinguished member of the professional literary community who served as president of PEN American Center, president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and executive director of the Modern Language Association.

Novelist Joyce Carol Oates inaugurated the Conarroe Lectureship in 2002, and those who followed her include some of the most notable authors of this era-Michael Cunningham, Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, Michael Chabon, Russell Banks, Margaret Atwood, W.S. Merwin and Edward Hirsch.