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Zero K by Don DeLillo

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Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

My Review

“…it was through Joyce that I learned to see something in language that carried a radiance, something that made me feel the beauty and fervor of words, the sense that a word has a life and a history.”
Don Delillo writes and successfully lays this down in this work of his.

Also I do see an example of what he writes of in his essay The Power of History,” which appeared in The New York Times Magazine
@  http://www.nytimes.com/library/books/090797article3.html
“The novel is the dream release, the suspension of reality that history needs to escape its own brutal confinements.” And “Fiction does not obey reality even in the most spare and semidocumentary work.”
And
“Language can be a form of counterhistory. The writer wants to construct a language that will be the book’s life-giving force. He wants to submit to it. Let language shape the world. Let it break the faith of conventional re-creation.

Language lives in everything it touches and can be an agent of redemption, the thing that delivers us, paradoxically, from history’s flat, thin, tight and relentless designs, its arrangement of stark pages, and that allows us to find an unconstraining otherness, a free veer from time and place and fate.”     And “Fiction is all about reliving things. It is our second chance.”

With this novel he does puts forward another kind of reliving things in the form of convergence, in zero k, in a new form.
What may be, what could be, what would one believe.

In a recent interview he mentions of Zero K : “I think the key of the cryogenic aspect of the novel is that here in this facility, there is an area called “Zero K” in which people volunteer to undergo the cryogenic process even though they are nowhere near dying. This is the essence of the novel, in a way. It’s voluntary and, to my knowledge, there is nothing like this in three-dimensional reality.”
And also he mentions “Sinclair Lewis called for “a literature worthy of our vastness.” A novelist tends to feel this spread and breadth in his fingertips (or not) and I’ve tried to bring a sense of our strange and dangerous times into my work.” – See more at: https://pen.org/transcript-interview/interview-don-delillo#sthash.tUJRiOtN.dpuf

Indeed he does so this in this novel.

The sum of all fears contained within the sum of all strangeness
Almost like trip through a twilight zone episode.
This is classic Delillo work the sum of all works, a splendour, disarming, haunting, stark, insightful and satirical at times.
A novel within a novel, always deep he writes, with great masterful sentencing, and language.
He seduces you in with his first person narrative of Jeffery.

He has his character try to find himself yet again in fiction, in his reality and another possible world, he has the reader and the character in the narrative self reflective and envisioning a new world a better world against all the dysfunction, the strange, the bad.
With sensory overload he has the character see with a different eye at words and things and silence.
He wishes his characters to find themselves once more after visiting the convergence the labyrinthine strangeness of the place and the great promises of a longer life and better life and so the main protagonist Jeffrey retiring back to his reality and the the reality of violence of the world, trying to find another self and realisation.

The main protagonist Jeffrey had first appeared in a short story published in February 2016 in the New Yorker @ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/22/sine-cosine-tangent
In that story its him and his dysfunctional family, his relationship with his hardly present rich and powerful father, and his mother that searches for love and of whom he tries to understand. There is no mention of zero k and the efforts of his father to have his stepmother, one that he finds a newfound care for, Frozen temporarily, life put on hold for a time till his reuniting at a later stage in a better form, same identity, but new healthier form, free from the violence and chaos of the modern and future days of Jeffery’s. This short story appears in part of the zero k.
With this work you are in the careful hands of Deliilo with his craftsmanship, his sentences, his narrators minds eye talking away, and having the reader glued to sentence upon sentence and hanging or stopped at the end of the line of words.
The master craftsman of tales of disaster, death, money, technology, surreal and real, the great sports of life and arts, the functional and the dysfunctional, the underdog, and the powerful.

Excerpts

“These’s a special unit. Zero K. It’s predicated on the subject’s willingness to make a certain kind of transition to the next level.” “In other words they help you die. But in this case, your case, the individual is nowhere near the end.”

“Artis, his wife, was suffering from several disabling illnesses. I knew that multiple sclerosis was largely responsible for her deterioration. My father was here as devoted witness to her passing and then as educated observer of whatever initial methods would allow preservation of the body until the year, the decade, the day when it might safely be permitted to reawaken.
And Artis now in this barely believable place, this desert apparition, soon to be preserved, a glacial body in a massive burial chamber. And after that a future beyond imagining. Consider the words alone. Time, fate, chance, immortality. And here is my simpleminded past, my dimpled history, the moments I can’t help summoning because they’re mine, impossible not to see and feel, crawling out of every wall around me.”

“What’s happening in this community is not just a creation of medical science. There are social theorists involved, and biologists, and futurists, and geneticists, and climatologists, and neuroscientists, and psychologists, and ethicists, if that’s the right word.”

“I’m aware that when we see something, we are getting only a measure of information, a sense, an inkling of what is really there to see. I don’t know the details or the terminology but I do know that the optic nerve is not telling the full truth. We’re seeing only intimations. The rest is our invention, our way of reconstructing what is actual, if there is any such thing, philosophically, that we can call actual. I know that research is being done here, somewhere in this complex, on future models of human vision. Experiments using robots, lab animals, who knows, people like me.”

“To some extent we are here in this location to design a response to whatever eventual calamity may strike the planet. Are we simulating the end in order to study it, possibly to survive it? Are we adjusting the future, moving it into our immediate time frame? At some point in the future, death will become unacceptable even as the life of the planet becomes more fragile.”…
…“We are here to learn the power of solitude. We are here to reconsider everything about life’s end. And we will emerge in cyberhuman form into a universe that will speak to us in a very different way.”…
..“Solitude, yes. Think of being alone and frozen in the crypt, the capsule. Will new technologies allow the brain to function at the level of identity? This is what you may have to confront. The conscious mind. Solitude in extremis. Alone. Think of the word itself. Middle English. All one. You cast off the person. The person is the mask, the created character in the medley of dramas that constitute your life. The mask drops away and the person becomes you in its truest meaning. All one. The self. What is the self? Everything you are, without others, without friends or strangers or lovers or children or streets to walk or food to eat or mirrors in which to see yourself. But are you anyone without others?”

“And are they who they were before they entered the chamber?” “We will colonize their bodies with nanobots.” “Refresh their organs, regenerate their systems.” “Embryonic stem cells.” “Enzymes, proteins, nucleotides.”
“Nano-units implanted in the suitable receptors of the brain. Russian novels, the films of Bergman, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky. Classic works of art. Children reciting nursery rhymes in many languages. The propositions of Wittgenstein, an audiotext of logic and philosophy. Family photographs and videos, the pornography of your choice. In the capsule you dream of old lovers and listen to Bach, to Billie Holiday. You study the intertwined structures of music and mathematics. You reread the plays of Ibsen, revisit the rivers and streams of sentences in Hemingway.”

“I listened to him speak about the hundreds of millions of people into the future billions who are struggling to find something to eat not once or twice a day but all day every day. He spoke in detail about food systems, weather systems, the loss of forests, the spread of drought, the massive die-offs of birds and ocean life, the levels of carbon dioxide, the lack of drinking water, the waves of virus that envelop broad geographies.
….Then there was biological warfare with its variant forms of mass extinction. Toxins, agents, replicating entities. And the refugees everywhere, victims of war in great numbers, living in makeshift shelters, unable to return to their crushed cities and towns, dying at sea when their rescue vessels capsize.”

“You sit alone in a quiet room at home and you listen carefully. What is it you hear? Not traffic in the street, not voices or rain or someone’s radio,” he said. “You hear something but what? It’s not room tone or ambient sound. It’s something that may change as your listening deepens, second after second, and the sound is growing louder now—not louder but somehow wider, sustaining itself, encircling itself. What is it? The mind, the life itself, your life? Or is it the world, not the material mass, land and sea, but what inhabits the world, the flood of human existence. The world hum. Do you hear it, yourself, ever?”

“People getting older become more fond of objects. I think this is true. Particular things. A leather-bound book, a piece of furniture, a photograph, a painting, the frame that holds the painting. These things make the past seem permanent. A baseball signed by a famous player, long dead. A simple coffee mug. Things we trust. They tell an important story. A person’s life, all those who entered and left, there’s a depth, a richness. We used to sit in a certain room, often, the room with the monochrome paintings. She and I. The room in the townhouse with those five paintings and the tickets we saved and framed, like a couple of teenage tourists, two tickets to a bullfight in Madrid. She was already in poor condition. We didn’t say much. Just sat there remembering.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 23 May 2016