Don DeLillo's novels include Falling Man, Libra and White Noise. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.
From his Q & A with Rafe Bartholomew at Grantland:
Can you explain how Underworld came together? The prologue was first published as a novella, "Pafko at the Wall," in Harper's Magazine in 1992, but Underworld wasn't released until 1997. When you wrote Pafko were you already planning to use that scene as the beginning of a long novel?--Marshal Zeringue
One day in October 1991, I learned from a newspaper story that this day marked the fortieth anniversary of a famous baseball game played in New York, in the old Polo Grounds, Giants vs. Dodgers. The event was located somewhere at the far reaches of memory, mine and many other people's. But some lingering aura persisted and finally sent me to the library, where I discovered news that startled me: on that same October day, the U.S. government announced that the Soviet Union had recently exploded an atomic bomb. The two events seemed oddly matched, at least to me, two kinds of conflict, local and global rivalries. In time I went to work on what I believed would be a long story and at some point well into the enterprise I began to suspect that the narrative of the ballgame and the atomic test wanted to be extended — well into the last decades of the Twentieth Century. I was eager to make the leap.
When I was working on the novel, I decided that each part's title would derive from an already existing cultural artifact — painting, book, film, musical composition, etc. So I exchanged "Pafko at the Wall", now the novel's prologue, for the title of a Bruegel painting referred to in the text — "The Triumph of Death."
Do you remember where you were on October 3, 1951, during Game 3? Were you a Dodgers or Giants fan (or Yankees, since you're from the Bronx)? What do you recall about the pennant race, that game, Bobby Thomson's home run, and the feeling in New York that day?
I was at the dentist's office. Dr. Fish....[read on]