Hereís how Delillo writes ó on a typewriter

May 9, 2016  

Don Delillo is one of the titans of American fiction. The 79-year-old is the author of 18 novels, including the National Book Award-winning "White Noise" and his new novel, "Zero K."

He spoke by phone about "Zero K," writing and more. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity and a longer version appears online at

Q: Your writing style is really recognizable, boiled down and intense. Can you talk about your writing process?

A: It happens in ways that are very hard to describe because theyíre not so easy to understand. Iím not sure how a sentence or a paragraph extends itself. I canít say itís automatic, but it all seems to happen in a kind of intuitive way. And Iíve become much more conscious of letters forming on a page, letters and words. And correspondences, not only the way they sound but visual correspondences between letters in a word, or from word to word. Itís a little mysterious. Itís as though a single printed page has not only a responsibility to meaning but also to oneís visual sense.

Q: When youíre talking about the visual narrative that appears, what are you looking at?

A: Iíve always written on a typewriter. I do use pen and paper in a sort of auxiliary way. What happened was, in the mid-1970s my old Royal typewriter was not delivering as it always had been ó it was getting a little feeble. And I bought a secondhand typewriter, an Olympia, and Iíve been using that ever since. Itís much more satisfactory because it simply prints bigger letters. And so I can see more clearly what Iím writing.

Q: What kind of research did you do for the science and the cryogenics in "Zero K"?

A: Of course I did research, but I didnít want to go overboard. At some point, quite early on, I just stopped looking at data and invented what I could, trying to stay within the limits of reality. 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. Itís voluntary and, to my knowledge, there is nothing like this in three-dimensional reality.

Q: Iím sure you love all your books equally, but is there one that stands out?

A: I donít love my books. Thereís a sense of satisfaction due to the fact that Iíve managed to write this many novels. But I suppose if I had to name a book that had some special meaning to me it would be either "Underworld" or "Libra." Or "Zero K."



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