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1985

Don DeLillo’s White Noise wins the American Book Award

On this day in 1985, Don DeLillo wins the American Book Award for his breakthrough novel, White Noise.

Although DeLillo had been publishing novels since 1971, his books had received little attention. White Noise, a semi-satire about a professor of Hitler Studies exposed to an “airborne toxic event,” established DeLillo as a leading post-modern novelist, concerned with the dread, paranoia, and malaise lying beneath American popular culture. He published Libra, a fictional portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald, in 1988 and Mao II, about a reclusive writer dragged into international politics and terrorism, in 1991.

In 1997, he published what some considered his masterwork, the 827-page Underworld, a sprawling exploration of America during the Cold War that touches on baseball, Vietnam, serial killings, nuclear weapons, visual art, and more.

DeLillo was born in New York to Italian immigrants in 1936. He grew up in working-class New York and attended Fordham University. He worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency before he became a novelist in his mid-30s. He lived for many years with his wife, a banker, in Toronto before returning to New York, where they now live.

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