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RUNNING DOG by Don DeLillo


by Don DeLillo

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1978
ISBN: 0679722947
Publisher: Knopf

Local color. Good talk. Festive music. Disease." That's how a downtown bar is described in Don DeLillo's new novel; it also describes the novel, which, to an even greater degree than last year's Players, fails to hang together and therefore provides only fitful, disjointed satisfactions. Glen Selvy, trained-to-kill, works as special buyer for a U.S. Senator who collects erotic objets d'art as well as outright objets de porno. Glen really works for PAC/ORD, a government intelligence unit that has secretly gone into profitable private business in covert-operations-for-hire. The Senator has been investigating PAC/ORD, so Selvy needs to get dirt on the Senator-like his porno collection and especially his participation in the mad scramblae (involving the Mafia and a murder) for possession of a film supposedly showing orgies in Hitler's bunker. Also interested in this whole scene is Moll Robbins, an investigative reporter for semi-underground Running Dog magazine, and she and Glen have "dusky sex" (Glen breaks his rule against sex with unmarried women). If all this sounds confusing, you should know that DeLillo makes little effort to facilitate comprehension as he nixes and matches, in cinematic slow motion, imagined and realistic debasements of a society gone past all limits. Like, for instance, the "nude storyteller" (a momentarily hilarious idea) whom Selvy picks up in Times Square on his suicidal, running-dog, cross-country escape from his ruthless Intelligence masters. Or like the audience that disappointedly watches the Hitler home movies (not porno at all but grosser still: Hitler humanized) while Selvy self-destructs--a numbingly clumsy piece of paralleling. DeLillo is obviously working from a sincere sense of revulsion ("What happened to normal? Where is normal?" asks a boy-impresario of smut), but few readers will be able to do more than discern a vague outline of the author's attitude and respond to the few glimmers of a talent gone slack and self-defeatingly private.