In an interview with Don Marchese in the New York Times Magazine, literary titan Don DeLillo, 83, comments on a rather odd editorial intervention in his new novel, The Silence, released this week.

The novel, DeLillo’s 18th, is the story of a catastrophic event that occurs on Super Bowl Sunday 2022. The starred Kirkus review found it a “small but vivid book, and in its evocation of people in the throes of social crisis, it feels deeply resonant.”

According to Marchese, a litany of disasters delivered by one character in the book originally included a mention of Covid-19—or at least it did in the advance galley he received. But in a second galley, sent with explanation that there had been revisions, Covid-19 had disappeared.

Marchese found this so perplexing that he zeroed in on the matter during his interview. Why had the author decided to take Covid off the list?

DeLillo’s answer was surprising. “I didn’t put Covid-19 in there. Somebody else had. Somebody else could have decided that it made it more contemporary. But I said, ‘There’s no reason for that.’”

Marchese expressed disbelief that anyone had “the chutzpah to jam anything, let alone a Covid-19 mention, into one of your books.”

“It wasn’t going to stay, that’s for sure,” DeLillo assured him. DeLillo, whose works include White Noise (1984), Libra (1988), and Underworld (1997), has won a National Book Award and a PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2010 he was the recipient of the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

The Kirkus review quoted what are very likely the sentences in question: “Cyberattacks, digital intrusions, biological aggressions. Anthrax, smallpox, pathogens. The dead and disabled. Starvation, plague and what else?” 

DeLillo was right: plenty scary without Covid-19.

Marion Winik is a regular Kirkus reviewer and author of The Big Book of the Dead.