Crowds and Don DeLillo’s Mao II

Excerpt from an interesting 1993 lecture by Tom Leclair on Mao II

“The real secret, though, belongs to crowds. Bodies gather together to become one powerful body reciting one powerful idea that will let them forget their uncertainty and their individual bodies. Millions of Maoists create a revolution. Thousands of Moonies chant the end of time. The Islamic revolution unites politics and religion. The crowds at Khomeni’s funeral mourn the passing of a body. The Iranians beat their own bodies to keep the body of their Master from leaving. And then in their religious and political passion they expose the body of their leader. Even Masters have skinny legs.”

Not all crowds achieve the power of certainty and forgetting for themselves. Not the homeless in New York. They are a true band of hostages, pure uncertainty about tomorrow’s home, pure body in the layers of clothes they wear. They are the crowd we want to forget, not just because they indict our social and political and economic system but because they are bodies that cannot hide from themselves. Like us, they are readers but what they read, says Omar, is their own small space. They see themselves in themselves.

The full essay can be found here.

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