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Read With IBC | Zero K, by Don DeLillo

Read With IBC | Zero K, by Don DeLillo

As with all book clubs, a great part of the joy of our Imaginary Book Club is reading together and chatting about what we’ve read as a group. For more info on how our online book club work, and the many ways you can participate, hop over here or sign up to read with us

Each month our #ReadWithIBC post is the place for a no-holds-barred, spoilers-allowed, debate-encouraged discussion of our latest read.

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Zero K, by Don DeLillo

The wisest, richest, funniest, and most moving novel in years from Don DeLillo, one of the great American novelists of our time—an ode to language, at the heart of our humanity, a meditation on death, and an embrace of life.

Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?”

These are the questions that haunt the novel and its memorable characters, and it is Ross Lockhart, most particularly, who feels a deep need to enter another dimension and awake to a new world. For his son, this is indefensible. Jeff, the book’s narrator, is committed to living, to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.”

Don DeLillo’s seductive, spectacularly observed and brilliant new novel weighs the darkness of the world—terrorism, floods, fires, famine, plague—against the beauty and humanity of everyday life; love, awe, “the intimate touch of earth and sun.”

Zero K is glorious.

About The Author

43 Comments

  1. Whitney

    ::whining:: You guyyyyyys, why is this book so baddd?

    Seriously? I’m trying so hard to read it, and it’s just making it SO HARD to like it!

    Reply
    • Austyn

      It did take me a long time to read, even though it’s a relatively short book, and seemed much shorter than The Price of Salt!

      Reply
    • Kate

      I have to be honest, guys. I did not finish this book and I really don’t want to. I got about a third of the way through (on this pretty short book) and it was just such a struggle. The idea is really interesting but the writing is just not my style I guess?

      Reply
    • Bev

      I agree, so much!! It was terrible! I haven’t read a book this bad since The Super Sad True Love Story, and this nook was way worse! Did you read that review?? Did that person read the same book? Glorious?

      Reply
      • Whitney

        I know, right?? It’s like that person read a totally different book!

        Reply
        • Anna Roberts

          I think I like weirder books — I actually really enjoyed Super Sad True Love Story! I think it totally predicted Tinder 🙂 and the convergence of online and real life. I didn’t like everything about it — Super Sad True Love Story did have some macho-y stereotypical Phillip Roth-type male anxiety stuff that I get exasperated with and the annoyingly MUCH younger woman (Woody Allen cough cough). But the surreal-ness stuff – I loved!

          Reply
          • Anna

            Yeah, White Noise and his earlier books had much more dark humor in it. Ths was a very self-consciously serious book, I thought — about the “human condition” or the “modern condition” or something. I mean, his previous books were not ever laugh out loud funny, but it was like a snort/chuckle to yourself. I feel like this only a had a few — very brief — moments of that kind of humor for me — and most were at the Convergence HQ. Like when Jeffrey was told people enroll their pets 🙂 Or he describes his jobs…And the weirdo twins totally felt like some odd Silicon Valley TED talk / cult recruitment…
            Anna recently posted…Book Club Brunch – Chapter 14

  2. Whitney

    Some of the questions Delillo raises are really interesting – like how to think about death. Mortality is all around us, but our expectations and assumptions are so rarely discussed. Is it painful? Is it painless? Do we understand what’s happening?

    Reply
    • Bev

      I agree, the questions it raised could be interesting. I think the discussion of those questions would be much more interesting than reading this very dry book.

      Reply
      • Anna

        Yeah, I think though this book was as much about a fear of living as it was a fear of death. And these are the super-techno-uber-wealthy bazillionaries that can fly to a mysterious spa/cult compound to get immortality!

        Reply
        • Whitney

          What was strange to me was that they didn’t actually get immortality! They just got promised this weird dream that probably won’t ever deliver!

          Reply
      • Austyn

        I think about this often, actually. Maybe I’m just super morbid? I don’t know. I’ve lost a lot of people these last few years, and I find myself hoping that it is painless and that something better is out there for them. Is waiting for _blank_ number of years before finally dying better? If they are expecting destruction on the scale that the videos show, these people are basically going to have to repopulate a possibly barren planet. That doesn’t seem like the better alternative! (Hope that made sense, my blogging tonight is accompanied by wine)!
        Austyn recently posted…Read With IBC | Zero K, by Don DeLillo

        Reply
  3. Austyn

    This book was hard for me to get into. The way the characters speak to each other seems so far removed from the way people actually talk that it was hard to relate to them. So my immediate feeling was “not impressed.”
    Austyn recently posted…Book Club Brunch – Chapter 13

    Reply
    • Whitney

      Totally agreed. I could not get past the stilted feeling of the narrative. It had such a robot-like vibe, it was hard to like or enjoy any of the characters.
      Whitney recently posted…Favorites | August 2016

      Reply
      • Austyn

        I wish I had read another of his books previously like Anna so I would have been expecting that! I thought for a discourse on life and death it would have very full dialogue between characters- NOPE! Not so much.
        Austyn recently posted…Read With IBC | Zero K, by Don DeLillo

        Reply
  4. Austyn

    Death TERRIFIES me. The whole thing about not knowing what happens to us- is there an afterlife? do we just stop thinking? Can you think about NOT BEING ABLE TO THINK without panicking? I can’t! Because of this I was really excited to read this book that was supposed to be “a meditation on death and an embrace of life.” I feel that description is misleading! I don’t feel that ANY of the characters embraced life.

    Reply
    • Austyn

      Caps locks shows how much I care!

      Reply
    • Whitney

      YES – where was the embrace of life? It was kind of apathy to life? Ambivalence to life?

      Reply
      • Austyn

        I would say apathy. Like when Ross decides to go Zero K, his son doesn’t seem upset that his dad has made the decision to leave his life. He seems to purposefully remove himself from most relationships, and when he watches his girlfriend’s son die in the video, he seems mostly apathetic to me. “Once the dark is total, I will simply stand and wait trying hard to think of nothing.”
        Austyn recently posted…Read With IBC | Zero K, by Don DeLillo

        Reply
    • Bev

      The closer you get to death, it terrifies you less. Trying to get the most from the time here is the key, living here and now, not worrying about what the future holds. Enjoying life. I found no joy of life in this book.

      Reply
      • Whitney

        I think that is part of the issue. It was life they were embracing, sure, bit not the ENJOYMENT of life. What is being alive if you aren’t going to enjoy it?

        Reply
  5. Austyn

    I can’t believe that Ross said he would join Artis and then he backs out. She’s going to be all alone when she wakes up? Comes to? They never really explain how it all will work in the future.

    Reply
    • Kate

      Like I said before, I didn’t even finish it but your comment kind of makes me glad I didn’t. I already didn’t care for Ross thanks to the early convos in the book between Jeffrey and his mother, and finding out that he would back out on something like that just makes him even worse.

      Reply
    • Whitney

      Weirdly, I didn’t know if I cared that he wasn’t staying with Artis. Does it make a difference to her? Does she care? I mean, she’s dead, right? And if she gets brought back (maybe?) then she’s supposed to be in some higher plane of thinking, so would she even know?

      Reply
      • Kate

        Good point!

        Reply
    • Bev

      I’m not sure the author had any idea of how it works in the future, that’s why we get a very shady idea of what might happen. If Ardis truly loves Ross, she should be happy that he is going to continue to live. What good is he to her all frozen?

      Reply
  6. Whitney

    Curious about everyone’s impression of Ross Lockhart. I feel like he was repeatedly portrayed as quasi-evil, but what exactly did we have to hold against him?

    The man made money, sure.

    He left his wife. (but she stabbed him once, so IDK about that).

    He didn’t want to die?

    Is that what it takes to make someone a villain??

    Reply
    • Bev

      I think he was human, most people don’t want to die before they have to. I think it was kind of realistic to have the healthy part of the couple choose not to go through with it, and also realistic to have him feel guilty and decide to go through with it later.

      Reply
      • Anna

        OMG, Austyn — That scene drove me crazy. Can you imagine even *joking* like that with your own son? About his own mother? Not funny at all. What a creep.
        Anna recently posted…Book Club Brunch – Chapter 14

        Reply
  7. Bev

    Ok, did anyone else feel like they were going to uproot a nefarious scheme that this cryogenic place was masterminding?? I felt like he, oh my gosh, I’ve already forgotten the main characters name, was going to find out that they weren’t really freezing the people but we’re just killing them and turning them into plastic mannequins, or something. I kept waiting for discovery, then denouement.
    I think I was just trying to give this very boring book some kind of interesting plot, but to no avail.

    Reply
    • Whitney

      Totally with you. But they didn’t get to the realization. They were barely treated like an evil place. Vaguely nefarious, kind of creepy religious, but not actually evil.

      Reply
    • Whitney

      And yes, I did kind of expect the people to just be dead, the consequence of some weird profit-taking scheme.

      Reply
  8. Anna

    OK – I was part of team strongly voting for Zero K — so I’m very sorry to those who hated/couldn’t finish it.

    I don’t think I hate this book as much as everyone because I’ve read Don DeLillo before. Has anyone else read him before?

    I loved Don DeLillo’s White Noise when I was in AP English in high school. So, when I started Zero K, I was kind of expecting a lot of these problems — minimal plot, a lot left unsaid, very stylized. Though White Noise has more of a plot or a puzzle with “The Airborne Toxic Event” (which would be a great band name, btw)…It also had a bit more dark humor with the main character being a department chair in Hitler Studies.

    This book reminded me a bit of what I liked about the old book. His prose is just so surreal and dreamy, and kind of mysterious. It was strange reading it on Kindle — because I kept wanting to mark it up, underline awesome sentences, and circle words that I didn’t know.

    Like Jeffery, I think the last time I read Don DeLillo was proud to have conquered and found some enjoyment in such a difficult read. I was super grateful for book club picking this, because I don’t think would have tackled this on my own, either. I’m a little bummed that I didn’t plan enough time to re-read it actually…

    P.S. Sorry for the delay — I had a practice test for my PhD comprehensive exam yesterday 🙁 Not as much fun as book club, but important, I guess…

    Reply
    • Austyn

      Airborne Toxic Event is a band! Or did you mean White Noise would be a great band name? And I don’t think a re-read would do much for me now, but maybe in ten more years I could give it another go 🙂
      Austyn recently posted…Read With IBC | Zero K, by Don DeLillo

      Reply
      • Anna

        WAIT AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT IS A BAND?!? Is it after the book White Noise?!?! I am seriously googling it up right now.
        Anna recently posted…Book Club Brunch – Chapter 14

        Reply

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