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Most critics who analyze so-called “late” works—those written by elderly authors – seek to classify those works in terms of stylistic traits. Yet these critics’ definitions frequently contradict each other, suggesting that, as Michael and Linda Hutcheon write, “there are as many late styles as there are late artists.” In light of the fact that many of Don DeLillo’s recent works concentrate on loss and the work of mourning, this chapter proposes that his post-millennial novels display a form of lateness manifest less in style than in theme and character. Specifically, his late-career works present an array of near-death, suspended life, or afterlife experiences: a gallery of ghosts, zombies and vampires through which, as Edward Said remarks about late musical works, “death appears in a refracted mode, as irony” (24). In other words, the late DeLillo, as he displays in his novels The Body Artist, Falling Man, Point Omega, and Zero K, and his story “The Starveling,” is concerned less with death than with undeath.
Viability is a capacity an organism’s constituents have – the ability to engage in various such as nutrition in an integrated way. It is what makes things compose an organism and what makes an organism alive. To die is to lose that capacity. So things come alive by coming to be organisms, and they die when they cease to be organisms. But in theory an object that dies while it is an organism might later be brought back to life. Since dying is the loss of viability, and nothing is viable while nonexistent, any object that ceases to exist while it is alive dies. Nor may anything be a corpse while it is still an organism. Yet objects that die while they are organisms may continue to exist – they may become corpses. So the dead may exist. Personhood is a phase objects go through while they are organisms that can think. When you and I use the term “I,” we refer to an object that is currently both an organism and a person, but the property of being a person is contingent to organisms, and the property of being an organism is contingent to us.
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