The Image World of Mao II

Journal Article (Academic article)

The Image World of Mao II - William Noland What started out as a list of images directly culled from Don DeLillo’s novel Mao II evolved in production of my theatrical adaptation of the novel into a continuously playing triptych of interrelated digital video streams. The set for the production featured three surfaces resembling a bombed-out building in New York or Beirut, onto which William Noland and I projected the consciousness of Bill Gray, the novelist so deeply identified with the writer taken hostage in Beirut and the boy playing baseball alone in his room, both immersed in fantasy, both lost to the world. The image of Rashid, the terrorist autocrat who models himself on Mao Tse-tung, is the Boy’s identity. Khomeini and Mao versus Bill Gray, who clings to the ideal of the dangerous writer who shapes consciousness, the writer who shouts democratically against autocracy simply by writing a novel. Khomeini’s death is as heavy as a mountain: his mourners beat themselves in transcendent frenzy. Bill Gray’s death is as light as a feather, anonymous. But in his memory the lone runner rounds the bases, in London the boys play soccer, and in Tiananmen Square a single student confronts a line of tanks, courageously exercising his democratic shout. Bill writes his way back into the creativity of his childhood by imagining the hostage and his repetitive suffering. At Sheffield Stadium a different child is crushed to death against a fence by impatient and unfeeling fans. Her face evokes medieval Brueghel’s Triumph of Death in eerily perfect imitation, and Brueghel’s army of skeletons echoes the Moonies’ mass wedding at Yankee Stadium: ‘‘A mass of people turned into a sculptural object.’’ Repetition and despair against the face of a child crushed into anonymity. ‘‘There is a longing for Mao that will sweep the world.’’ —Jody McAuliffe

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • William Noland,

Published Date

  • December 2003

Published In

  • The South Atlantic Quarterly

Volume / Issue

  • 103.1 /

Start / End Page

  • 6 - 20

Published By