Invisible pictures (1): Don DeLillo’s The Angel Esmeralda

There’s a review in the TLS this week of Don DeLillo’s 2011 collection of short stories The Angel Esmeralda (published in the UK by Picador). It’s surprising that the review should only be appearing now since the book was published late last year, but what struck me even more was that there is no mention in the review of the pictures included in the book: indeed, each part is headed by a picture that ties in with one of the stories in that section.

Part One is headed by an uncredited photograph of the earth taken from outer space, a picture that ties in with the story “Human Moments in World War III” featuring two astronauts in orbit around the earth. Part Two shows a photograph of the Bull-Leaping Fresco of Knossos, which is on display at the Herakleion Archaeological Museum. The reproduction is from the book Herakleion Museum published by Ekdotike Athenon and shows a woman somersaulting over a bull. It ties in with the story “The Ivory Acrobat”, but doesn’t in fact correspond to the actual ivory figurine of a bull leaper mentioned in the story, which thus makes it a surprising choice. Part Three opens with a reproduction of a painting by Gerhard Richter from his Baader-Meinhof series and is “used with permission of the Marian Goodman Gallery. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY”). It ties in with the story “Baader-Meinhof”, about a woman visiting an exhibition of this series of paintings.

The review in the TLS is not the only one not to mention the pictures: they go unmentioned in the reviews published in the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Irish Times. How come?

A few months ago I wrote in a post on David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero that of 11 reviews of the novel I had gone through, not one of them so much as mentions the photographs included in that novel. And so, as with the reviews of DeLillo’s collection, I wonder how come? How come do these pictures go unnoticed or at least unmentioned in reviews? Are they invisible? Are they uninteresting? Irrelevant? Or is it simply that there’s nothing to say about them?

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