Mao II Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Mao II.
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Mao II Summary & Study Guide Description

Mao II Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Mao II by Don Delillo.

This complex, multi-faceted narrative tells the story of reclusive novelist Bill Gray's ill-fated attempt return to public life. In language rich in both ideas and imagery, and following a plotline incorporating several historical events and places, the book also explores the metaphoric relationship between terrorism and writing, the power and influence of dictatorship, and the tension in relationships between the need for connection and the need for isolation.

The book begins with a Prologue fictionalizing actual historical events - a mass wedding of thousands of his followers by cult leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon. A middle-aged businessman, ignoring the restless complaints of his wife, searches the crowd of brides parading through Yankee Stadium in New York for a glimpse of his daughter Karen. Meanwhile, as the narrative shifts point of view, Karen pushes aside thoughts of her parents as she focuses on the symbolic commitment to Moon embedded in her marriage.

In Part One of the main narrative, world traveling photographer Brita Nilsson (tired of taking pictures of tragedies, now focusing her time and energy on photographing writers) is met in the heart of bustling New York City by Scott Martineau, Bill Gray's personal assistant, who takes her out to Bill's isolated home in the country. There, Brita shoots dozens of pictures of Bill, their conversation threaded with sexual tension and covering several topics, including the novel Bill has been constantly revising for several years (which Brita says he should publish) and Bill's contemplation of the similarities between terrorism and writing novels. Brita also tells Bill that his editor and publisher, Charles Everson, wants to talk with him about a matter of serious importance. Meanwhile, Scott spends time with Karen, now free of the cult and also working for Bill. Scott comments that if Bill wants to preserve his reputation, he should never publish the new novel. A tense dinner conversation between the four of them eventually leads to Bill losing his temper and withdrawing into his work room. The next day, Scott takes Brita back to her apartment in New York and eventually seduces her. Karen, meanwhile, engages in what seems to be something of a habit - making love with Bill behind Scott's back.

A few days later, Bill travels to New York and meets with Everson, who asks him to help publicize the case of a young poet being held hostage by terrorists. Bill evades the watchful Scott and, after a night with his estranged daughter, travels with Everson to England, where a press conference publicizing the hostage taking is to be held. While he's gone, Karen leaves the house and disappears into the city's homeless community. While she's gone, Scott becomes even more immersed in bringing order to Bill's life. Brita, meanwhile, travels out of the country on assignment.

A narrowly escaped bombing in London brings Bill in contact with George Haddad, a mysterious intermediary with the Lebanese terrorists responsible for both the kidnapping and the bombing. Haddad lures Bill to Greece with the promise of an opportunity to meet terrorist leader Abu Rashid. Karen, meanwhile, becomes even more deeply involved in the lives of New York's homeless, Scott discovers secrets about Bill's past, and Brita returns home, completely exhausted. An escape from being run over by a car leaves Bill in a considerable amount of worsening pain, but that doesn't stop him from striving to meet Rashid. Eventually, however, as Bill is on a ferry to Lebanon for the meeting, he succumbs to internal injuries and dies. Back in America, Scott and Karen discuss the possible repercussions of Bill disappearing for good.

In an Epilogue (like the Prologue written in present tense) Brita, no longer photographing only writers, is taken to meet Rashid. There she is witness to his particular brand of terrorist dictatorship, confronts his son (and almost loses her life) and, from the balcony of an apartment in a bombed-out building, watches a wedding procession being led by a tank make its way down a nearby street.

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This section contains 668 words
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