In class we brought up the passage containing the line “Toyota Celica,” and the confusion behind its meaning; however, then and now, I myself can’t get past the thought that this line and others like it are mainly Delillo’s attempt to make us laugh. Lines like this are absurd, and seem to add to the absurdity of everything that is going on in the plot before they occur. “Toyota Celica” is a perfect example of this:
Steffie turned slightly, then muttered something in her sleep. It seemed important that I know what it was. In my current state, bearing the death impression of the Nyodene cloud, I was ready to search anywhere for signs and hints, intimations of odd comfort. I pulled my chair up closer. Her face in pouchy sleep might have been a structure designed solely to protect the eyes, those great, large and apprehensive things, prone to color phases and darting alertness, to a perception of distress in others. I sat there watching her. Moments later she spoke again. Distant syllables this time- but a language not quite of this world. I strruggled to understand. I was convinced she was saying something, fitting together units of stable meaning. I watched her face, waited. Ten minutes passed. She uttered two clearly audible words, familiar and elusive at the same time, world that seemed to have ritual meanings, part of a verbal spell or ecstatic chant.
A long moment passed before I realized this was the name of an automobile. The truth only amazed me more. The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. It was like the name of an ancient power in the sky, tablet-carved in cuneiform. It made me feel that something hovered. But how could this be? A simple brand name, an ordinary car. How could these near-nonsense words, murmured in a child’s restless sleep, make me sense a meaning, a presence? She was only repeating some TV voice…(154-155)
We discussed the possibility of this passage and others being Delillo’s shots at American consumerism. And while maybe he is trying to make a point here, I can’t help but think he’s not as serious as he may sometimes be taken to be. Nothing in the passage leading up to “Toyota Celica,” about Steffie’s sleep-talking was really as mind-blowing and crucial as the passage makes it out to be, as Jack is watching her. For me, the only thing that this passage is really doing is poking fun at the fact that when we all read “Toyota Celica” after a passage like this, we are all going to scratch our heads and wonder what all deep symbols this absurd statement carries in it. “Ten minuted passed,” seems to be making fun of us trying to find deeper meaning as well- ten minutes pass while we struggle in vain to pick out the profundities of this statement. It really just seems like another sardonic statement to me, but I could be wrong. It does stand out, but I’m not sure Delillo meant for readers to look into it as much as they may tend to.
*Also, sorry this is a little late!