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In college, I majored in American Studies. The summer before my senior year, I read Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise. It was a heartbreaking experience: If only I’d read it earlier, I could have saved three years and thousands of dollars. DeLillo’s books present my whole major in just a couple of hundred pages a pop, sizing up the shape and meaning of America’s mass-cultural superstructure and throwing in a fun plot to boot. Of course, if I’d skipped AmStud, I might not have picked up on the pomo brilliance of DeLillo’s own CV. While the traditional American path takes authors from the specific to the general, as they master their own neighborhoods before taking on the world, DeLillo didn’t come home until his 11th novel. It’s a long way from White Noise’s “airborne toxic event” to Underworld’s beginnings in the author’s native Bronx. Ask him how the trip was when DeLillo, brought to D.C. by PEN/Faulkner’s “Writers in Schools” program, reads at 8 p.m. at the Elizabethan Theatre of the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $13. (202) 544-7077. (Michael Schaffer)