Cosmopolis

ISBN: 0743244257
ISBN 13: 9780743244251
By: Don DeLillo

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About this book

It is an April day in the year 2000 and an era is about to end -- those booming times of market optimism when the culture boiled with money and corporations seemed more vital and influential than governments.Eric Packer, a billionaire asset manager at age twenty-eight, emerges from his penthouse triplex and settles into his lavishly customized white stretch limousine. On this day he is a man with two missions: to pursue a cataclysmic bet against the yen and to get a haircut across town.His journey to the barbershop is a contemporary odyssey, funny and fast-moving. Stalled in traffic by a presidential motorcade, a music idol's funeral and a violent political demonstration, Eric receives a string of visitors -- his experts on security, technology, currency, finance and theory. Sometimes he leaves the car for sexual encounters and sometimes he doesn't have to.Cosmopolis, Don DeLillo's thirteenth novel, is both intimate and global, a vivid and moving account of a spectacular downfall.“DeLillo’s most affecting novel yet...A dazzling, phosphorescent work of art.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times“The clearest vision yet of what it felt like to live through that day.” —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek“A metaphysical ghost story about a woman alone…intimate, spare, exquisite.” —Adam Begley, The New York Times Book Review“A brilliant new novel....Don DeLillo continues to think about the modern world in language and images as quizzically beautiful as any writer.” — San Francisco Chronicle

Reader's Thoughts

Emanuela

Sì, certo. Credo proprio che bisognerebbe aver letto "Ulisse" di Joice, integrale, per fare un confronto con "Cosmopolis". Io l'avevo iniziato ma poi sono passata alle figurine del Ulysses for Dummies tanto per avere l'idea della trama. Anyway si potrebbe anche ricorrere al "Odissea" e capovolgere il protagonista Eric in antieroe, colui che programma la propria distruzione.E' un peccato veramente dover interrompere la lettura, sarebbe meglio prendersi il periodo necessario e dedicarsi completamente al libro che ripercorre, con quella specie di successione di slide che si pensa vengano proiettate nella mente poco prima di morire, alcune immagini significative della giornata del protagonista, spregiudicato guru della finanza, che attraversa le strade di New York a bordo di una limousine.Leggendo la biografia di DeLillo su Wikipedia si nota a fondo pagina come David Foster Wallace sia stato influenzato -molto- dall'autore. A mio modestissimo parere, però, l'allievo ha superato il maestro. Per me non c'è confronto: DFW ha una marcia in più, di valore esponenziale.

sologdin

Nutshell: one-percenter gets haircut, an event worthy of 200 pages.The less looney toons sibling of American Psycho (“the logical extension of business is murder“ (113)), this text, contrary to my intentions, was not necessarily the correct one to brainbleach the Ayn Rands that I’d read immediately prior hereto--though her mantra regarding self-made industrialists, who nevertheless are heirs to massive fortunes, is given mock heroic treatment here as “self made,” “ruthless,” “strong,” “brilliant” (72).Slick colloquy on chrematistics, “the art of money-making” (77), an odd phrase, as though currency were created ex nihilo, in a randian fantasy, by the mere intellect of the industrialist. Therein we see that “money has lost its narrative quality” (id.), which readers of Marx will recognize as the always already absent presence of repressed political relations inherent in currency, via operation of commodity fetishism. We see that “clock time accelerated the rise of capitalism“ (79), and “it’s cyber-capital that creates the future” via transactions at intervals of yoctoseconds (79): “time is a corporate asset now. It belongs to the free market system. The present is harder to find. It is being sucked out of the world to make way for the future of uncontrolled markets and huge investment potential” (id.). Part of the process is the integration of protests against capitalism into its structure: protesters “don’t exist outside the market. There is nowhere they can go to be on the outside. There is no outside” (90). The protest itself is a “form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating” (99). When a protestor intentionally self-immolates, dumb cappy grover dill can only complain “it’s not original,” “an appropriation” (100)--a nice emblem of the proto-fascism described by Herf in Reactionary Modernism regarding insistent “authenticity,” which emblem reiterates here: “To pull back now would not be authentic. It would be a quotation from other people’s lives” (85).Noted as “the hallmark of capitalist thought” is “enforced destruction” (92), a spectre from Benjamin’s ninth thesis on the philosophy of history: “old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed. Old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past, make the future,” apt reference to capitalism’s continuous process of revolutionizing the means of production (92-93). Recommended for persons undead living in a state of occult repose, waiting to be reanimated, those driven by thinking machines that they have no final authority over, and persons with asymmetrical prostates.

Marc Weidenbaum

Read this for the third time this weekend -- well, finished for the third time; took it real slow this time around. Cosmopolis is the second of the now four short novels that Don DeLillo has published since his massive Underworld. I have a theory on how the four work together that I've been working on, in the form of a short essay (about how all the novels are intended to investigate challenges to the primacy of the written word), and this read was to focus on supporting the thesis.The story is about a wealthy Wall Street guy making his way across town in a white limo, observing the markets and pleasing himself while lingering threats get closer and closer. The first half is worth reading, even if it can seem like Jay McInerney riffing on Nicholson Baker, or maybe the other way around -- Manhattan high-end social-strata observation occurring in a super-slo-mo, hyper-detailed mode.The second half, when the threat becomes more real, is less effective. The threat is simply much more interesting when it's just a threat. That's sort of the point of the book, too, but it almost proves it too well by ending on one long denouement.

Marguerite Kaye

I'm not completely sure what existential angst is, but I am pretty certain this book gave me it. And nightmares. And it made me laugh out loud in places too, and some of the language stopped me in my tracks - mostly in a good way. This was horribly compelling, utterly terrifying and unfortunately rang an awful lot of bells. In many ways it was picaresque a sort of modern-day Tom Jones journey through Manhatten, or maybe more like Alice Through the Looking Glass (meets Bonfire of the Vanities). What was so awful was that the 'vision' portrayed has already come true, and that's what gave me the nightmares, because it didn't feel like a too-stretched or too-ironic take on our world. Our fear that we're missing out, our cult of obsolesence, the constant striving for the next new thing and the next - I wish I could say it felt exaggerated, but it didn't. This sounds bleak beyond enjoyment and it was, often, but the humour saved it. I won't spoil it, but the doctor scene, and the pastry thrower had me in stitches. I'm a major fan of Don DeLillo, but he's a writer I have to take in very small doses. In fact, I'm not going to OD on very, very light romance as an antidote.I would highly recommend this - but don't read it if you're already depressed, and definitely don't read it just before you go to sleep.

Robert

Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, published in 2001, stands up disturbingly well over time. It’s been thirteen years, and we’ve seen the mega-banks and mega-investors (and all the little guys beneath them) crushed by a cataclysm of greed, but serious reforms were fought off, tax adjustments to realign the burdens on taxpayers more equitably have been booed out of the stadium, and the notion of a super-investor spending an entire day riding around in a stretch limo in Manhattan, running his currency and investing operations from there, remains comically plausible. Our anti-hero, Eric Packer suffers from what could be called the DeLillo disease or the Pynchon disease or the Orwell or Gaddis or NSA disease, namely the fantasy that somehow there is a code in the universe that can be deciphered ahead of time, and it will either make you almost meaninglessly rich or meaninglessly dead. DeLillo’s minimalist satire of such fantasists is all the sharper and more deadly for its doses of sympathy for Eric who displays a keen eye for the grandeur in the metaphysical workings of the world economy, yes, but also for the little folk and foibles of New York City. His flat writing––DeLillo’s––accentuates the cultural and technological gaudiness of New York as well as its human richness. There are theorists, assassins, bodyguards, poets, broken-down barbers, and unruly protestors in this densely packed novel who achieve a strange kind of unbelievable credibility because Eric has a death wish (for himself and for his business) that sharpens his perceptions and appreciation of almost everything in gusts of detail that are, undeniably, New York-like. When we see this stuff in movies––the private limos, the predictable sexual encounters with red hot lovers, the all-knowing screens full of encyclopedic data––we take it as schtick, at least by now, I would think. But prose works harder than movies. Prose takes work to create every single image, inflection, adjective, and event. There are no contextual gifts caused by the camera or the simple natural beauty of women who wouldn’t even require make-up to seem divine. In prose everything happens through word after word, not all at once. I don’t mean to denigrate movies. I know how hard it is to make one. In fact, I’d never want to make one because it is the most tedious business imaginable. But the fact is that a face or a backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge or a half-empty parking lot on the Lower East Side comes naturally to the lens, and it’s not the way for writers. A DeLillo, who writes and writes about vague conspiracies, has to earn the full engagement of his readers with just the right word, the word that is what the reader would have used had the reader possessed DeLillo’s gifts. Again, the edginess of Cosmopolis is its sharp proximity to revolting reality, the sense that the totality of control in the world rests uncomfortably in a few frail, mortal hands, and that it can all come crashing down in an instant. DeLillo’s approach to this notion is powerful because the odious Eric festers with lusts and inadequacies and jealousies that make him human, if barely. Eric’s nemesis, on the other hand, is less persuasive. This is an individual who is identified in separate sections of the narrative as someone who once worked for Eric and lost his position and now lives in the scummiest, most desperate of circumstances. In literary terms, he is Dostoevsky’s Underground Man or Ellison’s Invisible Man. This is forced, not persuasive. The most curious thing about the end of the book is how superior Eric is in comparison to his assassin. He makes good points in trying to defuse the confrontation; but the suggestion is that the very far-seeing talent that made him rich is also what, in a ghoulish set of images, makes him dead.

Oscar

En ‘Cosmópolis’ asistimos durante un día a la vida de un perdedor, Eric Packer. Lo curioso es que Eric es un multimillonario dedicado a las altas finanzas, que pese a su juventud, lo tiene todo, siendo además de los que deciden el futuro de otros mediante sus inversiones y especulaciones. En este día en concreto, Eric se levanta por la mañana con dos ideas en la cabeza: arriesgar todo su dinero a que el yen japonés no subirá, y cortarse el pelo.Durante esta larga jornada, Eric viajará en su limusina por toda Nueva York camino de su peluquero, encontrándose con múltiples personajes y situaciones. En su amplia limusina tienen lugar los encuentros más dispares, ya que parece que Eric tenga más vida en ella que en su propia casa. Pero Eric no viaja solo en su aventura joyceana, le acompañan varios guardaespaldas, y es que su vida está amenazada. Todo ello bajo el telón de fondo de la visita del presidente a la ciudad, el entierro de un conocido cantante, el rodaje de una película… que dificultan el viaje de la limusina entre el denso tráfico. Por cierto, que David Cronenberg está realizando la adaptación al cine de esta novela. El material se adapta a lo que ha sido hasta ahora su filmografía, pero ya veremos.‘Cosmópolis’ es una reflexión de los tiempos que corren, deshumanizada, donde DeLillo trata temas como el terrorismo, la globalización o la alienación del individuo, con un Eric Packer en su particular descenso a los infiernos, paranoico, inteligente, dominado por su ego, que tiene sexo cuando y donde quiere.La prosa de DeLillo es directa y lúcida, como siempre, capaz de dar en el clavo con cada una de sus observaciones. Pese a ello, DeLillo es un escritor que no llega a calarme del todo, pero aun así sus novelas siempre resultan interesantes y con grandes destellos de calidad. -He leído un poema en el que una rata se convierte en moneda de curso legal.-Pues sí, sería interesante –dijo Chin.-Desde luego. Tremendo impacto en la economía mundial.-Ya sólo por el nombre… Mucho mejor que el dong o la kwacha.-El nombre lo es todo.-Sí. La rata –dijo Chin.-Sí. Hoy la rata ha cerrado por debajo del euro.-Sí. Existe una preocupación creciente de que la rata rusa se devalúe.-Ratas blancas. Piénsalo.-Sí. Ratas preñadas.-Eso. Liquidación en masa de ratas rusas preñadas.-Gran Bretaña entra en la zona rata –dijo Chin.-Eso mismo. Se suma a la lógica tendencia de adoptar una única unidad de cambio universal.-Sí. Estados Unidos establece la unidad rata.-Eso. Cada dólar estadounidense será canjeable por su valor en ratas.-Ratas muertas.-Eso. El acopio de reservas de ratas muertas se tiene por una amenaza contra la salud mundial.

Pamela W

Listened to this on audio during the commute and found the reader's voice really grating. Main character? Creepy and hateful, but not in a provocative way. More annoying. I don't generally enjoy reading (or listening) to lengthy soliloquies that are just excuses for phrases/random analogies or waxing on life's headier ponderances. Sounded forced, not ---ophical (insert prefix of choice). I wanted to perpetrate violence by the end of this story time, and I don't mean riotous/life-affirming violence but just cold, gangsta ass-kicking. In a word...huh?

Dave-O

Dellilo's New York limo ride flows well enough through the first half of the book. The premise allows itself to open an array of bizzare situations: a billionaire twenty-something want to ride in his suped-up stretch limo to get a haircut. On the way he has encounters with lovers, ex-lovers, and advisors in matters of technology, finance, security, and theory. Dellilo's prose is highly restrained with limited, but rich descriptions of neighborhoods that unfold through the eyes of billionaire Eric. There are some truly original hilarious subversive instances where Eric displays his detatchment from society such as when he makes sexual advances to a female executive while getting a prostate exam in his back seat (No pun intended).As allegory, it holds up; the plot itself fails to hold up at times though because of the limited style he chooses with certain situations. The female characters blend into non-memorable hybrids of slut-artist-vixen-heiress-mystic. In a style very reminiscent of Chuck Palahnuik ('Fight Club') Eric's journey unfolds as his own deathmarch which Eric is all too willing to accept. The social critique is clear enough: the market culture is tainting our humanity and the democracy as corporate-kleptocracy will test what is left of it. Delillo delivers in 'Cosmopolis'. I only wish that his characterization was as substantial as every thing else in his novel.

Sunday

From this 2012 vantage point, Cosmopolis from 2003 seems dated like a horse and carriage. Bringing humanity to the wealthy is just not the fashion, and this spiritual awakening of Patrick Bateman was fun then, but weirdly irrelevant right now, in the era of the Pruis and the hostility towards the "1%." Although Eric was never really meant to be an everyman hero, he really really really is not one now. This book was fabulously written (hookers have "duck butts" as they leave for home in the morning), but the crash and burn of this wealthy all-knowing rich fellow is just meh. The audience is not me, perhaps, as women are (as always) reduced to allegory and sex acts, exclusively. I couldn't feel the feelings. And to address the movie, Cronenberg is giving this whole thing a weird approach. The trailer for the film makes it look a Bourne movie, not really a hyper-emotional thinker. Titties, gunfire, and riots; these are things that don't really punctuate the plot of the book. Yes, college-aged fanboys and R Patz diehards will attend and pick up the book in masses. But how boring! A rich person's crazy adventure! This is "Baby's Day Out" for a new generation of men!

Michael Seidlinger

What? Huh? Okay?These are not indications of confusion. I completely absorbed Cosmopolis and experienced every facet of the near-novella. Given that, I must question the entire purpose of this piece. It certainly provides an ample-enough lens for American excess, disaffection, and dislocation... but I'm not sure it goes anywhere beyond the "image" of this particular portrayal.I need a haircut too... but unlike the rich, I either cut it myself or drive the 1.2 miles to a Hair Cuttery and make it happen.

Jonfaith

Poetry pours from Cosmopolis, a sweaty rut of discourse and images about the nature of power in our world. Delillo is prescient and impactful, but he's always been, hasn't he? The protagonist finds obsoletion everywhere and the reader cringes, suddenly questioning their own utility. The ending proved blurred but effective. I sense the message within. The dedication to Paul Auster was intriguing as well. I may see the film now.

Bee

This book is very different to anything i've read before. The prose is sometimes mind-bending and at times can be hard to follow but it's because Eric Packer thinks like no one else. He doesn't see the world as most people do -he breaks things down into minutiae - where we might count things in minutes or seconds, Eric sees in septillionths of seconds.. because of this he is hyper aware, hyper maniacal in some instances, and generally ahead of the game. He lives in a corporate world, driven by numbers and information."Because time is a corporate asset now."He is playing the game from the back seat of his limo as he traverses the city, aiming to get to a point of meaning, all the while something lurks in the shadows. I really enjoyed this book but it wont be to everyone's taste.

Jacob J.

The Problem of Language:“It was a matter of silences, not words.”There are those who indict DeLillo on charges of criminal literary laziness, but I would submit that actually, what he possesses is an immense understanding of the limitations inherent in language as a mode of expression, and while perhaps superficially a little ironic, I would also submit that it is a crucial thing on which to have a grasp, as a practitioner of the written word. As evidenced by the overall pithiness, refusal to go into territory that would most likely be discussed at a quantum mystics’ board meeting (do they have board meetings?), and more specifically, the seemingly insignificant (and infantile?) inquiries into linguistics and etymology, he displays his… (hold on, let me grab my thesaurus)… perspicacity, not simple-mindedness, in these fields. Our assigned protagonist, Er(obert)ic Packer(son), compulsively dwells on meanings of words. Here he “pokes a note to himself about the anachronistic quality of the word skyscraper”, and here asks his currency analyst, Michael Chin “Why do we still have airports? Why are they called airports?”, to which Michael esoterically replies, “I know I can’t answer these questions without losing your respect”, which makes sense in that inexplicable kind of way.Perhaps what I am trying to do, if I may provide some context from the past, is defend the Hemingway tradition (not that DeLillo's prose bears much resemblance to Papa's) against the likes of Faulkner, who shunned the former for not requiring his readers to keep a dictionary within arm’s reach, but it’s also something more. I am not merely, or even necessarily, saying that the easiest way to say something is the best way (a literary Occam’s Razor?), but that some things can truly be so personal, harrowing, or bizarre, as to postulate nothing more than that most basic, one-word question, for which even speechless animals know, a head-tilt would suffice. DeLillo knows how to deal with complex issues using sparse, poetic language. Even Libertarians Could…Ayn Rand-ish elements may surface if the wrong pundit gets their hands on this book. If DeLillo were more of a blatant ideologue (I haven’t a clue as to his political outlook), it could be frantically asserted that he had foreseen what was going to happen in ‘Obama’s America’! People could be holding up copies as tea-bags dangle from their colonial hats. A book could be written entitled Don DeLillo: Prophet of Currency: How Don DeLillo Foresaw the Economic Collapse and the Ensuing Anti-Capitalism Protests of Dangerous and Disorganized Liberal Rats. Maybe in a few years. Poetry Without Inference: Our cosmic wonder is no mystical thing, and with consciousness fleeting it is no wonder to desire that it be “saved from the void”. The accumulated matter which we refer to as ourselves had its origins in stars that we have never seen, and when it flows free once again, we will likewise not bear witness to our former compositions’ many destinies. No, not dust in the wind Kerry Livgren and Native American poets, but dust in the vast quantum chasm. Or, is the horror of immortality a cyclical event? In what time of space do we, strictly speaking, even exist? Don’t ask yourself these questions as you read them. It will only make you hate me. Just for Fun…?Here is Brutha Fez (who is obviously DeLillo’s literary alter ego) laying down some fresh rhymes: Kid used to think he was wise to the systemPrince of the street always do things his wayBut he had a case of conventional wisdomNever say nothing the others don’t say…Man gave me the news in a slanted roomAnd it felt like a sliver of icy truthFelt my sad-ass soul flying out of my mouthMy gold tooth splitting down to the rootLet me be who I wasUnrhymed foolThat’s lost but living.

Sarah Funke

Liked this a ton. Very spare writing, even for DD, so unencumbered by simile and metaphor, so beautiful and crisp and sharp and rhythmic, that you have to read a lot of it twice to understand it. Plenty of the usual quotable wisdom; some stunning passages, and terrific juxtapositions. A great representative paragraph:"The tower gave him strength and depth. He knew what he wanted, a haircut, but stood a while longer in the soaring noise of the street and studied the mass and scale of the tower. The one virtue of its surface was to skim and bend the river light and mime the tides of open sky. There was an aura of texture and reflection. He scanned its length and felt connected to it, sharing the surface and the environment that came into contact with the surface, from both sides. A surface separates inside from out and belongs no less to one than the other. He'd thought about surfaces in the shower once." (p.9) One of the many little bits I just love: "If you knew the man ten years, it might take you all that time to notice he did not wear glasses" (p. 53) Stuff about eye contact and brushing against people in pedestrian traffic (p. 66). "To know and not to act is not to know" (p. 85). TDF booth line filled with the only people not reacting to a huge crisis in Times Square. Hilarious. "I was a kid and a little pedantic but I still maintain I had a point" (p. 184). Obvious structural parallels with Joyce of course and an unplanned, I'm sure, nod to Woolf: the artistry of the protagonist who wants to move people around, no matter the drama of the context, to catch the light in a certain way. In addition to all this -- this craft and beauty and wit and intelligence -- he predicted the financial crisis (his financial manager protagonist is warned that he is "speculating into the void") and also predicts what my friend Alison Fraser has referred to as "the death of death" created by electronic media. He uses words that shouldn't, really, be used any more -- like "satchel" -- but comments on others that are much harder to call, like "telephone," and "vestibule, if this is still a word." And then there are all the words he's dug out of I don't know where, like "slub," for example.

Jill

** spoiler alert ** After struggling through Cosmopolis: A Novel by Don DeLillo for over a year, I am very happy to report that I’ve finished reading it. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. Okay, that’s a lie. I know exactly how I feel; I’m just too nice to say it.Now, I admit that I only read this book because Robert Pattinson is in the movie version, which is coming out later this year. And I really don’t care that I thought it was kind of terrible, because as long as I have an excuse to sit in a theater for a couple hours and stare at him in a role other than a pasty vampire who does (or does not as the case may sometimes be) sparkle, my inner fangirl will be happy.In all honestly, though, the upcoming movie is not the reason I finished the book. After all, I only got two chapters in to Bel Ami, another book-to-movie adaptation coming out this year that Pattinson stars in, before I called it quits. So then why did I keep reading? you ask. Well, because I was fairly positive at some point there would be an eye-opening “Oh, now I get it!” moment and the entire novel would become clear to me. Yeah, that didn’t really happen.At all.I scratched my head until the very end. And when it was over, I’m pretty sure I gasped out a “Huh?” as I was busting my ass on the stair machine. I just . . . I don’t know. I don’t even have words for this book. It made about as much sense as the dreams I have on any given night. How they made it into a movie, I can’t even imagine. Aside from not making sense, it’s all very stream of consciousness. There’s a lot of thinking (weird thinking), and the sparse dialog that exists read very choppy and unnatural to me. It was also a struggle to figure out who was talking at times. I want to believe it’s because I had a janky electronic copy and the paragraphs got messed up and dialog tags went missing, but something tells me that’s not the case.There is, however, a positive side to having read the book: I won’t walk out of the theater thinking what the f*** just happened? Also, I’ll be prepared for the WTF scenes, like the rectal exam and the water bottle. And the ending. This is one of those rare cases where I don’t think the book will help the movie make sense, but at least I can go into it knowing that I’m not going to understand anything, and I can put more effort into ogling The Pretty.Someone on Twitter said they saw the trailer and were left completely confused. I replied by saying I read the book and I’m just as confused.

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