Underworld

ISBN: 0684848155
ISBN 13: 9780684848150
By: Don DeLillo

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About this book

A finalist for the National Book Award, Don DeLillo’s most powerful and riveting novel—“a great American novel, a masterpiece, a thrilling page-turner” (San Francisco Chronicle)—Underworld is about the second half of the twentieth century in America and about two people, an artist and an executive, whose lives intertwine in New York in the fifties and again in the nineties. With cameo appearances by Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover, Bobby Thompson, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and Toots Shor, “this is DeLillo’s most affecting novel…a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).

Reader's Thoughts

Daryl

I read maybe half of Underworld nearly a decade ago and put it aside (I forget why). I've read the opening scene a few times since, and it's one of my favorite pieces of writing, so it's weird that I put the whole book aside. Maybe parts of it began to lag for me back then. I've meant ever since to pick the book back up, and I'm glad I did.My main complaint with DeLillo's other work has been that although his writing is very fine (really, really admirable), the construction of his stories tends to leave me puzzled. Cosmopolis feels at times hackish, Mao II sort of goes off the rails, and Falling Man is just bad. But here DeLillo writes a very big thing composed of a couple of big stories that intersect in ways I find believable and appealing.This is a book about finding lost things, getting back to origins, trying to grok complexity, grappling with betrayal, baseball, garbage, infidelity, war, and peace. It's lovely at the sentence level, and though at times it feels as if DeLillo might have left a story behind or made a misstep, I think he winds up getting it mostly right. It's worth a read and a reread.

Justin Evans

Voltaire is best known today for a novella and being a bit of a prick (in an enlightening way), but he also wrote a number of epic poems, including the first (?) epic poem in French, the Henriade. This was reprinted dozens of times during his life. The epic was the great literary genre of the eighteenth century, in theory. Now, of course, nobody gives a shit, because that stuff is utterly unreadable. Our 'epics' are long novels, and, like the Henriade, they get laurels aplenty, despite being all too often unreadable. Authors continue to churn them out, because critics adore a behemoth. Sometimes, it's best to just admit defeat. There are a few things worth critically adoring in Underworld: i) The fact that DeLillo was ballsy enough to tell the story backwards. ii) Any scene with the nuns and priests in it. iii) A few patented DeLillo symbol-objects, here, the painted planes in the desert and the giant ship carrying garbage/heroin/nuclear waste/who knows what. These are undermined, though, by, e.g., ia) The fact that he doesn't have any story to tell, so telling it backwards adds nothing. iia) There are too few scenes with the nuns, and too many with the very boring Nick Shay. How many men who've blown off another man's head with a shotgun (accidentally, but still), and had an affair with a super-hot modern artist who attracts disciples like black clothes attract dog hair, could be *this* boring? Only one, Nick Shay, and Delillo writes about him for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages. iiia) Those symbol-objects can carry books the length of, say, White Noise. This book is 827 pages long. Not even the painted planes in the desert can carry a book for that long. So we're breaking even (I'm being generous). How about the ideas? By far the most intelligent, and humorous, scene in the book comes in chapter 3 of part 4. We get to watch people watch an apocryphal Eisenstein film, called 'Underworld.' Some characters' reactions: a) "The plot was hard to follow. There was no plot. Just loneliness."b) Esther said, "I want to be rewarded for this ordeal."c) "Admit it, you're bored." d) "It was remote and fragmentary and made on the cheap, supposedly personal, and it had a kind of suspense even as it crawled along. How and when would it reveal itself?"e) "What about the politics? She thought this film might be a protest against socialist realism... what was this murky film, this strange dark draggy set of images if not a statement of outrage and independence?" f) "Do we have to stay for the rest of it?" "I want to see what happens." "What could happen?" g) "The camp elements of the program... now tended to resemble sneak attacks on the dominant culture." h) "All Eisenstein wants you to see, in the end, are the contradictions of being." This is transparently about the novel, *Underworld*. There is no plot, it is an ordeal, it is boring, it is remote and fragmentary, you do kind of want to know if/when it will reveal itself or something will happen, it could easily be nothing more than a statement about the supposed 'contradictions of being'. And you can, if you like, read all of that as a giant protest against realism. So, given that our author is aware of the book's flaws (you can protest against realism and be entertaining, by the way),how can we justify its existence? In its intellectual content? That content is ambiguous, in a good way: DeLillo asks us to consider the relationship between nostalgia (for, e.g., baseball) and history (i.e., things that will matter to mentally sound people who didn't live through them). It would be nice to think that this book treats reverence for baseball and various other, even more cheesy, mass cultural ways of extracting money from people ironically: of course it's fun to go watch baseball, but it's not particularly important. I fear, however, there is no irony, and that Underworld is just a depressing, postmodern affirmation of 'everyday life,' that looks back with longing (somewhat paradoxically, given the aforementioned pomoness) to the Cold War, back when the Giants and Dodgers were still New York teams. I fear that Underworld's main point is to show how Capital-H History disposes of all the glorious little knick-knacks we nostalgize about, like, say, baseballs, and how we have to hang onto them and make sure we get to stay individuals and live authentically even though The Man doesn't want us to. Consider that the most memorable scene in the book, according to the internet I read, is when the priest tells Nick 'Boring' Shay that he's tired of educating teenagers in "abstract ideas" and would be better off educating them as to the names of particular concrete things like, e.g., the names of shoe-parts, which he then proceeds to name for a few pages. How poetic it is that he knows what to call the cuff, counter and vamp. What a lesson in "the depth and reach of the commonplace". If a book is going to argue for the depth and reach and importance of the quotidian, and eschew any attempt to connect its various chunks, those chunks had better be glorious. That is not the case here. I just don't care about the moments that DeLillo chooses not to connect to each other. Now, of course, that wouldn't matter too much if the writing was good, but, as other reviewers have cataloged, it is not. Who let the following phrase slop into existence? Because it couldn't have been Don DeLillo: "Matt drove west, deeper into the white parts of the map, where he would try to find a clue to his future." I'd love to say I've made it look worse, but the preceding clause involves the phrase 'soft dawn.' Underworld is not funny, as some DeLillo books are. It is not as well written as many of them are. It is not intellectually interesting as a couple of them are. It neither asks, nor answers, important questions, as DeLillo is capable of doing. It is, however, long; it is ambitious; and it was published before everything in the U.S.A. went to poop thanks to financial speculation, war and incompetence. So people call it a Great American Novel, and pine for the time before Osama, Bush and the Great Recession, just like they pine for the good ol' days in the ballpark. It is the Henriade of a very talented man, not his Candide.

Carlos

Probably the greatest novel I have ever read. Reading this book was like reading a symphony. The power of the different story elements ebbing and flowing at just the right moments is breathtaking. DeLillo takes what is good about modern literature--fragmentation, multiple narratives ...etc.--and combines it with a level of readability that is just right. The novel is neither condescendingly easy to read nor purposefully obfuscating. There are moments of naked humanity throughout the novel that are so full of truth, so full of the mundane tragedy of our lives that they are difficult to read.

Manny

I'm surprised to see how many people here had the exact same reaction I did. They start reading, they find a few bits that seem quite gripping and well-written, they lose momentum, and they stop. Some hypotheses:- None of us are smart enough to get the point.- There is a clear point, but you have to reach the end to discover what it is, and we didn't have the requisite fortitude. (Also, it must be like The Mousetrap: readers who find out are sworn not to reveal it).- The point is that life feels this way if you're a certain kind of person, i.e. interesting in places but ultimately pretty meaningless.- The book just isn't very good.Now that I write it down, I do feel vaguely interested in discovering which of the above guesses is closest to the truth. But not interested enough to open it again.When I try to imagine Untitled, the spectacularly unsuccessful novel that Richard writes in Martin Amis's The Information, I must admit that the first thing I think of is Underworld. At least DeLillo's book doesn't cause nose-bleeds, sinus headaches or inexplicable drowsiness. Okay, maybe the last one.__________________________________________I note with interest that Karl Ove Knausgård is another member of the club. A passage from near the end of Min kamp 2 (he has just visited a bookstore and made some purchases):DeLillo-romanen angret jeg på i det samme jeg kom ut, for selv om jeg en gang hade hadde vært fan av ham, særlig romanene The Names og White Noise, hadde jeg ikke klart å lese mer en halve av Underworld, og siden neste bok hadde vært forferderlig, var det åpenbart at han var på hell.My translation:I regretted the DeLillo novel the moment I came out, since even if I once had been a fan, particularly of the novels The Names and White Noise, I hadn't been able to read more than half of Underworld, and considering that the next book had been terrible, it was clear he was on the way down.

Rafa

Le sobran 800 páginas.

sologdin

Combines foucaultian archaeology/genealogy in order to trace the discontinuities of Bataille’s accursed share during the Cold War in the US. As with Pynchon’s V., likely should’ve read this one prior to reading Dissident Gardens--much overlap here with the latter: New York, chess, baseball. It’s almost as though Lethem read this one and thought nuh uh, then wrote a response.Main narrator (the sole first-person perspective) is “involved in waste”: “we were waste handlers, waste traders, cosmologists of waste” (88). Though “waste is an interesting word that you can trace through Old English and Old Norse back to Latin, finding such derivatives as empty, void, vanish, and devastate” (120), waste is nevertheless “a religious thing” (88). We see that the accursed share is expansive in the novel: “‘I deal in other kinds of waste. The real stuff of the world. Give me disposable diapers by the ton. Not this melancholy junk from yesteryear” (99), the latter referring to the baseball that is the subject of the famous prologue and the ‘black’ chapters. It is not wholly nihilistic, as the waste materials have a constructive function, insofar as narrator comes “upon a scene that is medieval-modern, a city of high-rise garbage, the hell reek of every perishable object ever thrown together” (104). The “towers of garbage” (362) found in one section are bleakly juxtaposed with the construction of the World Trade Center in 1974, observed by several others: "Very terrible thing but you have to look at it” (372). These are “pyramids of waste,” and “the more hazardous the waste, the deeper we go to sink it. The word plutonium comes from Pluto, god of the dead and ruler of the underworld” (106). In this latter connection, the description of a secret underground nuclear research facility captures the relevant concepts: “one of those nice tight societies that replaces the world. It was the world made personal and consistently interesting because it was what you did, and others like you, and it was self-enclosed and self-referring and you did it all together in a place and a language that were inaccessible to others” (412)--the placement of the secret, the private, the inaccessible into the underworld of wastes. (See also “mountains hollowed out in New Mexico” (457).) Narrator will later confirm our impression: “there is a curious connection between weapons and waste. I don’t know exactly what” (791). (The connection is made explicit in the analysis of Eisenstein’s Unterwelt (424 ff.), which concerns scientific experiments on human persons.)These passages form the nexus of proper waste with the objects of consumer culture. Author can’t resist a tendentious overworking the point: “He looked at the soaring garbage and knew for the first time what his job was about. Not engineering or transportation or source reduction. He dealt in human behavior, people’s habits and impulses, their uncontrollable needs and innocent wishes, maybe their passions, certainly their excesses and indulgences but their kindnesses too, their generosity, and the question was how to keep this mass metabolism from overwhelming us” (184). One character adopts another’s perspective of “seeing garbage everywhere, reading it into a situation” (343) (“Everything I see is garbage” (283)). Terrible, but we have to look, “an epidemic of seeing” (812).The “melancholy junk” aforesaid, a homerun ball of some significance to greasers, lumpenproles, and other dejecta, is accordingly the subject of a number of genealogies (most comically by tinfoil behatted Bircher Marvin) (176, 308, 317), wherein he attempts to trace the “lineage” of authenticity of the baseball, to attach a benjaminian aura to it. This authenticity is endlessly deferred, because the genealogist lost the trail to the last link, which is found in the prologue (i.e., derridean outworks!) and the ‘black’ chapters--much like the cargo ship denied entry for years, traveling port to port, rumored to be carrying human excrements, but also dead bodies, nuclear crap, and so on, but never confirmed or denied (330, 339), which is discussed on a number of occasions with a genealogical purpose. (This endlessly voyaging ship full of waste products reminds me of the vessel at the end of Love in the Time of Cholera, a ship sailing forever, carrying a worthless waste of space on his final trip.) Regardless, “all this cold war junk is gonna be worth plenty, as quaint memorabilia” (593). It is speculated that “we feel reverence for waste, for the redemptive qualities of the things we use and discard” (809)--pure Bataille, wherein sacrifices are parcel to the accursed share.At the same time that wastes are the subject of genealogies, so too they are the subject of archaeologies, such as by “garbage archaeologist” who argues that “garbage rose first, inciting people to build civilization in response, in self-defense“ (287)--“We let it shape us” (288). We see likewise that “waste is the secret history, the under history, the way archaeologists dig out the history of early cultures, every sort of bone heap and broken tool, literally from under the ground” (791). The political point could not be more plain: “This goddamn country has garbage you can eat, garbage that’s better to eat than the food on the table in other countries. They have garbage here you can furnish your house and feed your kids” (766-67). It’s not that the whole world is garbage-in-the-process-of-becoming, as the waste industry ‘professionals’ come to believe as part of this institutional praxis, but rather that things committed to ruin are as yet still functional: waste is accordingly an ideological rather than ontological condition. Still, it‘s also local: woman in New York is shown to be “a girl who forages in empty lots for discarded clothes” (810) (she’ll be raped, murdered, and dumped thereafter).In this connection, J. Edgar Hoover is troubled by a “garbage guerrilla,” who will take his trash and “get lefty sociologists to analyze the garbage item by item. Get hippies to rub it on their naked bodies. More or less have sex with it” (558). That’s this novel, aye?The dialectic of waste appears in other instances, such as the rumors spread by nuclear industry workers (406), which spreaders believe false, but spread anyway--a perfect example of Sloterdijk’s enlightened false consciousness, and a perfect example of the accursed share. (The rumors are the US version of the Eisenstein film, supra, and mirror the actual occurrences detailed in the epilogue.)A couple incidentals, outside the scope of the dialectic of wastes reading: cool comment that “prayer is a practical strategy, the gaining of temporal advantage in the capital markets of Sin and Remission” (237), which removes the practice of prayer from the ambit of wastes, perhaps. Also: something weird going on with graffiti, which shows up quite a bit (see e.g., 277, 343, 377, &c.)--not sure what to make of it now. Further: text describes “great sea creatures beached on a New York street" as an “epic of misplacement,” which is a slick self-referential description of the novel itself (479), much in keeping with Italian dietrologia, purportedly “the science of what is behind something” (280).Recommended for readers who have lived out the bureaucratic needs of male desire, persons displaced in their own lives, and those who mingle lubriciously with art and literature.

Saxon

Following a series of characters all loosely connected, DeLillo attempts to encompass and explore the entirety of modern(post?) America from the outer boroughs of NYC to the suburbs of Phoenix over a span of five decades. Beginning at a baseball game in 1951 at the events that took place there and elsewhere in the world that day, Underworld embarks on an exhaustive depiction of events and facets that characterize America (baseball, suburbs, Cuban Missle Crisis, etc) and its effect on the American psyche through intimate stories revolving around everyone from a waste contractor to Lenny Bruce. Overwhelming? Hardly. This is a collage of post-modern life that is filled with symbols and coincidences that we want to assign meaning, when in actuality, much like our own daily experiences, any meaning is shrouded, hidden and quite possibly doesn't even exist. Many of the characters of Underworld find themselves caught in this impasse, wanting to find a truth out in the physical world, but ultimately failing to ever do so. Sound familiar? Yeah, DeLillo might describing your life. (Ironically, and actually quite impressively, it seems after reading reviews of this book from people who did not like it, that they might have been struggling with the same dilemma while reading the book.) If it all seems a little too over-intellectual, it really isn't. DeLillo just seems to have an acute sense of what its like to live in America from the 1950's onward.Maybe this is going out on a limb, but I feel like this book can also be read as a collection of short stories revolving around similar themes. Its big, messy and sure, maybe could have been edited a bit, but in the end its a satisfying read that moves quite quickly. (If I hadn't moved across the country by car half way through this book, I probably would have gotten through it quicker myself.)Okay, no more books this year that are 600 + pages. This is my fourth (fifth?) since June (my Goodreads years start in June to coincide with when I started this list).

Paul

THE PILGRIM 'S HEART IS LIGHT AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS JOURNEYSo I will strap on my backpack and don sturdy walking boots, an oxygen tank might be useful, and a supply of plasters and animal pelts - and then I will begin to scale the North Face of Modern American Literature. Let's see how far I get before I fall off one of its jagged cliffs or collapse choking with one of Mr DeLillo's sentences wrapped around my neck.BUT DISCOURAGEMENTS ARISE UNBIDDENUpdate - Not even on page 100 and I have a sinking feeling. It's DeLillo's style. It's so very...er...ornate. No noun escapes without an adjective pinned to it, some of which are very odd - consider these from pages 63 to 65:"... the little splat of human speech" [huh?:]"A bled-white sky with ticky breezes" [ticky? like a clock?:]"...a horseman with scabbarded rifle or a lone cameleer hunched in muslin on his dumb-headed beast""...the studded vegetation" [with what?:]"...a clear night with swirled stars" [swirled?:]Also this -"There is something about old times that's satisfied by spontaneity. The quicker you decide, the more fully you discharge the debt to memory." Okay, what debt would that be? What's the logic here? Is this something our Don believes or is this something he wants us to believe this particular character believes? If so, why? Who has the time to figure out what it means anyway? Especially when there's another 762 ticky swirled studded scabbarded pages to go....This isn't going so well.DESPAIR INGULFS HIS HEART AND HE HEARS VOICESAnd finally :Once more despondent and unenthused, I zipped around the goodread reviews and found remarks such as"... oh, god... this, this... painful verbal bukakefest is literally 800 pages of DeLillo jacking off at his computer over how deep and verbose he is. i wanted to punch him in the face and shake him, shouting, "JUST GET TO THE FUCKING PLOT, YOU SELF-LOVING PIECE OF SHIT." (from Ethan)and"I'll be honest and say that I don't remember much about this book other than an awful lot of baseball. This is partially because there is a lot of baseball in it" (from Chelsea)and"Ultimately, I don't think DeLillo knew what his story was about and tried to compenstate by adding more and more pages. Critics, never wanting to be the one who doesn't "get it", fawned and fellated the book, doing no favors to either the author or readers who mistakenly wade into this dank swamp and wonder why they're so dumb for not seeing the brilliance. And then they run back to James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks or some shit like that and we're all a little poorer in the end. ." (from Joseph)and finally this from an online lit journal:"Potentially intriguing plots which feature strongly in the earlier parts of the book - an intriguing serial killer subplot, the stories of each person who possesses the winning baseball - are abandoned halfway through the book in favour of overlong childhood memories or the inane ponderings of a performance artist; other stories are neglected for over 400 pages before reappearing at the end of the novel, causing an unwelcome jolt as the reader tries to remember the pertinent details."THE PILGRIM CASTS THE DEVIL FROM HIMI groaned and decided to place this great tome gently onto my "Abandoned Halfway And Will Never Finish Unless Some Very Unlikely DeLillo Fans Take My Family Hostage" shelf.

Vale

Lost places e UnderworldLa scorsa estate ad Amburgo per caso mi sono imbattuta in una interessante mostra fotografica dal titolo "Lost places". Le fotografie ritraevano luoghi antropizzati in cui l'uomo scompariva, del tutto reificato: vecchi capannoni industriali, piscine fatiscenti, strade periferiche dismesse.Mentre leggevo Underworld non potevo fare a meno di pensare a quelle immagini, ad un mondo umano parallelo che l'uomo vive superficialmente e che quindi sembra abbandonato.Il libro è un capolavoro. Ho amato questo libro perché DeLillo ha una prosa lucida e al contempo poetica.La costruzione del romanzo è perfetta, dalla struttura dei capitoli ai personaggi. Un affresco della modernità in cui il genius loci rappresenta le sue stigmate.La storia prende avvio da una partita di baseball negli anni '50 e la palla della vittoria diventa il "testimone" che lega tutti i personaggi, in un modo o nell'altro. La storia in realtà è un polittico di umanità, di uomini e donne alla ricerca di senso, di una identità. Le vite di questi personaggi affondano in realtà urbane periferiche, in deserti e in luoghi in cui la spazzatura è onnipresente eppure si fermano ad osservare quel "qualcosa" che dia senso al loro vivere: la luce nuda su una parete, un tramonto nel deserto post-atomico, il gioco della campana di alcuni bambini. E come si fa a capire se questo è vero, dal momento che siamo già influenzati dal sistema, preparati a semicredere a tutto?Ci si chiede cosa sia reale perché si comprende che il sistema influenza tutto, vende altre realtà mistificando quella in cui si vive e ponendo l'uomo nel suo mondo artificiale lo manipola, lo depaupera di qualsiasi senso, lo riduce a "spazzatura", a qualcosa che ha una scadenza. L'arte e il linguaggio sembrano le uniche vie di fuga, la possibilità di trasformarsi da spazzatura in Watts Towers.Le tematiche presenti in Underworld e nella mostra "Lost places" mi incuriosiscono da tempo.Da anni prendo giornalmente il treno per raggiungere il posto di lavoro e quando costeggio i capannoni industriali dei vari paesi che la linea ferroviaria attraversa cerco con lo sguardo l'angolo più dimenticato e lontano, quello in cui lasciare quel "qualcosa" che non si vuol buttare, ma che non serve più. Mi interessa quel "qualcosa" che per pigrizia o noncuranza sopravvive ai giorni uggiosi e a quelli caldi, come questi, e si crepa lentamente, cambia colore, ma giace e segna il passo nella grammatica del tempo.

Becky

I'm not really sure what to say about this one. I certainly enjoyed Underworld a huge amount more than the other two hefty 700+ page novels I've tackled thus far, but it's not easy to just pick and and get going with. To fully appreciate the prose, the deft weaving between the various characters, and DeLillo's less than direct style of writing, you need to invest a significant amount of effort. And it was worth that effort about 60% of the time. The prologue, which many others have ranted and raved about, I found a little overlong - while it was pretty clever and set the scene well, it seemed to drag a little. I was more of a fan of the epilogue, the tying up of some personal loose ends along with a few portents of doom for our waste rich/ increasingly resource poor planet. The chapters that head back in time towards to prologue are a really interesting device, and as pieces of the puzzle clot into one another, it's really pretty fascinating.Still, to recommend an 800 page plus book to someone unfortunately means it has to be pretty excellent. And while it was interesting, I don't think I was blown away.

Tim

For starters, "Underworld" has possibly the greatest prologue ever written; this 60-page section also might be the best writing about baseball in history, and the novel isn't even about baseball. DeLillo's lyrical account of Bobby Thomson's 1951 "Shot Heard Round the World" is so stunningly good I got chills on just about every page. Including witnesses J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason, along with players, announcer Russ Hodges and the person who comes up with the famous ball (and everybody else in attendance; and everybody else alive at the time), this prologue can't help but raise expectations to the stratosphere. So, is the rest of the novel that great? Of course not. But it's damn good. Good enough to make it one of the best novels of the last 25 years."Underworld," a dissection of Cold War life in the United States that hops back and forth in time a little and features several plot lines that sometimes flow into each other, sometimes don't, is DeLillo's masterpiece. I say that not having read all his works and in anticipation of what he yet will produce. It's that great. The sick and dangerous, the lovers, the heroes — DeLillo's approach includes some hopping around and some leisurely pacing, but screw the plot; his writing elevates everything. DeLillo previously had flashed a nice talent for writing large issues in small but compelling ways. Here he writes a massive tale (827 pages), a large story made small, made large (if that makes any sense; probably not). But, back to the beginning, the prologue. Because anyone touched by the romance and history of the game of baseball should read the prologue, if nothing else; here's a sample (after Thomson's homer won it for the New York Giants):"This is the thing that will pulse in his brain come old age and double vision and dizzy spells — the surge sensation, the leap of people already standing, that bolt of noise and joy when the ball went in ... And fans at the Polo Grounds today will be able to tell their grandchildren — they'll be the gassy old men leaning into the next century and trying to convince anyone willing to listen, pressing in with medicine breath, that they were here when it happened."

trivialchemy

I tried so hard. But I just can't. Fucking. Do it. I submit this final plea to the goodreads universe. Give me a reason to keep going, or on page 381 shall I forever lie.

Mark

I found this a stunning book, a reminder of what good writing can be. I was reading this book in September 2001, when I put it down to go on vacation in Switzerland. While on vacation, 9-11 happened. When I returned, I picked the book up again and the cover - which prominently featured a creepy, black and white picture of the World Trade Center taken from the cemetery at Trinity Church - had a new meaning for me. It was such a wonderful, sweeping, poetic book that it's hard to encapsulate. Somehow the author managed to capture the hopes, fears, paranoias, disappointments and astonishing technological changes of the 20th century and capture that moment in time when it appeared the United States might be on the verge of decommissioning its nuclear arsenal - the images of brightly painted bombers being transformed into art in the dessert was vividly conveyed by the author, who also taught me far more about waste management, the construction of the World Trade Center, Nazi propaganda films, and J. Edgar Hoover (who also had a penchant for trash), and heroin addicts in NYC then I ever thought I would want to learn.The writing was masterful, purposeful, poetic. I am not a baseball fan, but his description of the subway world series was so riveting that it made me understand why someone would be; I read this aloud to my son and it was one of the most exciting sports passages I have ever encountered.I cannot say enough good about this book. Because I cannot cubby hole it neatly, because it was so sweeping and messy and odd, like life itself, I respect it more. But let the book speak for itself...Some excerpts:Nobody had a vocabulary for what happened that year. - 18There are things you apply unrepeatedly, muscle memory, and pumping blood and jets of dust, the narrative. The lives in the spaces of the official play-by-play. - 27The game doesn't change the way you sleep or wash your face or chew your food. It changes nothing but your life. -32There is a look in their faces, they are stunned by a happiness that has collapsed on them, bright-eyed under their caps. - 44Ross wants to believe a thing like this keeps us safe in some undetermined way. This is the thing that will pulse in his brain come old age and double vision and dizzy spells … -60I wanted her to know I got out of there, whatever crazy mistakes I’d made - I’d come out OK. -73I lived responsibly in the real … history was not a matter of missing minutes on the tape. I did not stand helpless before it. I hewed to the texture of collected knowledge, took safe from solid and availing stuff of our experience… at least we've known the thing together. A single narrative sweep, not 10 thousand wisps of disinformation. - 82Sometimes I see something so moving I know I'm not supposed to linger. See it and leave. If you stay too long, you wear out the wordless shock. Love it and trust it and leave. - 83"You can't name a mountain badly." -84Bemoan technology all you want. It expands your self-esteem and connects you in your well-pressed suit to the things that slip through your world unperceived.Sims [was a:] living rebuke to the tactics of modernization. -92 Janet didn't know how to look at the desert. She seemed to want it in some obscure personal way. It was too big, too empty, it had the audacity to be real. The landscape made him happy. It was a challenge to his lifelong citiness but more than that, a realization of some half-dreamed vision, the otherness of the West, the stirring great thing that was all mixed in with nation and spaciousness, with bravery and history and who you are and what you believe a what movies you saw growing up. - 45She wanted to feel the urge to work again. She needed to feel that thing begin to happen, … that newness, a flashing of life behind the eyes. -494"You have a history," she said. "That you are responsible to… You're answerable. You're required to try to make sense of it. You owe it your complete attention." -512I wanted to look up words… I wanted to look up vellety and quotidian and memorize the f...ckers for all time, spell them, learn them, pronounce them syllable by syllable - vocalize, phonate, utter the sounds, say the words for all they're worth. This is the only way in the world you can escape the things that made you. -543

Nick

Underworld is nothing short of a masterpiece. I could traipse on about the existential fear of the Cold War captured and dissected and then molded into something astonishing. Or how the plot is like an intricate choreographed dance with different movements and variations on themes; or like a river bending and weaving, picking up plotpieces like detritus.There are hundreds of reviews much more erudite, much more lavish, the justice and deft the book deserves. What I will say is this: When I read this I made a bookmark so I could write down impactful lines, stirring passages, ideas and themes to consider and return to. My bookmark became two and three. And now the book is over I am compelled to stow away my bookmark in a closeted shoebox shrine filled with other waste pieces from my youth..a yellowed love letter, a lighter whose meaning faded with its color, a postcard with a smudged powdery lipstick stain...or perhaps in a glass case to put on the mantle, no doubt a strange bric-a-brack'ed curioso for visitors...this is a book I want to carry with me for a long long while.

Hamish

I totally fail to see what makes Don DeLillo such a great writer and why people are all over this novel. It's that obnoxious Pynchon/Wallace type of post-modern fiction where all the emphasis is placed on novelty and not enough on the fundamentals of good writing. The prose is mediocre, the dialogue is wooden and the characterization is TERRIBLE. 800 effing pages and I still have no clue who any of these characters are, none of them have even the slightest sense of realness. But the plots intertwine and it's really long and I guess that's what passes for a good novel in people's minds.

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