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

Noce

Underwear: l’abbigliamento intimo dell’America.Guardando Facebook, mi sono resa conto che il mio paese di mare (specifico di mare, perché di solito sto in un paesone di montagna, così quelli che sanno chi sono non vengono sotto casa a lanciarmi le uova marce) limita le scelte della gente. O la gente limita il paese, bah, chi lo sa!Insomma: curiosando nei profili degli amici degli amici ( dove “degli amici” non è una ripetizione, è proprio che ficco il naso nelle cose dei terzi), mi sono accorta che i rapporti tra le persone nel mio paese di mare sono tutti a filo doppio, terzo, quadruplo e via dicendo.. Nel senso: quando ero adolescente, c’erano le classiche cricchette, che tra di loro mal si sopportavano. Così se A, usciva solo con B, C e D, era ovvio che guardasse con disprezzo E, che usciva solo con F,G e H. Naturalmente questo si rifletteva anche sui primi filarini, che si intrecciavano sempre con elementi della propria cricca.Ma siccome si era nel ventesimo secolo, capitava anche che il primo filarino non fosse anche quello che poi sarebbe arrivato all’altare. E così, grazie al socialnetuorc più pettegolo del mondo, ho scoperto che le cricche di un tempo, adesso non esistono più, o se esistono sono capovolte.. Così A se la spassa allegramente con H, mentre Z vive felicemente con B, e D è l’amante segreto di P, che si è dimenticato di quanto aveva sofferto in adolescenza quando la metà dell’alfabeto lo prendeva in giro per l’acne e la forfora. La cosa mi fa tenerezza e anche un po’ di rabbia, soprattutto per le donnine, che se hanno avuto l’ardire di sperimentare un po’ , adesso possono vantar di essere “conosciute” da tutti, considerando che i maschi appetibili erano sempre quei 5 o 6.E con questa brillantissima considerazione che sembra portare a “Tutto il mondo è paese”, arriviamo a due risultati: il primo è che anche voi potrete andare a rinfoltire le schiere di coloro che fanno “pat pat” ai miei genitori, che per la loro diletta speravano in un futuro migliore di quello di “gossippara” via internet; il secondo risultato è che ora avete lo spirito giusto per affrontare questo maestoso libro. (Son furbissima eh!)Dovete infatti affacciarvi ad Underworld come se fosse un grosso paese, e voi ne foste il sindaco. E parlo di primo cittadino, perché non voglio cadiate nell’errore di guardarlo con gli occhi del turista alla festa del patrono, dove tutto diventa bello e colorato, persino la cacca della mucca.Non è così, dovete far finta di essere colui che si preoccupa del bene della collettività, ed entrare in casa di ognuno dei vostri paesani, a guardare cosa succede. Anche mentre dormono o pensano. Può essere a tratti commovente, se entrate nell’attimo in cui accadono micro macro drammi familiari, ma può essere anche che vi troviate in viaggio con qualcuno di loro ad ascoltare i suoi pensieri più intimi. Potete trovarvi davanti a una palla da baseball e seguire i suoi rimbalzi per tutto il paese, chiedendovi dove vi porterà, ma potrebbe anche cadervi l’occhio, sul bidone della spazzatura antistante il giardino di ogni casa. E magari capire molto di più da quello, che dalla dichiarazione IRPEF dei cittadini.Perché se è pur vero che Schmitt nel suo “Monsieur Ibrahim e i fiori del Corano” (di cui io non ho letto il libro, ma ho visto almeno una decina di volte il film, occhio alla colonna sonora che è portentosa), dice che: «Quando vuoi sapere se il posto dove ti trovi é ricco o povero, guarda la spazzatura. Se non vedi l'immondizia né pattumiere, vuol dire che é molto ricco. Se vedi pattumiere ma non immondizia, é ricco. Se l'immondizia é accanto alle pattumiere, non é né ricco né povero: é turistico. Se vedi l'immondizia e non le pattumiere, é povero. E se c'é la gente che abita in mezzo ai rifiuti, vuol dire che é molto, molto povero», è anche vero che la spazzatura è una cosa che ci accomuna tutti, non solo perché la produciamo, ma perché noi stessi lo diventiamo, ed è a lei che tutto torna. Forse torna persino la palla da baseball di cui seguivate i rimbalzi. Underworld, non è una sciocchezza. È un intero mondo, che vi costringe a concentrarvi su ognuno dei personaggi, a consolarlo, a spronarlo, a criticarlo, e a dirgli in faccia che è più noioso di un incudine, eppure a seguirlo preoccupati fino alla fine. Fino a quando non chiudete il libro, guardate Facebook, e vi accorgete che appartenete allo stesso mondo di cui parlava Don DeLillo.P.S. Ho parlato del mio paesino di mare come se fossi un’osservatrice esterna, e non parte integrante, proprio perché non vivendoci per tutto l’anno, non sono mai stata considerata una di loro nel senso più stretto della parola, e anche perché a dirla tutta, da adolescente ero una timida cozzetta, perciò non c’era proprio nessuna materia prima per fare dei pettegolezzi su di me. ^^

karen

seriously, why does everyone suck this book's dick so much? this book was recommended to me by an ex (who also recommended zuleika dobson and the joke, so he had a good track record until then) who knew how much i liked infinite jest so he thought i would like this one. and if i only liked infinite jest because it was a long book written by a white male, then i suppose i would have liked this book. but i didn't, so it must be something else i'm drawn to in the wallace.i remember i was reading this at the airport where i was going to meet him, like a dutiful girlfriend, and just having my jaw drop at the first part. not because it was soooo goooood like everyone here seems to think. am i really the only one who felt embarrassed by the whole life magazine thing? i remember looking around after i read that part to see if someone was playing a trick on me. when he got off the plane, i just sat there, shaking my head at him sadly. it was the beginning of the end.look - i really liked white noise, but this i just felt to be a bloated, wooden, oddly-phrased book whose language didn't charm me, but made me unhappy. and then he goes and publishes the first bit as a separate book? who does that?? sorry, delillo - its not terrible, so it gets no 2 stars, but i barely cared about anything in this book, and it ruined a relationship. if i die alone, its your fault.

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.

Jack Waters

Intimidation factors:Its chronology bounces aroundThe narrative is driven mainly by dialogue.You think it that vampire movie - it is absolutely NOT that movieUnderworld is such an evocative title for a novel, especially when coupled with its cover's depiction of the Twin Towers covered with clouds and a flying bird angled in an eerily airplane looking way(this book came out in 1997). Not to mention several passages regarding the Twin Towers that read with new resonance after 9/11. But that isn't really what the novel is about; it's an opportune accidental feeling carried throughout the book. I digress.DeLillo begins Underworld with pages describing Bobby Thompson's walk-off homerun (afterward called The Shot Heard 'Round the World). DeLillo places the reader at this game in the crowd at the legendary Polo Grounds in New York; you needn't enjoy baseball to like this setting. Thompson's homerun, which clinched the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants, erupts an emotional fanbase into pandemonium. A young fan, Cotter Martin, sneaks in to watch the game, eventually snagging the incredibly historic homerun away from another fan he'd just befriended. DeLillo (and history) describes this game as the same day the Russians tested a nuclear bomb. The Cold War has commenced, and the baseball takes the reader through time (the years between 1951 and 1997), as it passes through the hands of various owners. The narrative explains the American experience of Russia vs. America while mingling fictional characters with various heroes of cultural history (Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Lenny Bruce among others). Underworld covers the conflict in close detail and from a street level perspective. It's definitely a novel for anyone fascinated in global politics, media and culture.Klara and Nick, the main characters, meet up in an Arizona desert in the 1990s and meander back in time as the story jumps chronologically through them and others until the early 1950s. Big events play out on the national stage, and each character's motivations and circumstances are shown, hinting that each life story shares synchronicity; the snapshots of the characters slowly intertwine into each others' lives.The baseball is viewed by many of the characters as an object with a history; by simply owning the ball they feel they'll also get the history that comes along with it. A preacher in the book discusses how history's found in the most common of places -- only that it's hidden where few think to look. By learning the history of objects the characters become more in focus with themselves and society. Some characters deal in various types of waste: human waste, nuclear waste, garbage, etc. Every product, package, wrapper or explosion has a consequence. This is the core of Underworld -- it is the waste that humankind feverishly tries to hide away like a secret. But it's always there, and eventually we're forced to confront the waste we create and the fears that we hide behind, holding us back from true desires.Sure, the chronology is a bit jumbled, but it all ties together in the end. The rewards of persevering through this dizzying novel are endless. The dialogue driven narrative means that good listeners will enjoy this book. Reading DeLillo (any novel, especially White Noise) before Underworld will help an intimidated reader, but is not a necessity. In brevity, Underworld finds roots of today in the small moments of the past.Postscript: DeLillo has said that the inspiration for Underworld was the October 4, 1951 front page of The New York Times (look it up). Essential reading: the Lenny Bruce comedy routines about the Cuban Missile Crisis in the novel. If, AND ONLY IF you can't make it through the entire book, read the first section about the baseball game, and then the Lenny Bruce routines which are found on pages 504-9, 544-8, 580-6, 590-5, and 623-33. They are remarkable in context of the novel, but are able to be read independently of the story with great results. Upon finishing the novel, these were the areas that I shuffled back to immediately.

Ethan Fixell

i've only put down three books in my entire life. the first was Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," which i absolutely loved but got terribly sick of after about 700 pages of the same goddamn philosophy being crammed down my throat. (which sounds like its awful, but i really did adore those first two thirds).the second was a speed reading book. it wasn't a very quick read, and i got bored.the third is now Don DeLillo's Underworld, supposedly one of the greatest masterpieces of 20th century literature.i have no shame in saying that i stopped reading this bullshit after 550 pages. because as "brilliant" as DeLillo may be (and granted, he does have a more-than-firm grasp on the english language and on the power of dialogue), he is absolutely, hands down, one of the most long winded, convoluted writers i have ever read. i've done "White Noise," and got through it without too much discomfort, but was ultimately let down by the end. and i mean that in both senses of the phrase--the ending sucked, and i was considerably less interested by the time the book ended than when i started. nevertheless, i'd still recommend it for certain redeeming qualities.but this one... 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."there's nothing wrong with elegant, poetic writing, even in novel form. but without a fucking interesting narrative? last time i checked, a novel is defined as:1. a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.yeah, i get it: he's such a fucking genius because of the way he weaves esoteric and seemingly unrelated themes throughout the lives of dozens of characters within a bevvy of settings and a nonlinear timeframe.but WHO FUCKING CARES?if its boring and the characters suck, who really fucking CARES? i don't want to read that shit. i could crack open my 10th grade chemistry textbook for that.i came here to read a STORY, Don. it's a shame you couldn't help.

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."

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.

Lauren

People married, were born, and died in the time it took me to read this book. A kid sitting next to me on a plane commented "that's the fattest book I've ever seen. What's it about?" I told him "I have no idea--I'm only 580 pages into it." Having finished I still don't know what it was about but reading it was an extraordinary experience. The novella that introduces the book is perfect and complete in itself. What follows is discursive and ephemeral like some new kind of music. Reading it was like learning how to listen.

Krok Zero

How long a novel can you write with virtually no narrative throughline or character development? Don DeLillo says about 827 pages, that's how long.But don't take me for a naysayer: I'm a huge DeLillo fan, and if he wrote a book twice as long and twice as sprawling as this I'd devour it with pleasure. And yes, there is plenty to marvel at here. More than plenty. It's just that this kind of unfocused sprawl writing (the type often associated with Pynchon) doesn't, in my opinion, suit DeLillo 100% well. Bigger isn't always better, and if asked to rank DeLillo's novels I would place this one several notches below the perfect jaw-droppers Libra and White Noise (both of standard, non-bloated length, with focused narratives and clear characterization).The charge most commonly levelled against DeLillo is that he's really an essayist posing as a novelist. I hadn't seen basis for that claim in any of the six DeLillo novels I read prior to this one, but it's a valid complaint about Underworld, which by its very nature sacrifices character and plot at the altar of Big Arguments About 20th-Century America. The problem for me was that I was not entirely convinced by those arguments (whatever they were). I don't think DeLillo accomplished what he set out to do (create the ultimate American novel about the Cold War era), but I loved being along for the ride while he tried his damnedest to do it. Recommended to established DeLillo fans; neophytes should start with the two novels I listed above.

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.

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.

Adam

This is now my favourite novel alongside Blood Meridian, 2666 and Infinite Jest. I'm too fatigued and mentally exhausted to write a decent review now, which fact is a shame. Underworld is, to use a quote from Roberto Bolaño's 2666 to illustrate my take on this DeLillo novel, one of "the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze a path into the unknown."Those who will tell you that White Noise is DeLillo's best, or some other short, compact, precise DeLillo work, "want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench." THAT is what DeLillo does here. Underworld is DeLillo's The Trial, his Moby Dick, his Bouvard and Pecuchet. It is not his Metamorphosis, his Bartleby, his A Simple Heart. Like all great writers, DeLillo's given you the chance to watch him spar if that's what you want, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. But as far as I'm concerned, nothing is as beautiful as reading a book by a literary master embroiled in what Bolaño terms "real combat" and so eloquently describes in the quote above.

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).

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.

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.

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