23 09 2008
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Don DeLillo’s hefty thome of the last half of the American 20th century. From “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, the Cold War, the Texas Highway Killer and toxic waste, DeLillo chronicles it all through the eyes of a Bronx family and their neighbors, lovers and co-workers.
You know DeLillo, “White Noise”, “Libra” a great and complex writer. “Underworld” is certainly complex, to say the least. Beautiful in parts, the opening scene of the novel depicts with accuracy and lyrical poetics the Giants Dodgers playoff game of October 3rd 1951 at the Polo Grounds in New York. Besides the famous Bobby Thompson homerun, October 3rd was also the day that the Russians detonated their first hydrogen bomb. J. Edgar Hoover, who was in attendance at the Polo Grounds (along with Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason among others), received the intelligence during the game.
Ok, for a book that’s stacked over 800 pages, only a short review can suffice. I mean, how much more effort and time do I have to put into this book? By page 600 I was thinking, ok, shit, come out and say what you’re trying to say, Don.
“Have you ever come across the word velleity? A nice Thomistic ring to it. Volition at its lowest ebb. A small thing, a wish, a tendency. If you’re low-willed, you see, you end up living in the shallowest turns and bends of your own preoccupations Are we getting anwhere?”
While “Underworld” is a recommended read, I can’t help but posit that it could have used a better editor. Why are huge chunks of the book dedicated to verbatim recitations of Lenny Bruce shows? Why is there a chapter in there about cooking with Jello and masturbating into condoms staging characters nowhere else in the book? No clue. Bottom line is any book beyond 500 pages is a bad book in the sense that the author hasn’t lived up to his part of the bargain- be concise, let the reader fill in the blanks.