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Cosmopolis: A Novel Hardcover – Deluxe Edition, March 25, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0743244244 ISBN-10: 0743244249

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244244
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

DeLillo skates through a day in the life of a brilliant and precocious New Economy billionaire in this monotone 13th novel, a study in big money and affectlessness. As one character remarks, 28-year-old Eric Packer "wants to be one civilization ahead of this one." But on an April day in the year 2000, Eric's fortune and life fall apart. The story tracks him as he traverses Manhattan in his stretch limo. His goal: a haircut at Anthony's, his father's old barber. But on this day his driver has to navigate a presidential visit, an attack by anarchists and a rapper's funeral. Meanwhile, the yen is mounting, destroying Eric's bet against it. The catastrophe liberates Eric's destructive instinct-he shoots another character and increases his bet. Mostly, the action consists of sequences in the back of the limo (where he stages meetings with his doctor, various corporate officers and a New Economy guru) interrupted by various pit stops. He lunches with his wife of 22 days, Elise Shifrin. He has sex with two women, his art consultant and a bodyguard. He is hit in the face with a pie by a protester. He knows he is being stalked, and the novel stages a final convergence between the ex-tycoon and his stalker. DeLillo practically invented the predominant vernacular of the late '90s (the irony, the close reading of consumer goods, the mock complexity of technobabble) in White Noise, but he seems surprisingly disengaged here. His spotlighted New Economy icon, Eric, doesn't work, either as a genius financier (he is all about gadgetry, not exchange-there's no love of the deal in his "frozen heart") or a thinker. The threats posed by the contingencies that he faces cannot lever him out of his recalcitrant one-dimensionality. DeLillo is surely an American master, but this time out, he is doodling.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Unlike his sprawling masterpiece, Underworld, DeLillo's 13th novel is short and tightly focused, indeed almost claustrophobic. Most of the action takes place inside a "prousted" (cork-lined) stretch limo, as the reclusive financial wizard Eric Packer is chauffeured across Manhattan for a haircut. Thanks to a presidential visit, antiglobalization demonstrations, and a celebrity funeral, this journey takes up most of the day. Stuck in traffic, Packer anxiously monitors the value of the yen on the limo's computer. Using the car as his office, he summons advisors from nearby shops and restaurants. His physician gives him a rubber-gloved physical exam in the back seat as Packer discusses imminent financial ruin with his broker and angry crowds block the streets. This work most closely resembles The Body Artist in its brevity and straightforward narrative flow. However, the earlier novel was written in an uncharacteristically warm, poetic style, promising a new direction for this important writer, while Cosmopolis reverts to the standard DeLillo boilerplate, perceptive and funny but also brittle and cold. This, coupled with the book's dated 1990s sensibility, makes Cosmopolis a step backward rather than an artistic advance.
Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Don DeLillo is the author of fourteen novels, including Falling Man, Libra and White Noise, and three plays. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.

Customer Reviews

The characters don't interest me, they're flat.
J. Amedio
DeLillo's prose is beautiful throughout this book and he writes with a cunning eye that is observant of the tiny details that make up everyday life.
Raven DeLajour
I kept reading this book that I borrowed from the library, because I thought it might get better.
R. Harshbarger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was reluctant to read this novel even though it was highly recommended. That's because five years ago I read and reviewed "Underworld", another of this author's novels, and while I thought that the writing was brilliant, his world view was very disturbing. But I was curious about Cosmopolis. And it was short, a mere 209 pages long, a book I knew I could easily read in one sitting. It took me more than one sitting to read however. It actually took me several weeks. That's because every time I put it down, I was reluctant to pick it up again. Perhaps that's because it rings so true and its blows fall so close to home. And, of course, the disturbing world view I had expected was there in all its glory.

The characters aren't real. They're not supposed to be. Everything in this book is larger than life. And everything has an exaggerated bitter sting to it. The setting is New York City and the geography is familiar. It's some time in the very near future, when big-moneyed corporate executives rule the world even more than they do now. Eric, a 28-year old billionaire is one of them. The storyline is about him setting out to get a haircut and all the action takes place in a single day.

Eric is in a white limousine which is equipped with every convenience the author could think of. He has several bodyguards too, and a market analyst who interprets data from world markets constantly. People visit him in his limo, including a doctor who gives him a daily physical. Eric also manages to have romantic encounters with three different women as well as his wife. He makes choices that have him lose his fortune in the stock market. His car is attacked by anarchists. He has to pause and watch a funeral for a rap musician.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on April 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I should profess that I have never read a novel by Don DeLillo before diving into "Cosmopolis." Sure, I have heard of "White Noise," "Underworld," and "Libra" before, but decided to start with this new, short novel about a billionaire stock tycoon and his trip through the wilds of New York City. DeLillo seems to possess many fans in the literary world, rabid readers who devour everything this guy decides to pass off on the public. I usually see him associated with people like Pynchon or Gaddis, post-modern writers who create sprawling works of endless complexity and dubious quality. Since my experiences with the post-modern genre are slight at best, all I have to go on is my experiences with this book.
The plot seems simple enough. Eric Packer, a twenty eight year old Wall Street whiz, decides he wants to get a haircut. Moreover, he sets out on his excursion in a giant, cork lined white limousine with his bodyguards, advisors, doctors, and drivers in tow. Along the way, Packer undergoes a physical examination of a most personal nature, runs into his new wife at various places, witnesses an anarchist protest, gets attacked with a cream pie, becomes emotional about a rapper's funeral, and discovers someone is stalking him with a view to causing serious injury. There is little that ties these events and encounters together, as even the quest for a haircut often drops into the background when Packer bogs down in New York City traffic. Surrounded by computers and an endless flow of information, the billionaire spends most of his time waxing philosophic about the state of the world, the state of his mind, and the state of his attempt to make a killing off the Japanese yen.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Diana Poskrop on May 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The 'plot' is a limo ride through a major city. But it's a one-day excursion as much as is Joyce's 'Ulysses.' That one day may just as well be a year, a lifetime or an era. Time is distorted; events are surreal; what seems coincidental, isn't. Don't expect everything to make sense in a rational, cognitive way.
A man begins his day with everything, and ends it with nothing. His ideas, beliefs and body slowly lose their integrity. The story is not a puzzle with clearly edged chunks of interlocking pieces, but a constantly spinning web whose strands are spun by employees, lovers, a wife and a barber. As the story evolves, the man devolves. There's dry wit and Monty Pythonesque lunacy. There's the microcosm reflected in the macrocosm and vice versa. Even when inane, the ideas expressed are fascinating.
COSMOPOLIS sometimes enlightened me, and other times confused me. After my mind digests it a bit, I'll read it again.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. Johnson on April 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There are a lot of people who say that DeLillo doesn't create characters, but rather automatons that spit out obscure theses. These are the same people that think that Platonic dialogues are about what Plato thought rather than what Athens was. DeLillo's characters are not mouthpieces; the ideas these characters voice are indications of the ordering -- or disordering -- of their souls. Like Plato, DeLillo is probing the emotional life of ideas.
Eric Packer, the protagonist, is the epitome of the class of get-rich-quick internet tycoons that came about in the 90s. What marks him as a member of this class is his faith in the power of information technology to predict the future and thus make the future bend to the will of the present. His lusts and manias are a diagnosis of a certain overreaching mindset from which we have not entirely freed ourselves.
However, what distinguishes Eric from his class is that his faith in information technology amounts to being a real religious devotion. Eric is a continuation of DeLillo's investigation into modern manifestations of the desire for religious trascendence. To paraphrase DeLillo, when the old God leaves the world, what happens to all the leftover faith? Eric clings to computer screens the way people once clung to holy texts. In his delusion, he experiences information as a communion with the whole of reality as such: reading a computer screen, he thinks, "Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole."
But he is also a sort of Oedipus. He does not know who he is. His turn towards technology is a way of escaping something in himself, a past that haunts him.
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