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on August 19, 2016
A must have for my collection.
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on May 29, 2012
In Part One of COSMOPOLIS, DeLillo primarily examines the lives of two characters. The first and dominant character is Eric Packer, a young hedge fund manager worth tens of billions of dollars, who risks the complete loss of his fortune and fund if the Yen rises. Eric is at the nexus of capital and technology and believes that he can spot and profit from movements in money and information that are unseen by others. Says Eric: "There's an order at some deep level...A pattern that wants to be seen." Says Kinski, his Chief of Theory: "A consciousness such as yours, hypermaniacal, may have contact points beyond the general perception."

Meanwhile, the second major character introduced in Part One is Benno Levin, a former trader and generic laborer at Packer Capital, who lost his job. Thinks Benno: "There are great themes running through my mind. The themes of loneliness and human discard. The theme of who do I have when there's no one left."

In Part Two, DeLillo examines the tropism toward destruction and death in these two characters. In Eric's case, this tropism manifests as his huge bet on the Yen gradually sours. Then, DeLillo seems to ask: If a man like Eric can't win, will he attempt to take the system down with him? In contrast, the plight of Benno, who was trashed by Eric's cyber-capitalism, represents a different question. Namely: Is there anything a victim of capitalism can do that actually rights the ruthless wrongs inherent to the system?

COSMOPOLIS is a surrealistic satire that is tersely hilarious. It begins with the sleepless Eric in his 48-room apartment near the FDR Drive, where he enjoys an atrium, screening room, and shark tank, and ends in an abandoned tenement near the West Side Highway where the characters have no roles to play in life. Along this riches-to-rags continuum, DeLillo supplies innumerable instances of amazing writing and insight. The man, truly, expands what you see. Here, for example, is Eric during his confrontation with Benno.

"He'd always wanted to become quantum dust, transcending his body mass, the soft tissue over the bones, the muscle and fat. The ideas was to live outside the given limits, in a chip, on a disk, as data, in whirl, in radiant spin, a consciousness saved from void...It would be the master thrust of cyber-capital, to extend the human experience toward infinity as a medium for corporate growth and investment, for the accumulation of profits and vigorous reinvestment."

This is not my favorite DeLillo novel. But COSMOPOLIS has great insight and style and is eerily prescient about risk taking on Wall Street, which, like the hubristic Eric Packer, is clearly willing to risk and embrace economic meltdown for big paydays.

Recommended.
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on May 16, 2003
Don Delillo is the perferct author to try to understand the rise and collapse of the economic bubble as the century flipped into Y2K. He has penetrated a number America's peculiar cultural hysterias: environmental fears (White Noise); conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Libra); Moonies and mass marriages (Mao II), and now this latest mass hypnosis masquerading as economics. The objects of Delillo's scrutiny are cultural phenomena rather than human foibles. His characters become icons for certain events, metaphoric translations. They could not endure quotidian existence. They are not human, and this quality may repel some readers. Yet, there is satisfaction in the way Delillo gives articulate form to something the reader will have sensed, something recognized as familiar in recent experience.
Delillo also has a wonderful sensitivity for words. He makes some fun observations here about the argot of the Internet and high tech culture. I had not before recognized what a quaint anachronism "Automated Teller Machine" is. Delillo treats his readers to a number of such observations about our language. I believe that Don Delillo's "Underworld" was without rival the best fictional work about America in the twentieth century. This is a much narrower work, but it displays the wit and penetration that shines in Delillo's best works.
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on February 6, 2011
Wasn't sure about this book when I first got it as it's not what I would consider an "easy" read. Here's what worked for me...first, skim the book just to get an idea of the rhythm and flow of the language and scenes. Then go back for a REAL read. Somewhere in there, I would suggest reading some synopses and reviews and listening to a series of radio interviews with the author, Don DeLillo, that can be found on YouTube. Made the story much more understandable and enjoyable for me and for others I know who have now read the book. I'm actually now reading the book for a third time...just to make sure I didn't miss anything and to make discussing it with others more enlightening. Give it a try...It's worth it!
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on January 3, 2007
Cosmopolis is definitely a good, fun read but probably doesn't rank among his best. It's short and fast paced so you can breeze though it. It almost reads like a long short story. While you probably will read to the end you may feel that the novel didn't quite make it. Nevertheless, I certainly don't regret reading this novel.
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on February 15, 2011
Cosmopolis is a far cry from the normal fiction found on the shelves today, but it is not so far fetched that it doesn't have a place in today's fiction. Mr. Delillo has created a very analytical world for us to enter and perhaps get lost. I suggest reading this book if you like to stray from the norm.
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on September 16, 2013
I think the easiest way to read this novel is to see its central chracter, Eric Packer, as the personification of capitalism -- or 'market forces', anyway, since Packer seems to be a currency manipulator who doesn't make anything or provide any sort of useful service. Not a representative capitalist, then, but a figure representing the relentless appetite (in which there is no goal beyond satisfying the appetite -- a wish, a desire, even a whim -- and nothing determining the goal beyond the drive to link 'I want' with 'I have'), the inhuman, virus-like amorality and the inevitable self-destructiveness of the capitalist force itself. I'd have to read it through a second time in order to decide whether that is really right, and I'm not sure I ever will read it again. There's a deliciously arid, spare, desert-scape quality to the prose that recalls some of the earlier short novels ("The Names" stands out in my memory), and there's a nice tension between that and the chaotic jumble and disorder of the city. "Cosmopolis" offers many wonderfully bizarre, funny, disturbing, occasionally beautiful touches, as you would expect if you know DeLillo's work -- including a very deft evocation of Ebenezer Scrooge, the iconic evil capitalist, and an equally clever way of illustrating the idea that capitalism contains, *within itself*, the seeds of its own destruction. But there's not enough, overall, to make me really curious about whether I've got it right or not.
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on October 15, 2016
This novel has occasional lyrical power and is richly cerebral. The author presents a world stumbling inexorably toward the apocalypse and a protagonist bent on his own self-destruction. While reasons emerge in abundance for the social collapse, we are left to guess why the protagonist, the ultimate alpha-male narcissist, has decided to deepen the chaos and engineer his own ruin. The novel is episodic rather than organic. Has it been constructed of parts that don't fit together in order to mimic the author's vision of entropy? It seems rather to consist of a number of different fictions, or kernels of fictions, cobbled hastily together. Full of sound, fury, and pyrotechnics, but signifying . . . what?
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on July 1, 2013
I'll admit that this was my first DeLillo novel. I'll even admit that I read it after I saw the film. While I've seen some reviews by hardcore fans who say that this was a fairly weak DeLilli book, as a newbie it was fantastic hitching a ride with the self-obsessed, ennui-ridden protagonist for a day.

If you're looking for a contemporary novel that sweats existentialism from the most unappealing pores, pick it up and read it. Then watch the movie ;)
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on February 13, 2010
"Cosmopolis" depicts, from dawn to dawn, a single day in the life of one of Wall Street's self-anointed Masters of the Universe. Currency trader Eric Packer, forewarned with vague ("status urgent") rumors of assassins and threatened more ominously by his own crisis of faith, steps into his white limousine and decides that he wants to get a haircut on the other side of town. Within the miles of street life between the East and Hudson rivers, Eric is waylaid by several women (including his new wife, whom he barely knows), by pastry-throwing and rat-hurling attention seekers, by the lures of a quiet bookstore and a deafening techno-rave, by a choreographed riot bordering on street theater (or vice versa), by a funeral procession and a presidential visit, and by traffic--lots and lots of traffic.

On the one hand, I found myself completely sucked into the idea of Eric's journey: the mocking absurdity of his 24-hour trek from one side of midtown Manhattan to the other, simply to get a haircut and to find the meaning of life; the comic ludicrousness of his adventures; the unexpected and random brutality of the final chapters. There are scenes that stop just short of dazzling in their acidic humor, like Eric's proctology exam conducted inside the limousine while he faces his financial adviser, sweaty from her morning jog. And things become weirdly poignant (almost) when Eric whimsically joins his wife amidst dozens of nude extras lying on the street for the filming of a movie.

On the other hand, the novel seems to beg the reader for relevance; it's as if DeLillo went into a coma during the Sixties and, lately emerged, can't begin to comprehend the excess and the nonsense of modern America. Like the novel's billionaire protagonist waging his fortune against the rise of the yen, DeLillo bets that his readers will know virtually nothing about financial markets or how they work or who works them. As a result, the post-nihilistic, New Age dialogue is peppered with meaningless word clouds salvaged from a day's viewing of CNBC. "Don't trust standard models. Think outside the limits. The yen is making a statement. Read it. Then leap," says the Master to an analyst with "advanced degrees in mathematics and economics"--who for some reason doesn't slap Eric for insulting his intelligence (and ours). Stuff like this has neither the plausibility of market-talk nor the incisiveness of parody.

Eric Packer's self-constructed existence as a Master of the Universe is largely beside the point, anyway; the satire is so broad (capitalists and their hubris, youth and their short attention spans, technology and its impersonal ubiquity, the urban jungle and its hazards) that DeLillo might just as well have made his antihero an overpaid baseball player, a corrupt politician, or a music mogul--any of whom are far more likely to be caught dead in a white limousine in the first place. At the end of "Cosmopolis," we are, I suppose, expected to fathom the emptiness of Eric's life ("The things that made him who he was could hardly be identified much less converted to data"), but DeLillo has created not a man but a cipher that not even he, its creator, seems to understand.
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