- Hardcover: 832 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; Classic edition (June 5, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416548645
- ISBN-13: 978-1416548645
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 455 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Underworld Classic Edition
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While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the cold war and American culture, compelling that "swerve from evenness" in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying. Underworld opens with a breathlessly graceful prologue set during the final game of the Giants-Dodgers pennant race in 1951. Written in what DeLillo calls "super-omniscience" the sentences sweep from young Cotter Martin as he jumps the gate to the press box, soars over the radio waves, runs out to the diamond, slides in on a fast ball, pops into the stands where J. Edgar Hoover is sitting with a drunken Jackie Gleason and a splenetic Frank Sinatra, and learns of the Soviet Union's second detonation of a nuclear bomb. It's an absolutely thrilling literary moment. When Bobby Thomson hits Branca's pitch into the outstretched hand of Cotter--the "shot heard around the world"--and Jackie Gleason pukes on Sinatra's shoes, the events of the next few decades are set in motion, all threaded together by the baseball as it passes from hand to hand.
"It's all falling indelibly into the past," writes DeLillo, a past that he carefully recalls and reconstructs with acute grace. Jump from Giants Stadium to the Nevada desert in 1992, where Nick Shay, who now owns the baseball, reunites with the artist Kara Sax. They had been brief and unlikely lovers 40 years before, and it is largely through the events, spinoffs, and coincidental encounters of their pasts that DeLillo filters the Cold War experience. He believes that "global events may alter how we live in the smallest ways," and as the book steps back in time to 1951, over the following 800-odd pages, we see just how those events alter lives. This reverse narrative allows the author to strip away the detritus of history and pop culture until we get to the story's pure elements: the bomb, the baseball, and the Bronx. In an epilogue as breathless and stunning as the prologue, DeLillo fast-forwards to a near future in which ruthless capitalism, the Internet, and a new, hushed faith have replaced the Cold War's blend of dread and euphoria.
Through fragments and interlaced stories--including those of highway killers, artists, celebrities, conspiracists, gangsters, nuns, and sundry others--DeLillo creates a fragile web of connected experience, a communal Zeitgeist that encompasses the messy whole of five decades of American life, wonderfully distilled. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
On October 3, 1951, there occurred two "shots heard round the world"?Bobby Thomson's last-minute homer, which sent the N.Y. Giants into the World Series, and a Soviet atomic bomb test. The fallout from these two events provides the nexus for this sagalike rumination on the last 50 years of American cultural history. DeLillo's opening depiction of the scene at the N.Y. Polo Grounds that day is masterly. Unfortunately, sustaining the initial brilliance proves difficult. There are some marvelously drawn characters?Sister Edgar, a vision-seeking nun of the old school; Ismael, a ghetto-based graffiti artist and budding capitalist; J. Edgar Hoover?and thought-provoking ideas, e.g., waste as the cornerstone of civilization and the power of remembered images lurking just beneath the surface of our minds. But somehow the various parts of the story seem more satisfying than the whole. DeLillo is one of our most gifted contemporary authors whose works belong in all academic and public libraries, yet one suspects that his truly "great" novel is yet to come.
-?David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In a way, the book focuses on Nick Shay and his relationship with Klara Sax, and what happened as a result of that relationship. In a way, it's about art, particularly art in our modern era. In a way, it's about the journey of the baseball from the 1951 to Nick through all the stops on its passage. In a way, it's about goodness, and cities, and nuns moving through the urban badlands looking for stray children. It's also about garbage, and everything about garbage disposal.
_Underworld_ is a big book, one that's been sitting on my shelf for far too long because I was a little bit afraid of something that long, but the reading experience itself never felt too heavy-- none of the pages felt unnecessary. I learned things from this book-- I was moved, and I often found it sweet. It inspired a kind of sadness, but not unpleasantly.
A must-read, I think.
Three quarters of the way through he still introduces new characters, none of whom are engaging.
In comparison to it the balance of the book pales. The remainder never quite manages to rise to the same level. Still the book is beautifully written at many other junctures.
I had originally given this book four stars, based on the sheer scope of the novel and its triumph over entropy. It managed to conjure the cold war without "preachiness," and that takes some doing given how the West has mythologized the period. It is an argument presented without the panic-driven historiography or jingoist polemics we might have anticipated from a lesser intellect. The book appears to be an Existential assessment of the passing of an age, a self-conscious ontological inventory of the recent past.
Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Now you understand why I demoted the grade. At some point around midway through the book the charm of internal retrospection began to wear thin. I hungered for something that resembled a plot, although the back-story of Nick's crime weakly served that purpose. Once revealed, though, it just seemed random, perhaps even a MacGuffin. Maybe the intended message is that the hidden cause is always more formative, because it is more enigmatic, than the revealed cause? Is that the intent and impact of Nick's private mythology regarding his father's disappearance?
Great literature though this undoubtedly is, at some level it still should be entertaining. Hats off the Shakespeare on that account. This book mostly fails in ways that the Prologue did not -- in just is not all that exciting. Those who have PhDs in literature, who care little about such mundane concerns, will nevertheless praise it highly for its claustrophobic re-telling of why-we-were-the-way-we-were through the ruminations of these few unlovable and unmemorable characters.
The book focuses on Nick Shay, a man with some grit who escapes a meaningless life in the Bronx and becomes an executive in a waste disposal firm and a kind of savant. It takes a long time and many people to produce this transformation, and this results in a pretty long book: 827 pages in the hard cover edition. DeLillo is even more interested in conspiracy theories and secrets than in Nick's personal transformation, so along the way he shares a lot of arcane knowledge with the reader about the nuclear weapons industry, environmental degradation, and J. Edgar Hoover.
The connections between a few of the minor characters and subplots and the rest of the book are not obvious, and I would venture to say that a few of these could have been omitted without great harm. Also, DeLillo's dialogue has a definite style: his characters seem to hoard their words, and an awful lot of them don't finish their sentences. Whether these are defects or not probably depends on the reader's tastes. For me, this is a much better book than DeLillo's White Noise and Libra, which have been widely praised.
Most recent customer reviews
Look, this isn't for everyone. It's slow, it meanders aimlessly for hundreds of pages.Read more