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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.

827 pages, Paperback

First published October 3, 1997

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About the author

Don DeLillo

91 books5,750 followers
Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American Book Award (Underworld, 1998).

DeLillo's sixteenth novel, Point Omega, was published in February, 2010.

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5 stars
11,494 (37%)
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3 stars
5,785 (18%)
2 stars
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1,041 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,356 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 7, 2018
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, it's your fault.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,463 reviews3,612 followers
November 15, 2022
Underworld is a panoramic and bleak portrayal of society and it is cosmic in its vision of the human nature.
Yes, the dead fall upon the living. But he begins to see that the living are sinners. The cardplayers, the lovers who dally, he sees the king in an ermine cloak with his fortune stashed in hogshead drums. The dead have come to empty out the wine gourds, to serve a skull on a platter to gentlefolk at their meal. He sees gluttony, lust and greed.

Cityscapes and vacant lots… Crowds and recluses… Politicians and bureaucrats… Rebels and secret agents… Men and women… Husbands and wives… Adulterers and lovers… Gameplayers and aficionados… Believers and priests… Collectors and thieves… Outsiders and conformists… Outlaws and idols… Villains and victims…
The whole beat landscape was bomb-shadowed. It always had been. The beats didn’t need a missile crisis to make them think about the bomb. The bomb was their handiest reference to the moral squalor of America, the guilty place of smokestacks and robot corporations, Time-magazined and J. Edgar Hoovered, where people sat hunched over cups of coffee in a thousand rainswept truck stops on the jazz prairie, secret Trotskyites and sad nymphomaniacs with Buddhist pussies…

The authoritarian state is hell and silly petty devils abide there unhappily enjoying total hypocrisy.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,219 followers
April 26, 2017
I love reading James Wood on the novel. For me he’s up there with Virginia Woolf as a critic who genuinely enriches the experience of reading the novel. Even though he often denigrates authors I love. Don Delillo for example. Underworld for Wood was gratuitously obsessed with paranoia as if this was a concern peculiar to only Delillo. But one could say paranoia was a state of mind invented by America. Did it even exist in the 19th century? The Cold War saw the invention of paranoia as a mass media tool for manipulating public opinion. Delillo’s fascination with it was not only entirely legitimate but incredibly eye-opening in tracing the changing psyche of post 1950 America. I don’t have Wood’s book with me here but to my recollection he wrote brilliantly about Underworld without getting it.

Underworld doesn’t have much in the way of plot. It’s like the literary equivalent of a musician jamming on a theme. As if DeLillo has submitted wholly to the tides of inspiration and allowed himself to be taken wherever they lead him. It reminded me, in form, of a web page full of hyperlinks. DeLillo is fascinated by the ghost paths of connections and the panoramic grids they form; the secret lives of objects and the far reaching stories they tell.

He wanted an object that would provide a surreptitious link to fifty years of American history and chose the baseball that won the 1951 World Series, during which – here’s one of the hyperlinks - the Russians tested their first atomic bomb. The ball is initially pocketed by a young black kid who has jumped the turnstile without paying. From the game itself, seen through the eyes of various celebrities, we enter the life of an impoverished black family in Harlem. The first intimately observed narrative begins.

There’s so much in this novel it’s inevitable some “storylines” will appeal more than others. Ultimately, it’s the clairvoyant power and beautiful urban lyricism of the prose which makes this a masterpiece in my eyes. DeLillo is like a soothsayer of the technological consumerist age. (“Bemoan technology all you want. It expands your self-esteem and connects you in your well-pressed suit to the things that slip through the world otherwise unperceived.”) He takes you behind the glossy surfaces of contemporary life, excavates for deeper meaning in the newsreel footage. The novel’s central character is employed by the waste industry which perhaps epitomises perfectly the buried volatile poisoning underworld of our culture.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,893 followers
November 24, 2012

So I will strap on my backpack and don sturdy walking boots, an oxygen tank might be useful, and a supply of plasters and animal pelts - and then I will begin to scale the North Face of Modern American Literature. Let's see how far I get before I fall off one of its jagged cliffs or collapse choking with one of Mr DeLillo's sentences wrapped around my neck.


Update - Not even on page 100 and I have a sinking feeling. It's DeLillo's style. It's so very...er...ornate. No noun escapes without an adjective pinned to it, some of which are very odd - consider these from pages 63 to 65:

"... the little splat of human speech" [huh?:]
"A bled-white sky with ticky breezes" [ticky? like a clock?:]
"...a horseman with scabbarded rifle or a lone cameleer hunched in muslin on his dumb-headed beast"
"...the studded vegetation" [with what?:]
"...a clear night with swirled stars" [swirled?:]

Also this -

"There is something about old times that's satisfied by spontaneity. The quicker you decide, the more fully you discharge the debt to memory." Okay, what debt would that be? What's the logic here? Is this something our Don believes or is this something he wants us to believe this particular character believes? If so, why? Who has the time to figure out what it means anyway? Especially when there's another 762 ticky swirled studded scabbarded pages to go....

This isn't going so well.


And finally :

Once more despondent and unenthused, I zipped around the goodread reviews and found remarks such as

"... 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." (from Ethan)


"I'll be honest and say that I don't remember much about this book other than an awful lot of baseball. This is partially because there is a lot of baseball in it" (from Chelsea)


"Ultimately, I don't think DeLillo knew what his story was about and tried to compenstate by adding more and more pages. Critics, never wanting to be the one who doesn't "get it", fawned and fellated the book, doing no favors to either the author or readers who mistakenly wade into this dank swamp and wonder why they're so dumb for not seeing the brilliance. And then they run back to James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks or some shit like that and we're all a little poorer in the end. ." (from Joseph)

and finally this from an online lit journal:

"Potentially intriguing plots which feature strongly in the earlier parts of the book - an intriguing serial killer subplot, the stories of each person who possesses the winning baseball - are abandoned halfway through the book in favour of overlong childhood memories or the inane ponderings of a performance artist; other stories are neglected for over 400 pages before reappearing at the end of the novel, causing an unwelcome jolt as the reader tries to remember the pertinent details."


I groaned and decided to place this great tome gently onto my "Abandoned Halfway And Will Never Finish Unless Some Very Unlikely DeLillo Fans Take My Family Hostage" shelf.
Profile Image for Lauren.
14 reviews10 followers
April 8, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Ethan Fixell.
11 reviews35 followers
October 3, 2007
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.


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.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
June 30, 2014
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.

Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews626 followers
February 20, 2010
I'm on page 387 of Underworld. Please. Help me decide if I should finish. Yeah you.

Here's a few things I think are better than Underworld:
1. The song Born in the USA by Springsteen
2. The blonds on the Danish women's Olympic curling team
3. Opening a third beer
4. A clean stove
5. Any 5 pages of War and Peace
6. The Greek flag
7. When I catch an attractive woman looking at me
8. Picking my teams for the NCAA basketball tournament
9. An afro
10. Any 15 minutes of Shawshank Redemption
11. Deja vu
12. A good picture on my driver's license
13. Shade
14. The shape of Alaska

Here's a few things I think are worse than Underworld:
1. Keanu Reeves
2. Beach sand in my shorts
3. Tatoos from the knees down
4. Gin
5. The shape of Colorado
6. 'Carnies'--small hands, smell like cabbage
7. The physical appearance of a goiter
8. Smoke breath
9. Non self-deprecating people
10. When a fucking crowbar gauges out my eye and falls with it's full weight on a single small toe
Profile Image for Becca Becca.
91 reviews122 followers
January 3, 2008
I felt like this was one of those books where you kind of start getting drunk on the words and then you begin to think everything is super deep and has about 100 meanings and everything is interconnected. Then you start reading every sentence about 5 times and get lost in a daydream about how everything is related to waste, nuclear energy, more waste, and nuns.

When you finish the book you feel like you've gone on a journey but it's hard to talk about it and your not really sure exactly what happened.
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
484 reviews1,358 followers
October 26, 2018
Mis notas/guía de lectura para Submundo, de Don DeLillo

Submundo es una obra autodestructiva, decadente, regresiva, un suicidio literario que moldea a su antojo el espacio-tiempo inalterable desde lo real pero posible desde las letras. Don DeLillo nos ha obsequiado un magnum opus que recorre cincuenta años de historia, manipulando cuerpos solitarios con un temor inquebrantable hacia la muerte y la falta de respuestas, que va a hacer del lector un dolido testigo de lo que no quiere ver; todo esto a partir de un juego narrativo en el que el autor nos presenta las consecuencias de la historia y luego sus causas, una aproximación de 900 páginas a aquello que intenta darle una solución a la pregunta: ¿Cuándo fue el momento en que nos equivocamos?

Todo libro tiene su inicio, sin importar lo mucho que juegue con la linealidad. Submundo abre con un prólogo de una calidad insuperable que relata el mítico partido entre los Giants de Nueva York y los Dodgers de Brooklyn del 51. Un buceo en los miedos y los sueños de la sociedad americana retratada en setenta páginas de pura maestría literaria. Este prólogo, titulado «El triunfo de la muerte», es una novelette que actúa por si sola, no necesita de un contexto que la sustente. En particular me sentí fascinado y hasta asfixiado por tanto la tensión como por su inquietante avance hacia su párrafo final. En este prólogo hay dos realidades, dos líneas paralelas que no se ven entre sí: la euforia, la felicidad colectiva, y en el trasfondo, como un secreto que nadie quiere oir, el inicio de la guerra.

Luego Submundo se quiebra, y de esa rotura se escapan cuarenta años y surgen decenas de personajes, desde reales, como el director del FBI Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra o el polémico humorista Lenny Bruce (con su famoso grito de «¡Vamos a morir todos!»), hasta ficticios aunque no por eso menos palpables, como Nick Shay o Klara Sax, o el encantador Albert Bronzini, el maestro de ciencias y ajedrez. En esos personajes se verán vestigios de una sociedad trémula ante la guerra y la inminencia de la muerte, con algunas escenas que personalmente me han hecho estremecer. DeLillo ha sabido formar personajes —debido en parte a un manejo brillante de la autorreflexión— complejos y profundamente entrañables que habitan tanto en la mente del lector como en su entorno.

Y así Submundo se dobla y se desdobla, se estira, se tuerce y se achata, deformando el tiempo. Comienza una regresión hasta los 50, pasando por la Guerra Fría, por la Crisis de los Misiles, por el asesinato del presidente Kennedy, por las protestas contra la guerra de Vietnam, por la experimentación nuclear, la segregación racial, el abuso de drogas duras y blandas, las mafias y los suburbios de Nueva York, que presentan una realidad tapada por rascacielos que arañan la fantasía. Personajes nacen y mueren a lo largo de los años que pasan en Submundo, crecen en diferentes contextos sociales y se adueñan de diferentes culturas ligadas a las épocas. Así se presenta una red polifónica que hace mella de lo que somos, que no ignora sino enfrenta el aislamiento que nos separa los unos de los otros y la superficialidad del consumismo salvaje en un claro desafío hacia la muerte. Un camino por la bondad y por el dolor inseparable de vivir.

La escritura de DeLillo es de lo mejor que me he encontrado en mi vida. DeLillo trata las palabras con cuidado, no escribe por escribir; cada oración tiene una consciencia aparte, una identidad que corresponde a otro relato, al relato del lenguaje. Todavía no me puedo quitar de la piel el capítulo que da inicio a la parte dos, sobre el Asesino de la Autopista de Texas y una niña sin nombre que filmó uno de los asesinatos de casualidad. Ese capítulo es de lo mejor que he leído en mi vida. Escalofríante desde su inicio hasta su última frase, no solo por lo que se narra, sino también por cómo está narrado. Submundo es de esa clase de obras que pueden abrirse en cualquier página y con solo leer un párrafo al azar ya te conmueve.

En cuanto a los diálogos, carecen de un elemento lineal o progresivo, puesto que funcionan como una reproducción de la soledad inherente a cada personaje. Los diálogos en Submundo son minimalistas, se superponen, se chocan entre sí, se rozan hasta desgastarse y frustran la verdadera conexión, y muchas veces salen de la boca de su emisor sin llegar nunca a su receptor. Son soliloquios demasiado personales de los que desprenden solo unos pocos fragmentos de información capaces de llegar al oído de su oyente. Esto, lejos de volverse desesperante, me resultó un recurso (aunque ya lo había visto antes en otro gran libro de DeLillo, White Noise) que renueva un poco lo que puede hacer un escritor en una obra de ficción.

Pocas veces me ha ocurrido de estar leyendo un libro y ya sentir que me va a acompañar por años. Hay libros que marcan, y Submundo se ha marcado a fuego en mi memoria. Submundo es todo lo que no vemos, todo lo que ocurre detrás de la prensa amarillista y de las ondas electromagnéticas salidas de la radio y de la televisión. Submundo es lo que se oculta detrás de nuestros deshechos, de la podredumbre, de nuestra mirada hacia lo que carece de sentido. Una búsqueda de la verdad, de lo que constantemente tratamos de tapar con objetos sin vida, porque encontramos consuelo en figuras preconcebidas que le hacen sombra a la esencia humana. Unos hermanos sufriendo de diferentes formas la desaparición de su padre, un anciano juntando las piezas de un pasado más dichoso o una monja en plena crisis religiosa. Esto es lo que no vemos. Esto también respira. Esto es historia.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,489 reviews2,374 followers
December 15, 2020

I'd been looking forward to reading this for ages, and it failed to disappoint. Underworld is one heck of a novel, and when I think of the breathtaking opening sequence at the Dodgers—Giants 1951 game I had the feeling something truly remarkable was on the cards. It was like DeLillo sat there in the stadium with eagle eyes. His capacity for details throughout the whole 827 pages was just monumental. The only thing that bothered me prior to reading this, is just how much of the novel is actually about baseball—something I don't know that much about—and apart from the prologue which details a boy, Cotter, fighting his way through the crown to claim the ball after the winning home run, I would go on to learn that it's only the ripple effect of this one game, not about the technicalities of baseball, thankfully. If anything, the novel is more about garbage than it is baseball. One thing that struck me with Underworld, is that DeLillo has rarely engaged on an emotional level in regards to his characters, but here, as he floats back and forth over five decades of history, I thought he was at his most affecting, by presenting not only an open world of big events but also a concealed one in which individuals and their private emotions are connected by the hope and loss in an ever changing America. Seeing as I started this roughly a couple of months ago, I only now wish I had noted certain things down as I progressed, as there is simply so much to touch on. If there is a main story buried in there somewhere then it's that of Nick Shay, his juvenile crime, his family, his link to the game-winning ball, his Bronx childhood, middle age in the Southwest, old time lover, Klara Sax, his memories. But this is only part of the massive cinematic scope and multiple subplots and characters that DeLillo—with an absolute pin-sharp prose—delves into. From the Cuban Missile Crisis, graffiti artists, and conspiracies, to highway killers, nuns, waste management, and so much more, this is a writer who was clearly at the peak of his powers here. That's all his major novels now done, and my 11th overall. I'm still going to say that Libra is the better book, but, despite this, Underworld is the one I'll think about the most in years to come. I'm sure of that.
Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
552 reviews164 followers
September 23, 2022
"You have a history," she said, "that you are responsible to."

"What do you mean by responsible to?"

"You're responsible to it. You're answerable. You're required to try to make sense of it. You owe it your complete attention." (512)

A remarkable novel and a breathtaking experience. DeLillo is a master wordsmith who always seems to have exactly the right word, the right phrasing, the right...je ne sais quois, but the way he captures the granular density of everyday experience, his thoughtful reflection that calls to attention the real but hard to pin down thoughts and feelings which surround us daily... It's uncanny. DeLillo shifts fluidly between scenes, and like oil and water things briefly intermingle before separating into distinct, unmixed wholes. Lingering on the small scraps of everyday experience, DeLillo exhorts us see them for more than what they are. To breathe purpose into them, to fan an ember of life here and there, to build a stronger flame with limited fuel.

"We took junk and saved it for art. Which sounds nobler than it was. It was just a way of looking at something more carefully. And I'm still doing it, only deeper maybe." (393)

The thing that strains credibility is that everyone is extremely clever, or wise, or profound. The book exalts common things by making them anew, reimagined, exaggerated in gracious caricaciture, stylized. It gives things meaning, and DeLillo is so sure and so sage-seeming that I want to believe him. Imagine walking around just knowing, knowing in your very soul, that things have meaning. That things have significance, importance, and purpose. DeLillo seems confident, but I've got my doubts.

"Reality doesn't happen until you analyze the dots." (182)

This is the story of America, the story of hidden histories, the story of the lives we lead and the parallels we don't, the story of the stories we tell ourselves. It's about growing up, growing old, looking back, wondering what it's all been about in the end.

"You feel sorry for yourself. You think you're missing something and you don't know what it is. You're lonely inside your life." (170)

This is the story of a nation in sudden shocking freefall, a land of myths now turning historyless, where every tale we tell crackles with new significance because it is we who tell it.

"That particular life. Under the surface of ordinary things. And organized so that it makes more sense in a way, if you understand what I mean. It makes more sense than the horseshit life the rest of us live." (761)

This is the story of absent fathers, the greedy and selfish who set wheels in motion then depart, and the story of those left behind and the ways they try to make some meaning of it all.

This goddamn country has garbage you can eat, garbage that's better to eat than the food on the table in other countries. (767)

This is the story of things we do, and the trash we leave behind.

A strew of lost and found and miscellaneous things that were stored here not for future use but because they had to go somewhere. (769)

5 stars. A book of haunting melancholy, pregnant with meaning and full of emotion.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
February 19, 2018
Elegy for Left Hand Alone
Title of Part 2
[*4.5 stars*] [footnote added on 10/21]

I just read what to me is likely the most far-reaching American novel in terms of its scope, spanning the 1950s through the 1990s and covering a wide range of American topics, from baseball to solid waste disposal, U.S. nuclear weapons and the Soviet atomic weapons program (i.e., nuclear proliferation), guns, graffiti, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, the Cuban Missile Crisis, drug addiction, AIDS, marital infidelity, and pulling in a litany of American legends like Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover and Frank Sinatra.

The novel opens with a lengthy prologue (perhaps the longest I've read) set primarily on October 3, 1951 at the New York Giants' home field, the Upper Manhattan Polo Grounds in a renowned game with the Brooklyn Dodgers to decide the National League pennant winner to play in the World Series. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Dodgers were up 4-2, and two men were on base when a player named Bobby Thomson stepped up to the plate and hit a 3-run walk-off (game ending) homerun to give the Giants the win 5-4.

The homer has gained a sort of mythical status among baseball fans (such as myself), known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World." The whereabouts of that baseball is still unknown in real life. But DeLillo creates a young fellow who skipped school and sneaked into the game and a scenario in which this student named Cotter Martin is befriended by an older man and we follow their conversation through parts of the game. The homer is initially caught by the older guy and Cotter wrests the ball away from him and runs home. Yet his father, a drunk, takes the ball out of his room as Cotter sleeps and sells it for $32.45.

Front page of New York Times on October 4, 1951

The remainder of the book follows a very nonlinear narrative, mostly about a guy named Nick Shay who is an executive VP at a waste disposal company. Shay grew up in Brooklyn. And his life is slowly unfolded, where we learn that he shot a guy when he was a juvenile, around the same time as he was having an affair with a 30-something married woman. DeLillo writes as if he's a bit repressed when it comes to carnal relations. Nick messes around on his wife and his best friend/co-worker is having an affair with Nick's wife.

While Nick is the novel's centerpiece, DeLillo blends in a number of themes (some of which are listed above) and integrates a mosaic of memorable luminaries, the primary two being Hoover and Bruce. Several times, he goes to bits of Bruce's routines in the early 1960s slamming and riffing on the Cuban Missile crisis and nuclear proliferation. Part of Lenny Bruce's routine discussing a guy (generally speaking) on a date :
"you're thinking all the universal things men have always thought about and said to each other, get in her pants? did you get in? did you get some? did you make it? how far'd you get? how far'd she go? is she an easy lay? is she a good hump? is she a piece? did you get a piece? it's like the language of yard goods, piece goods, you can make her, she can be made, it's like a garment factory, ... he's a makeout artist, she's a piece, ....**

The Underworld Hoover likes sneaking little peaks at his right-hand man showering and changing.

The titles of most of the parts are quite memorable, including the DuPont ad slogan, "Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry," and the song titles, "Long Tall Sally," by Little Richard, and an infamous Rolling Stones song, not released on any album, called "Cocksucker Blues." The title of the prologue was "The Triumph of Death," a 16th Century oil painting by Dutch artist Pieter Brugel the Elder.

"The Triumph of Death," which fascinated Hoover in the novel

I don't know if I subscribe to this being "The Great American Novel," as a couple of critics have claimed, yet I don't think it's too far off, with such a clever and cunning layout to the book, an intelligent treatment of a number of American themes, drawing in a number of known characters, and its imaginative breadth. My only complaints were that the nonlinear narrative is a little hard to follow and the dialogue of what seems to be a conversation in which two people are talking but it sure doesn't seem like they're conversing with each other, which gets on my nerves.


**I'll admit I heard this type of banter in college, and will further plead no contest to having said at least one of these things to close friends when I was fourteen and didn't even know what a piece was [seriously, but realize that I was 14 in 1979]. Yet, I can swear that in my numerous years in grade school locker rooms or in a group of beer-fueled college buddies swapping juvenile tales, I never once heard a guy say that he grabbed a girl by her crotch or her breast. Never. At 14, in 1979, I knew better than to ever touch a girl there or there.

Nonetheless, we have a man one step away from being elected POTUS who thought he was entitled to do that, in his late 50s, in the aughts. Or, at the least, joked about doing that? Wow. SMH. Where are the social conservatives, those who argue for censorship in schools to protect kids from smut? Shouldn't they be raising a ruckus? No, they are too busy trying to sell bullshit from Trump about how 9 12 women, each and every one of them, are lying and how SNL is part of a grand conspiracy to steal the election from a brazen, irreligious New Yorker. Hypocrisy? A sign that the apocalypse is upon us?
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,631 followers
July 17, 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed Underworld by DeLillo. I was a bit scared of it for years, but after having successfully tackled two other post-modern über-works Infinite Jest and Gravity's Rainbow, I decidedly it was time (admittedly, I have not been able to bring myself to attempt The Recognitions by Gaddis yet). I enjoyed the writing style and loved the story. The background of the postwar 50s and 60s was interesting and I loved the image of the open art exposition in the desert (no spoilers). It was my first book by DeLillo and after now having read 7 others (Players, Falling Man, Libra, White Noise, Mao II, and Zero K), I have to day it is my favorite so far (White Noise and Libra being runner's up and Zero K being my least favorite by far - Ratner's Star is on my shortlist before the end of the year and perhaps I'll try Great Jones Street as well). I thought that the sweeping prose style was more efficient and worked better in this particular story than in the other aforementioned DeLillos. In fact, Underworld may be the only one - besides White Noise- that I will return to in years to come. Honestly, I prefer Pynchon - particularly Mason&Dixon and Against the Day - to DeLillo but of his work, this one was for me the most fun.

Since originally writing this review, I have trudged through (and reviewed on GR) The Recognitions and have to say that I preferred Underworld, GR, AtD, M&D, and IJ. Of those four, it would be hard for me to pick a favorite. I think that DeLillo took less chances than Pynchon or DFW, but the narrative is still captivating and entertaining.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,396 reviews200 followers
July 25, 2023
This was another one of those books that was a challenge question for me. Should I read this or not? He is a prolific well-known writer, and this one is 827 pages.

This was a book from my reading past. When I was more patient about spending time with longer novels.

Interestingly enough it ended up as a donation recently at my Little Free Library Shed, so I thought I would refresh myself with it again.

I now bring my review to Goodreads.

Underworld is an amazing performance.

It encompasses five decades of history, a world of public events, private emotions, hope and loss.

It is a story of one man and one family.


It is also the story of what happened to America in the second half of the 20th century.

The author addresses real and imagined conspiracies to the media’s Heisenberg effect (an interviewing process where the interviewees tend to give answers they think the interviewer wants to hear) to the threat of terrorism and random violence.

As a writer, he showcases his ability to be shrewd and absurdly comic and brilliant about the vignettes of American life. He also shows the chilly and sociological effect.

Sometimes there are laugh out loud moments.

He makes us readers want to probe beneath the surface of his characters’ lives; his hero’s chronic alienation is even given a history and a source.

The author has a way of rattling our emotions by taking us inside the character’s lives as if we are inside the story, as well.

The story opens with a breathtaking passage that seamlessly captures the experience of 35,000 people watching the classic October 3, 1951 ballgame in which the Giants beat the Dodgers to win the pennant race.

It is the same day that America learned the Soviet Union had exploded an atomic bomb, the day the cold war took a deadly new turn.

These are two completely different events but they will impact the characters and the story over the years and decades.

As readers we will be introduced to a cast of baseball fanatics, conspiracy nuts, hustlers, con men, scientists, businessmen, school children, graffiti artists and nurses, to name a few. We will also recognize a few real people’s names, too.

Cutting back and forth in time between a multitude of plot lines, DeLillo creates a rich narrative that keeps readers engaged.

As readers, we feel right in the middle of it all.

How can I best describe this piece of work?


Should I create a new shelf? Yes, I think I will.
Profile Image for Matt.
82 reviews24 followers
July 20, 2008
The central metaphor in Underworld, as I saw it, revolves around trash. One of the main characters, Nick Shay, works for a waste-disposal company. No matter how many different recycling bins his family divides their waste into (seven and counting), it cannot all be reclaimed. The trash builds up – and what holds true for the physical also holds true for the personal and the historical. No matter how we might try to reprocess, recast,or ignore our history/memory, our past accumulates, and the weight of our mental and personal garbage is heavy.

An interesting twist that DeLillo works into Underworld, as I realized during a recent discussion with a friend, is that one of the characters, the painter Klara Sax, is able to find a sort of redemption. Yet the reader sees redemption at the beginning of the book, not the end – the book works backwards towards the trash and detritus of her past, leaving Klara, rather, at an seemingly insurmountable (although we, as readers, know better) low point.

One of the greatest successes of the book is the fluidity with which it moves between personal and cultural memories. The opening prologue of the book, in fact, starts off with an incredible recreation of the historic 1951 Dodgers/Giants playoff game – the earliest point, temporarily, in the whole book. When we then jump forward to the present, we meet the characters for the first time – and the rest of the book is spent working backwards, following the personal histories as they weave in and out of the cultural history we met at the beginning. The way in which DeLillo allows these two memories to inform and define each other is an unbelievable triumph, on par with the personal/cultural archives of Joseph Cornell's boxes, from half a century earlier.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,266 followers
September 18, 2020

“Underworld" as Found Art/Fiction

“Underworld" is fascinating in at least two ways: one relates to its use of metafiction, and the other relates to its implicit view of metaphysics:

"What did I see in this juxtaposition?"

"I believed in the stern logic of [connection]."

“Everything is Connected in the End”

A major theme of the novel is that “everything is connected in the end”. DeLillo goes one step beyond theme and uses this proposition as the foundation of the structure of the novel.

Shortly before he started to write “Underworld” in 1991, DeLillo read a copy of the front page of the New York Times dated October 4, 1951.

The paper fortuitously provided him with the coupled theme and structure of “Underworld”. He actually describes one of the characters in the novel making the same discovery:

“The front page astonished him, a pair of three-column headlines dominating. To his left the Giants capture the pennant, beating the Dodgers on a dramatic home run in the ninth inning. And to the right, symmetrically mated, same typeface, same-size type, same number of lines, the USSR explodes an atomic bomb – kaboom – details kept secret.” (668)

“He didn't understand why the Times would take a ball game off the sports page and juxtapose it with news of such ominous consequence.” (668)


The novel uses the same juxtaposition. DeLillo places these two events together (“a coupling all the same...symmetrically mated”), and fills the gaps, or allows the gaps to fill themselves. It’s a masterful experiment/exercise in how juxtaposition encourages content to bleed across and between parts of the framework:

“Find the links. It's all linked.” (577)

DeLillo lets the novel's plots "dance their way out."

The Novel as an Object Passing Through

What links many chapters is the fate of the baseball that was hit into the stands and supposedly found by a young boy called Cotter Martin. In the body of the novel, DeLillo writes:

“The ball was an object passing through.”

The narrative is anything but “the linear arrangement of words on a page". (503) It is a remarkable web, almost like cyberspace, that contains multitudes and lends itself to exploration by HTML.

The Novel as Characters Passing Through

Nick Shay is a principal character, who at some point has bought the baseball from a dealer in memorabilia, Marvin Lundy, who has managed to track its lineage/ provenance to the day after the game. What he doesn’t know is that Cotter gave it to his father, Manx Martin, for safekeeping, but his father went out and sold it on the street for approximately $33 to Charles Wainwright. Charles later gives it to his own son, Chuckie, who becomes a navigator of B-52’s that carry atomic bombs. His plane is called Long Tall Sally.


These planes were commonly called BUFF’s (big ugly fat fucks) by the men of the US bomber command. By 1991, most of the planes had been retired to an aircraft boneyard in Arizona, where an artist known as Klara Sax paints them. Klara was formerly married to Albert Bronzini, a science teacher who taught Nick’s brother (Matty) how to play competitive chess. In 1992, Matty is a scientist working at a nuclear weapons facility in New Mexico. Nick had an adulterous sexual relationship with Klara when they both lived in New York in 1951. His own wife, Marian, later has an affair with Nick's work colleague, Brian Glassic. The relationships between women and men are problematic for Nick.

Young Nick was convicted of the murder of George Manza (the Waiter) with his [George's] own shotgun and sentenced to detention in a correctional facility for juveniles. While Nick feels guilty about George’s death, he’s never been sure whether the death was intentional or accidental, because George had told him that the shotgun was unloaded. Nick works in waste management, and in the prologue flies to Russia and Kazakhstan to witness the test of a waste disposal system that destroys toxic waste in a nuclear explosion. The Russian connection posits a link between weapons and waste. It also marks the end of the Cold War.


As might be apparent from this summary, there is not just a concern with connections. DeLillo structures the novel around the words "collection" (“people collect, collect, always collecting” baseball memorabilia), "connection" and "correction" (of juvenile criminals).

Lucky Strikes

The cigarette brand, Lucky Strikes, also features in the novel. It’s possible that the home runs were the result of a lucky strike, the Soviet nuclear test equally so (from their point of view), and the death of George the Waiter an unlucky strike (from both points of view).

Opposition and Conflict

Just as there are connections between subject matter in the novel, “there’s a lot of opposition and conflict…It's the rule of confrontation...” (27)

There’s a thin line between rivals, antagonists and enemies. The baseball game was the final between the Giants and the Dodgers on October 3, 1951, while the Soviet nuclear explosion was a defining move in the Cold War. By the end of the prologue, the Cold War appears to have ended in “these wild privatised times…and the marathon of danced-out plots...”

The conflict is an existential threat to everybody present. DeLillo frequently refers to the characters’ being and existence. They participate in episodes, experiences and events, which together constitute history. What remains, lasts or survives is waste, which is “the secret history, the underhistory, the way archaeologists dig out the history of early cultures, every sort of bone heap and broken tool, literally from under the ground.” (791)

Going Underground

Nick’s life has been shaped by his father’s abandonment of his family when Nick was just 11 years of age:

“The earth opened up and he stepped inside...I think he went under. I don't think he wanted a fresh start or a new life or even an escape. I think he wanted to go under.” (809)

In one of several films shown in the novel (including the Zapruder film, Robert Frank's "Cocksucker Blues", and the Texas Highway Killer video), the fictitious “Unterwelt”, “All Eisenstein wants you to see, in the end, are the contradictions of being...You see the inner divisions of people and systems...” (444)

“The Full Weight of Observation”

As he was in his earlier novels, DeLillo remains preoccupied with the mystery of language and the mystery behind and between words:

“What mattered were the mysteries, not the language in which you said them.” (757)

His metaphysics seems to be more based on Jesuit science than post-modern philosophy:

“We can't see the world clearly until we understand how nature is organised. We need to count, measure and test. This is the scientific method. Science. The observation and description of phenomena. Phenomena. Things perceptible to the senses.” (734)

“How is it that a few marks chalked on a blackboard, a few little squiggly signs can change the shape of human history?...I want to know how it is that a few marks on a slate or a piece of paper, a little black on white, or white on black, can carry so much information and contain such shattering implications. Never mind the energy packed in the atom. What about the energy contained in this equation (E equals MC squared)? This is the real power. How the mind operates. How the mind identifies, analyses and represents. What beauty and power. What marvels of imagination does it require to reduce the complex forces of nature, all those unseeable magical actions inside the atom – to express all this with a bing and a bang on a blackboard.” (736)

The Jesuitical Novel

Nick makes the Jesuitical influence even more explicit:

“The Jesuits taught me to examine things for second meanings and deeper connections.” (88)

In the end, DeLillo's quest for meaning and connection becomes a plea for the cessation of hostilities between nations and ideologies, and a declaration of peace in the battle of the sexes.

[In the Words of Don DeLillo]

Sister Edgar Reads Poe at School
[Mostly In the Words of Don DeLillo]

She paced the floor and would become
The poem and the raven both,
A fearless bird, roman-nosed,
Gliding out of the timeless sky,
Defining its own airy path
And diving down upon the class.

The Telemetry of Crowds

An understanding
Seemed to travel
Through the audience,
Conveyed row by row
In that mysterious
Telemetry of crowds.
Or maybe not so mysterious.

Tangerine Dream

Language is webbed
In the senses,
Out of sand-blaze
Brilliance into
Touch, taste and

The Safe Place of Imagination

Those bedridden days
Of childhood
When he was islanded
In sheets and pillows,
Surrounded by books
And chess pieces,
Deliciously sick at times,
A fever that sent him inward,
Sea-sweats and dreams
With runny colours,
Lonely but not unhappy,
The room a world,
The safe place of imagination.

Longing for Disarray

I long for the days of disarray,
When I didn't give a damn
Or a fuck or a farthing.


What we excrete
Comes back
To consume us.

From the Beach to the Bronx

They had the rear seat
To themselves
On the ride back,
The motor right below them,
Heat beating up,
And they dozed
On each other's shoulders,
Faces sun-tight and eyes
Stinging slightly,
Tired, hungry, happy,
The bus belching heat
Beneath them.

A Little Bitty Breeze

Later, the young men
Will stand on corners,
Smoking as the lights go out,
Bullshitting the night away,
And people will sleep
On fire escapes,
Here and there,
Because there's a breath
Of air outside,
A little bitty breeze
That changes everything.

Profile Image for Joseph.
61 reviews15 followers
March 29, 2009
An excellent example of the critical consensus being just plain wrong. Underworld is bloated, confused, and turgid - yet critics who should have known better drowned it in praise. I think this is due to a number of factors.

One, pedigree: DeLillo is a critical darling, deservedly so. Two, Heft: just like in movies, critics assume size equals importance, and thus the longer it takes to get through something, the more that something must have to say. It's 854 pages, 600 of which could have been cut. Three, it's Delillo, who rivals Toni Morrison and John Updike for riding the line between brilliant and laughably overwrought and critics will always prefer the "difficult" to the plainspoken. Fine by me - I don't have a problem with occasionally making the reader work for his/her supper. But there's a difference between challenging the reader and flexing your cleverness, and you can guess which one I think DeLillo does here. Ultimately, I don't think DeLillo knew what his story was about and tried to compenstate by adding more and more pages. Critics, never wanting to be the one who doesn't "get it", fawned and fellated the book, doing no favors to either the author or readers who mistakenly wade into this dank swamp and wonder why they're so dumb for not seeing the brilliance. And then they run back to James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks or some shit like that and we're all a little poorer in the end.
421 reviews167 followers
July 12, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Sentimental Surrealist.
294 reviews48 followers
November 21, 2022
With every DeLillo novel I read, I realize that Underworld is the pinnacle of the man's artistry. Every novel he wrote beforehand leads up to it, hints at it, contains thematic foreshadowings of it, and the sixty-odd pages of Cosmopolis I've read are so far from this that it seems DeLillo understood there was no going back to his older style, because he'd already perfected it. This, of course, invites the possibility that DeLillo could release another masterpiece in his later style, but with the man getting up there age-wise and with Underworld having twenty-plus years of DeLillo Mark I (or DeLillo Marks I and II, depending on how you define terms) to draw on, it's hard for me to see him ever topping this.

Like most of the major postmodern novels, Underworld is a beast of a book. It's long, it's dense, its character roster is massive, and it runs through the twentieth century's eventful second half with grace, insight, and humor. Real-life figures such as J. Edgar Hoover, Lenny Bruce, and Sergei Eisenstein all factor in, with Bruce brought to vivid and hilarious life throughout several chapters towards the novel's end. It begins with a breathless retelling of Bobby Thompson's shot heard 'round the world juxtaposed against another such shot, the Russian testing of a nuclear warhead, and ends with an equally breathless tale of poverty, terrorism and the internet. If you've only experienced DeLillo through the artful awkwardness of White Noise, you'll see an entirely different side of the author here.

Of course, it couldn't have happened without the novels that came before. DeLillo writes about poverty, consumerism, mass media, fear of death, conspiracies, strained sexual relationships, crowd psychology, history, language, and everything else he'd done before, but here he weaves it all together into a dense and beautiful tapestry. The use and weaving of these diverse themes, coupled with the novel's unique structure - it starts in the '50s, shoots forward into the '90s, digs decade by decade back into the '50s, and then leaps forty years into the future for its grand conclusion, thus creating an excavation for history - make it a novel like none other before it. This means that, while it occasionally overreaches, the overreaching can be forgiven: since DeLillo's working without a net, it's inevitable and acceptable that he sometimes runs ahead of himself. Besides, who wants to read authors that sit around in their own little bubbles all day?

Underworld is a big, bold, astonishing and challenging work, one that asks a lot from you and rewards the patient reader. In love with history and language, it's a novel of ideas that tells a hell of a story, a story much broader than you might expect it to be. Definitely one of the preeminent works of twentieth century fiction.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,731 followers
September 18, 2023
Definitely not four, probably not exactly five. But sometimes five; fleeting moments, flickers, of five. The structure of Underworld was fantastic. It was an excavation novel. It was an extraction. It was a slow descent, a regression. I definitely have a pro-Delillo bias, but still think this novel (for me) fits among his best and strongest works. It was worth the time, the work, the emotional cost. Not Dostoevesky, but Underworld will be read, examined, analyzed throughout the next century while much that was written in the later-half of the 20th century is pulped, processed, and turned into IKEA furniture.
Profile Image for Girish Gowda.
88 reviews85 followers
November 14, 2021
Underworld is simply unforgettable. Once you read it, the joy you derived from it as a reader shadows everything you hence read. Everything pales in comparison, however unjust that may sound.

It is quite easy to be ambivalent towards DeLillo’s work. You sit there marveling at his artistry to enrich the everydayness of life, waiting if his simplistic yet exuberant inventiveness with the language will vane with time, all the while a little grief settling within you as the prose is just little tiny explosives, leaving no trace, as though DeLillo is writing in the reader’s mind, on a white page with white ink. The first half of the novel, in all honesty, as per my notes, is quite unremarkable. But I look back at it now and I don’t know if I agree with myself. Over time, after finishing the whole thing, the tiny explosions are hanging in the air, like a cloud of thick smog, with gothic poignance.
Here are a few of the things he tackles not in the order of how they are dealt with in the novel: Street art through Graffiti. Materialistic clinginess in the name of love for history.Fatherlessness. Sly, selfish fatherliness. Emotional infidelity. Adultery. The unconventional fling between a teenager and a directionless, yet ambitious elder artist. Corporate Cult-ishness, where the employers don’t know the first thing, the evilness of their work. Grieving a lost parent. Extremely convincing stand-up comedy (Lenny Bruce is my favorite character). Proclivity for mindless violence ( Cold war, here is the obvious focus, but also on an individual level). Deadly playfulness. And there is of course waste, waste, and waste centrally. The perpetual amassing of all sorts of waste. Tackling nuclear waste with another nuclear annihilation. And so much more.
You dig a few themes only though, because why not. It’s a personal preference, right? But what makes this, for me, something that needs savoring few more times in the future is DeLillo’s sheer inexhaustibility when it comes to language. It's consistently terrific. The musicality is persistent. Sure, the novel is evenly uneven through and through, but the writing is masterful, poignant, and just seductively hypnotic. How else can I explain the fact that the latter half of the novel was read within a space of days, but the first half took me ages.
Yet, I don’t know if I can recommend it to anyone who reads primarily to reach that end page, to see how things unravel. DeLillo is a writer’s writer, and things do sure unravel here, but they unravel on every line and paragraph, more so than in chapters, if that makes sense.

Try this for size:

"When my mother died, I felt expanded, slowly, durably over time........and it is not a sadness to acknowledge that she had to die before I could know her fully. It is only a statement of the power of what comes after"

"And then the dark body began to loom like some apparition of the mists, long wings bending and flaps extended and wheels breaking contact and then the gear coming up and the smoky spew of trailing black alcohol and the storm-roar shaking the flats"

Sublime storytelling.
Profile Image for Cosimo.
429 reviews
May 16, 2015
I giorni del disordine

Un homerun e la bomba atomica: l’inizio della guerra fredda coincide con la fine della partita, due eventi collegati da un caso che diventa destino e che innesca, in un certo senso, il meccanismo della trama. Ma, come De Lillo dimostra poeticamente, le trame ci portano sempre verso la morte. Mentre l'incompletezza si rivela in un legame d'amore, un evento misterioso e traumatico innesca una narrazione alla rovescia, un percorso a ritroso nel tempo segnato da complessità e interconnessione, che si concretizza in una cosmologia storica del contemporaneo. Un padre scomparso, un padre che è assenza, mancanza di risposte e un'eco vuota della memoria. Nick e Clara si conoscono intimamente e tornano a guardarsi dentro al sorriso nel deserto. Lui vive con l'ossessione logica della perdita e lei cerca di trovare un senso controcorrente nelle trame vulnerabili del tempo. Il romanzo mantiene una struttura aperta, verticale e multiforme, dove i detriti di storie collettive e private raccontano qualcosa di ciò che sfugge, ciò che non è misurabile, ciò che è irrimediabilmente perduto. Il Bronx, i writers e il baseball, J. Edgar Hoover e il Trionfo della Morte di Bruegel, l'assassinio di Kennedy e la crisi missilistica, Lenny Bruce e l'Unione Sovietica, il Vietnam e i B-52, il ballo di Capote al Plaza e l'incubo atomico. La narrazione è come lo specchio di un'esistenza che non riesce più a prendere la realtà, ad avvicinarla e a narrarne la forma, il soggetto si sviluppa quindi nella scrittura come spazio del possibile, luogo della vera vita, mosaico che scava dentro le cose per restituirci noi stessi, composizione della rimozione, ma anche coscienza dell'irreale, dell'indicibile e del suo orrore. Contro questo rapporto ambiguo. illusorio e indefinito tra parola e oggetto, nel testo si generano infiniti livelli di realtà e plurimi universi di esperienza. La molteplicità di prospettive, voci e sensazioni, si frantuma nel ricordo dell’era post-atomica, mentre l'incarnazione dell'innocenza oppone la nudità del trascendente alla forza della paura e della distruzione. Mentre la forma romanzo evolve in un prisma di onniscienza con innumerevoli stili, registri e punti di vista, ci si trova a desiderare un riparo, un luogo tranquillo dove esistere, dove rendere familiare e meno minacciosa quella forza segreta e catastrofica che ci insidia. Ma sembra non sia possibile, quello che scartiamo ritorna inevitabilmente a consumarci.

“Una ragazzina alta e magra dotata di una specie di intelligenza selvaggia, sicura nei gesti e nel passo – sembrava esausta ma vigile, aveva l'aria di non lavarsi ma di essere in qualche modo assolutamente pulita, pulita come la terra, affamata e svelta”.
Profile Image for Read By RodKelly.
206 reviews752 followers
June 27, 2020
In answering the question, “how important is meaning to your writing?,” during a conversation with Jonathan Franzen, Don DeLillo explicates one of the qualities that make his books such a pleasure to read: “[meaning] is not the primary force at all. I think of myself as a writer of sentences, and I will always follow language. I will sometimes yield meaning to the words: the sound of words, the look of words, and to the beauty, at times, of a phrase, or a sentence, or a paragraph. Or what I hope is an element of beauty. And I don’t know where meaning comes from; it builds gradually as I work on the novel.”

My God! Underworld is the best novel I have ever read. Stripped down to the sentence level, to word after word on a page, Don makes miracles of language. I felt seen and validated as a reader who delights in the esthetic thrill of words arranged and sculpted. DeLillo’s writing is an instrument of unequivocal skill, of impeccable Sprachgefühl, deftly executing wrought lyricism, unadorned plainness, the intricacies, the song and blunt talk of a language, employed in this novel more perfectly than any other writer I’ve read. Don gives us real people, and he is compassionate and warm and aware of the humanity of his characters, expressing meaning through the sheer physics of language.

Reading all of the novels that precede Underworld has been an invaluable experience: it is so clear that all roads lead here. All of the stylistic idiosyncrasies that are paramount to his work are distilled with such polish and fluency as to make the pre-Underworld work read like an ersatz-DeLillo. But that’s not fair…he is a writer of preternatural brilliance and UW is simply the apotheosis of everything that DeLillo began expressing with the publication of his first novel, Americana. I would argue that UW is also the pinnacle of a sequence of masterpieces beginning with The Names in 1982, followed by White Noise, Libra, and Mao II. There is no topping Underworld for me—I have reached the summit of my experience as a reader, and I’m okay with that, mountains are large and there’s room near the top for many more.
Profile Image for Roberto.
627 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2017

Un mondo in pericolo

Underworld è un libro sovrassaturo di contenuti. E' ricco, straripante di riferimenti, di fatti, di concetti, di pensieri, di riflessioni, di arte moderna, di storia. Una carrellata di eventi che non segue apparentemente un filo logico e dove l'ago del tempo scorre su diverse direttrici.

Nel 1951, più o meno all'inizio della guerra fredda, ebbe luogo la partita di baseball Dodgers contro Giants con cui inizia il romanzo; contemporaneamente gli americani fecero esplodere un ordigno nucleare, come test, a fini militari. Il libro segue il percorso immaginario della palla leggendaria battuta da Bobby Thomson in quella partita, che lancia un fortissimo fuori campo; la palla, che passa di mano in mano, ci consente di seguire i principali eventi che avvengono in America fino alla fine della contrapposizione col blocco sovietico, con la caduta del muro.

La fine del blocco sovietico causa una crisi di valori e di identità negli americani, che vedevano nei russi un obiettivo, un antagonista, un fattore che li faceva sentire "uniti". Una volta che i russi non sono più il nemico da battere, che fare? Con chi prendersela? L'uomo ha bisogno di qualcosa in cui credere, di nemici da combattere, di idoli, di oggetti, di Dei. Su che valore convergere?

All'inizio della storia c'era il baseball, sport per il quale gli americani si potevano sentire uniti (più o meno come accade in Europa con i campionati di calcio). La palla lanciata da Thomson, filo conduttore di eventi, continua a ricordare il momento leggendario in cui tutti erano uniti.
Una palla che man mano che il tempo procede testimonia la decadenza dell'America (e perché no, del mondo intero): la guerra, le scorie radioattive, la società dei consumi, il danaro, gli interessi, la politica. La disumanizzazione dei valori.

Una società in crisi di valori tende a concentrarsi sugli oggetti, assegnando loro dei significati che, purtroppo, non possono avere. Oggetti che, per definizione fuggenti, sono destinati a diventare rifiuti, sommergendoci. Se procediamo così il mondo sarà presto distrutto. Dove stiamo andando? Stiamo inseguendo una utopia?

Uno spiraglio positivo Delillo lo lascia intuire: sono solo i valori che rimangono, i rapporti umani; non le cose. Ed è su quelli che dobbiamo concentrarci.

Un inizio strepitoso, una prosa raffinata e bellissima, riflessioni profonde e assolutamente degne di nota, uno stile caotico sul breve ma visionario sul lungo. Per me è un libro di 1772 pagine, ossia due volte 886. Perché alla prima lettura è quasi impossibile cogliere tutti i dettagli e i riferimenti incrociati (che non mi metto nemmeno a elencare, tanti sono).

Faticoso, indubbiamente, e tutt'altro che facile. Ma regala riflessioni e sensazioni impagabili.
Sono questi i libri per cui, dopo tutto, vale la pena leggere.
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,370 followers
November 14, 2014
There is no review here. I’m merely registering a score.

It’s been years since I last picked up a DeLillo. This one’s been waiting far too long. I rewatched the Cosmopolis movie last week. It’s not good. Underworld is pretty fine.

My motivation was this. There are Underworld detractors on gr who I’m almost certain should have known better. There are Underworld boosters on gr who have never (not quite) convinced me. So I set out to do that thing which I rarely need to bother doing myself, Making up my own mind about a gargantuan postmodern tome. I had already four DeLillos tucked away, but hadn’t quite decided about him. Underworld would be a break it or make it? Maybe.

Results. The detractors should know better. This is a pretty great novel. The boosters I think oversell a bit. I’ll be reading more DeLillo.

Here’s the thing. During most of my reading of Underworld I felt it pulled in two directions, in the directions of two other novels; Women and Men and Infinite Jest. Clearly for different reasons. And I thought both of those novels did what they did better than how Underworld did it. In part because Underworld gave me that rare experience of feeling a bulking novel was slightly too baggy. I mean maybe fifty pages too baggy ; but mostly the bagginess would have been fixed probably by adding more pages. No need to take stuff out. But sometimes, and perhaps here in Underworld, that pace is important and “tightening it up” would have destroyed the rhythm which comes with a certain spaciousness. At any rate, I got the century-long expansiveness in a richer measure with Women and Men and I got the pyrotechnic/smart prose better in Infinite Jest. Not to mind.

But one thing’s for sure ; stop boosting that short story that begins the novel. It’s an overture. You know The Lone Ranger, but do you know William Tell? “Das Kapital”, the epilogue, is also quite fine.
Profile Image for Drew.
238 reviews121 followers
December 28, 2011
Seems like to most people, Delillo is a love-or-hate proposition. His pace is either relaxed, or his books are boring as hell. His prose is gorgeous, or it's stilted and awkward (or just plain bad?). His dialogue is pitch perfect, or it's unrealistic and/or wooden. His philosophical musings are either profound or so pretentious as to be laughable. His plots are either nonexistent in such a way that you don't even notice, or they're nonexistent in such a way that you want to throw the book at the wall (which, with a book like Underworld, could do some significant damage to the wall).

I've felt both ways. The Body Artist was torture, and Cosmopolis was mostly torture. But they were short and I made it through them and appreciated parts of them. Libra was the first one I read that had some semblance of a traditional plot, and it was mostly stolen from history. Underworld's definitely got a plot, but it's not the plot on the book jacket, which in fact makes Underworld sound pretty unappealing. The book follows the life of a baseball? Most people don't give a shit about baseball, let alone one specific baseball.

What the book really is is a coming-of-age-during-the-Cold-War story, told backwards. Does that not sound more interesting? Yes, it follows tons of characters, from real ones Jackie Gleason and J. Edgar Hoover and Lenny Bruce to fictional ones like Nick Shay and Klara Sax. But I'd argue that most of the stuff that doesn't involve Nick directly is in there for tone. I don't necessarily think that a book has to be long for it to be great, but it helps. You need some time -- a few hundred pages, quite often -- to feel like you've lived through a period, or in a place, that you really haven't. No doubt Delillo could have cut some stuff and I wouldn't have thought, "Hmm, I still don't quite get cold-war America," but I have no complaints about the length as it is.

The structure of the book is really cool, and saying it's "shaped like a mushroom cloud" is clever but doesn't explain why anyone might want to actually try reading this. But it starts in 1951 with the climactic Giants-Dodgers baseball game, which sets the tone for the rest of the book. I'm not talking about the jubilant Giants celebrating their victory. I'm talking about Jackie Gleason vomiting on Frank Sinatra's shoes, Hoover's foreboding at the falling Life magazine pages and The Triumph of Death, Cotter Martin's duel over the baseball-in-question with the spectacularly and insidiously evil Bill Waterson, the unexpectedly low attendance of the game.

Then it jumps to the 1990's, with Nick Shay as a middle aged and nearly-complete human being. From there, it goes backwards in increments, describing events (global and local) pivotal to Nick's life, ending with the crime hinted at much earlier that changed Nick's whole character. Then for the epilogue, it jumps back to the present, and Nick's completion, or self-actualization, or whatever. That sounds lame, but I'm trying not to give anything away. I'm not always crazy about fragmented or jumbly timelines, but this one just makes sense. And to be perfectly honest, I feel like most of the more vehement negative criticism on this site has to come from people who didn't make it far enough to see that it does make sense.

I wouldn't normally try to defend Delillo's characters; they're often postmodernly flat in the most annoying way. Jack Gladney? Bill whatever from Mao II? Jesus, Eric Packer? Who could possibly care about these guys? They're just vehicles for Delillo's "systems" philosophy, which is also not always that appealing. One of his few successes with character was Lee Harvey Oswald, for whom, again, he could draw on a certain amount of real information. The Warren Report or whatever that enormous project was. But Nick Shay is unexpectedly real. Maybe that's because we get his whole life, and most of the lives of those close to him. And it's so great to finally* see Delillo write a long book with a real plot and a real protagonist.

Last thing: the prose style. Some people think what he writes is stupid, or makes no sense, or whatever. And I'd agree as far as to say that yes, he does have some clunkers. Some absolutely horrible sentences. Counterintuitive metaphors that never get explained. Unnecessary floridity. Dialogue between certain characters seeming way too intelligent. These are all present in Underworld, but I'd say much less so than his other novels. You never quite forget it's Delillo writing, but the clunkers come off like the tics and mannerisms of a brilliant but slightly irritating uncle extemporizing at dinner, and are easily ignored and benefit-of-the-doubted. Whereas The Body Artist consists almost exclusively of these tics, and is consequently intolerable.

My favorite scene from the book is one that may be a throwaway for most people, including maybe Delillo himself, but I really like it and I think it does what good books have to do: teach you how to be a (better) human. Nick is meeting with this Jesuit priest who's been enlisted by a friend of the family as a mentor/role model. (I think there should have been more of these scenes, actually, even if it had made the book 50 pages longer) Nick at this point is a cocky Italian-Bronx teenager who's full of piss and vinegar, as they say. But the priest asks him to name the parts of a shoe. Nick says the laces, the sole, the heel. Not much else to it. Smug. The priest insults him and prompts him to name the tongue. The priest points at parts of the shoe and names the cuff, the quarter, the welt, the vamp, the eyelets, the aglets, the grommets. The point being not the arcaneness of shoe nomenclature, but instead how little you know when you're young -- or how little you know, period. From that last list, I personally only knew eyelets, aglets and grommets. Father Paulus to Nick: have some goddamn mindfulness. Try to know something about the things you do every day.

So it's worth sticking out, I think. One caveat: Delillo's meditation at the very end of the epilogue, on the Internet as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of everything, is laughable, and should be disregarded at all costs. He's established his systems over the course of 800 pages, and this last bit is beating the proverbial dead horse. Sorry, Mr. Delillo.

Now onto 2666, the next installment in the Winter of Longass Books.

*I realize that the chronology's a little weird here if you're thinking about The Body Artist and Cosmopolis, etc., but I regard Underworld as the culmination of Delillo's career writing books that are actually good; it came right after Libra, White Noise, and Mao II (not necessarily in that order), and I wanted to read as many of his books as I could before I tried this one, which turned out to be a good idea.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,553 reviews812 followers
April 14, 2014
Voltaire is best known today for a novella and being a bit of a prick (in an enlightening way), but he also wrote a number of epic poems, including the first (?) epic poem in French, the Henriade. This was reprinted dozens of times during his life. The epic was the great literary genre of the eighteenth century, in theory. Now, of course, nobody gives a shit, because that stuff is utterly unreadable. Our 'epics' are long novels, and, like the Henriade, they get laurels aplenty, despite being all too often unreadable. Authors continue to churn them out, because critics adore a behemoth.

Sometimes, it's best to just admit defeat. There are a few things worth critically adoring in Underworld:

i) The fact that DeLillo was ballsy enough to tell the story backwards.
ii) Any scene with the nuns and priests in it.
iii) A few patented DeLillo symbol-objects, here, the painted planes in the desert and the giant ship carrying garbage/heroin/nuclear waste/who knows what.

These are undermined, though, by, e.g.,

ia) The fact that he doesn't have any story to tell, so telling it backwards adds nothing.
iia) There are too few scenes with the nuns, and too many with the very boring Nick Shay. How many men who've blown off another man's head with a shotgun (accidentally, but still), and had an affair with a super-hot modern artist who attracts disciples like black clothes attract dog hair, could be *this* boring? Only one, Nick Shay, and Delillo writes about him for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages.
iiia) Those symbol-objects can carry books the length of, say, White Noise. This book is 827 pages long. Not even the painted planes in the desert can carry a book for that long.

So we're breaking even (I'm being generous). How about the ideas?

By far the most intelligent, and humorous, scene in the book comes in chapter 3 of part 4. We get to watch people watch an apocryphal Eisenstein film, called 'Underworld.' Some characters' reactions:

a) "The plot was hard to follow. There was no plot. Just loneliness."
b) Esther said, "I want to be rewarded for this ordeal."
c) "Admit it, you're bored."
d) "It was remote and fragmentary and made on the cheap, supposedly personal, and it had a kind of suspense even as it crawled along. How and when would it reveal itself?"
e) "What about the politics? She thought this film might be a protest against socialist realism... what was this murky film, this strange dark draggy set of images if not a statement of outrage and independence?"
f) "Do we have to stay for the rest of it?" "I want to see what happens." "What could happen?"
g) "The camp elements of the program... now tended to resemble sneak attacks on the dominant culture."
h) "All Eisenstein wants you to see, in the end, are the contradictions of being."

This is transparently about the novel, *Underworld*. There is no plot, it is an ordeal, it is boring, it is remote and fragmentary, you do kind of want to know if/when it will reveal itself or something will happen, it could easily be nothing more than a statement about the supposed 'contradictions of being'. And you can, if you like, read all of that as a giant protest against realism.

So, given that our author is aware of the book's flaws (you can protest against realism and be entertaining, by the way),how can we justify its existence? In its intellectual content? That content is ambiguous, in a good way: DeLillo asks us to consider the relationship between nostalgia (for, e.g., baseball) and history (i.e., things that will matter to mentally sound people who didn't live through them). It would be nice to think that this book treats reverence for baseball and various other, even more cheesy, mass cultural ways of extracting money from people ironically: of course it's fun to go watch baseball, but it's not particularly important.

I fear, however, there is no irony, and that Underworld is just a depressing, postmodern affirmation of 'everyday life,' that looks back with longing (somewhat paradoxically, given the aforementioned pomoness) to the Cold War, back when the Giants and Dodgers were still New York teams. I fear that Underworld's main point is to show how Capital-H History disposes of all the glorious little knick-knacks we nostalgize about, like, say, baseballs, and how we have to hang onto them and make sure we get to stay individuals and live authentically even though The Man doesn't want us to. Consider that the most memorable scene in the book, according to the internet I read, is when the priest tells Nick 'Boring' Shay that he's tired of educating teenagers in "abstract ideas" and would be better off educating them as to the names of particular concrete things like, e.g., the names of shoe-parts, which he then proceeds to name for a few pages. How poetic it is that he knows what to call the cuff, counter and vamp. What a lesson in "the depth and reach of the commonplace".

If a book is going to argue for the depth and reach and importance of the quotidian, and eschew any attempt to connect its various chunks, those chunks had better be glorious. That is not the case here. I just don't care about the moments that DeLillo chooses not to connect to each other.

Now, of course, that wouldn't matter too much if the writing was good, but, as other reviewers have cataloged, it is not. Who let the following phrase slop into existence? Because it couldn't have been Don DeLillo: "Matt drove west, deeper into the white parts of the map, where he would try to find a clue to his future." I'd love to say I've made it look worse, but the preceding clause involves the phrase 'soft dawn.'

Underworld is not funny, as some DeLillo books are. It is not as well written as many of them are. It is not intellectually interesting as a couple of them are. It neither asks, nor answers, important questions, as DeLillo is capable of doing. It is, however, long; it is ambitious; and it was published before everything in the U.S.A. went to poop thanks to financial speculation, war and incompetence. So people call it a Great American Novel, and pine for the time before Osama, Bush and the Great Recession, just like they pine for the good ol' days in the ballpark.

It is the Henriade of a very talented man, not his Candide.
Profile Image for nastya .
448 reviews287 followers
September 1, 2023
I've seen some people saying this is not a place to start with DeLillo, and I think I disagree. If you want to experience DeLillo, this is the book, the culmination of his exploration of pretty much the same themes, his magnum opus.

I don’t like DeLillo when he goes for plot or character development progression across the years - that’s not his forte. He's good at meandering narratives, pondering about life, American neuroses, anxieties, sins, bad habits, strengths, and baseball. This novel is more akin to 'White Noise' than to 'Libra.'

There are a plethora of characters in this one, and I did enjoy some much more than the others. Writing a woman is still a problem, but so be it. My favorite parts were Matt in the desert and that fantastic episode in the testing plane over the nuclear explosion. I didn’t enjoy anything relating to Klara and Nick’s wife (understandably), and I barely found Nick stomachable.

This book has the reputation of a great American novel, and who am I to judge, really? To my eyes, it was a fine book with a few fantastic scenes here and there, but I mean, really really good ones.

The writing is the flashiest in here, DeLillo is showing off. More often times than not it’s quite impressive; other times, not so much ("Blow smoke my way," he said. "I want all the aromas. Tobacco, bedsheets, women.", "Tommy had a smile so slight and fleeting it could only be photographed on film stock developed by NASA.... A hummingbird's breath of a smile brushed across Tommy's lips."')

I’m glad I’ve read it - this is the only book of his I’m seeing myself returning to. But is there any point in me reading 'Mao II' at this point?

Update: Not even a full week has gone by after I finished this novel and I feel absolutely nothing when I'm thinking about it, which is extremely odd for books I've spent so much time with.
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,256 followers
August 6, 2011
Don DeLillo is a first-rate modern writer: his clipped and adamantine use of words, his compacted sentences and digitalized detail, all come together to tell his stories in a taut and invigorating manner—and he can dissect the quirks and pathologies that are running through our culture, probe the leavenings that have adumbrated modern societies racing towards the western horizon, with impressive acumen. However, I am not convinced that he is a first-rate characterizer, and this aspect of his writing is the main ballast that prevents Underworld from attaining the heights its ambition aims for. His characters are alive as they move from page to page, they impress themselves upon the reader in the moment, but I never get the sense of really knowing them, of getting what makes them tick, what drives them to make the curious choices that all DeLillo characters inevitably do. They are fleshed out with shielded circuitry; we are given access to their thought patterns but find too many blind alleys. It is not necessarily flawed for a writer to construct their fictional milieus in such a manner, but I felt it to be so for much of Underworld: while it made scant difference to the brilliance of certain set-pieces, such as the series of monologues from a fictionalized Lenny Bruce in the later-stages of the novel, it reduced Nick Shay to a mere performer, one whose childhood mysteries stand revealed as more of a joke than an abrasion; the highway killer to a caricature; and tempered the narrative with tacked-on characters like Shay's wife and her improbable lover.

The writing can be stunning, though: the opening prologue, a masterly mural of the infamous Shot Heard Around the World—the walk-off home run hit by the New York Giants' Bobby Thomson off the Brooklyn Dodger's Ralph Branca in 1951, a shot which clinched the National League pennant for the Giants and capped a dramatic clash between two Empire State titans—starts things rolling with authority. A young black Giants fan, Cotter Martin, catches the ball that Thomson drove over the fence; this souvenir will relive its historical role at points throughout the book as the mystery of what Martin actually did with it is revealed. Such deeply rooted and emotionally-charged pastimes as baseball prove to be one of the tethers that nuclear-armed America clings to—one of the traditions that drew our eyes away from the eschatological mummery of the Cold War. The omnipresent threat of the nuclear powers, the permanent state of non-war between them, forms one of Underworld's linchpins, along with Nick Shay's work in the waste-disposal business and the basically ephemeral and dispensable nature of postmodern America. The accumulated wastes of consumption and fear must be bundled up and eliminated so that society can keep itself focussed on the goal: work, buy, sell, die, all in the pursuit of that elusive chimera proclaimed happiness. The trash is growing exponentially, however, and disposal systems get backed up: the resulting strain produces tics, breakdowns and obsessions that cast a distracting pall over the entire performance.

Underworld falls short of greatness—as in his other books that I've read, there are diamonds and there is rust. The pitches were there, but he missed the opportunity to hit it out of the park a la the aforementioned Giant giant Thomson. Yet it held me through to the end, and its high points were towering. If, as I set the finished tome aside, the sum total of Nick Shay's story seemed less than compelling—if I already found several of its scenes slipping away to memory's waste bins—perhaps that is only fitting for a novel about the temporality of nigh everything today.
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