Underworld
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Underworld

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  15,524 ratings  ·  1,111 reviews
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 gracefu...more
Paperback, 827 pages
Published 1998 by Picador (first published 1997)
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karen
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 th...more
Paul
Nov 23, 2012 Paul rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
THE PILGRIM 'S HEART IS LIGHT AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS JOURNEY

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.

BUT DISCOURAGEMENTS ARISE UNBIDDEN

Update - Not even on page 100 and I have a...more
Ethan Fixell
Oct 03, 2007 Ethan Fixell rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochists
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...more
Lauren
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 li...more
Becca Becca
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 hap...more
Manny
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...more
Matt
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 wei...more
Jason
Feb 19, 2010 Jason rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Felons with high recidivism rates in trade for early release
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...more
Szplug
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 wri...more
Joseph
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 cu...more
Noce
Underwear: l’abbigliamento intimo dell’America.

Guardando Facebook, mi sono resa conto che il mio paese di mare (specifico di mare, perché di solito sto in un paesone di montagna, così quelli che sanno chi sono non vengono sotto casa a lanciarmi le uova marce) limita le scelte della gente. O la gente limita il paese, bah, chi lo sa!

Insomma: curiosando nei profili degli amici degli amici ( dove “degli amici” non è una ripetizione, è proprio che ficco il naso nelle cose dei terzi), mi sono accorta...more
Drew
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...more
Vale
Lost places e Underworld



La scorsa estate ad Amburgo per caso mi sono imbattuta in una interessante mostra fotografica dal titolo "Lost places". Le fotografie ritraevano luoghi antropizzati in cui l'uomo scompariva, del tutto reificato: vecchi capannoni industriali, piscine fatiscenti, strade periferiche dismesse.
Mentre leggevo Underworld non potevo fare a meno di pensare a quelle immagini, ad un mondo umano parallelo che l'uomo vive superficialmente e che quindi sembra abbandonato.
Il libro è un...more
Justin Evans
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...more
Mark
Jun 14, 2008 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: George Bradford
I found this a stunning book, a reminder of what good writing can be.
I was reading this book in September 2001, when I put it down to go on vacation in Switzerland. While on vacation, 9-11 happened. When I returned, I picked the book up again and the cover - which prominently featured a creepy, black and white picture of the World Trade Center taken from the cemetery at Trinity Church - had a new meaning for me.
It was such a wonderful, sweeping, poetic book that it's hard to encapsulate. Someh...more
christa
“Underworld” was published when I was in college, a part time bookseller who touched so many books in the course of a day, shelving new fiction, shelving classics, shelving How-To manuals and graphic novels and dictionaries. “Underworld” was something else, much buzzed about, a grey image of the World Trade Center buildings bisected with a church steeple. I directed many-a customer to its spot in the store and set it into hands. That’s one of the rules of bookselling: Make the customer hold the...more
trivialchemy
I tried so hard. But I just can't. Fucking. Do it.

I submit this final plea to the goodreads universe. Give me a reason to keep going, or on page 381 shall I forever lie.
Steve
Despite the award nominations and the praise from great contemporary authors like David Mitchell and David Foster Wallace, I didn’t go into this book knowing much about it. Pomo, writerly, and long: those were my only preconceptions. Now I can at least pretend to see what the fuss is about. The book starts with a resounding shot, as in the one “Heard Round the World” – a phenomenal account of the 1951 playoff game where the Giants took the pennant from the Dodgers thanks to Bobby Thompson’s dram...more
Sentimental Surrealist
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...more
Vivian Valvano
I read this a few years ago and was blown away. (I taught WHITE NOISE, but never this.) A few weeks ago, Michiko Kakutani in the TIMES declared a re-reading of UNDERWORLD to be imperative on her "bucket list" of things to do before summer flies away from us all. I decided to follow her advice. So, on a second reading, my evaluation can be summed up in the same single word that I thought of the first time: BRILLIANT. Now that I'm writing on Goodreads, I'll add: this is one of the most important,...more
Saxon
Following a series of characters all loosely connected, DeLillo attempts to encompass and explore the entirety of modern(post?) America from the outer boroughs of NYC to the suburbs of Phoenix over a span of five decades. Beginning at a baseball game in 1951 at the events that took place there and elsewhere in the world that day, Underworld embarks on an exhaustive depiction of events and facets that characterize America (baseball, suburbs, Cuban Missle Crisis, etc) and its effect on the America...more
Hamish
I totally fail to see what makes Don DeLillo such a great writer and why people are all over this novel. It's that obnoxious Pynchon/Wallace type of post-modern fiction where all the emphasis is placed on novelty and not enough on the fundamentals of good writing. The prose is mediocre, the dialogue is wooden and the characterization is TERRIBLE. 800 effing pages and I still have no clue who any of these characters are, none of them have even the slightest sense of realness. But the plots intert...more
Adam
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 gre...more
Frosh
Reading so many of the negatives reviews here shocked me. To each his own, I guess. As for me, another reviewer put it perfectly:

"... this is one of the most important, most ingenious, most brilliant American novels written in the late 20th century - or ever. It's not for everyone."

I read this over a decade ago, and still recall the end, where I was, how completely floored and speechless I was. The writing is off the charts, and the story, ultimately, is more tightly bound than those who don't f...more
sologdin
Combines foucaultian archaeology/genealogy in order to trace the discontinuities of Bataille’s accursed share during the Cold War in the US. As with Pynchon’s V., likely should’ve read this one prior to reading Dissident Gardens--much overlap here with the latter: New York, chess, baseball. It’s almost as though Lethem read this one and thought nuh uh, then wrote a response.

Main narrator (the sole first-person perspective) is “involved in waste”: “we were waste handlers, waste traders, cosmologi...more
Nick
Underworld is nothing short of a masterpiece. I could traipse on about the existential fear of the Cold War captured and dissected and then molded into something astonishing. Or how the plot is like an intricate choreographed dance with different movements and variations on themes; or like a river bending and weaving, picking up plotpieces like detritus.
There are hundreds of reviews much more erudite, much more lavish, the justice and deft the book deserves.

What I will say is this: When I read...more
Stafford Davis
James Wood
vs.
Don DeLillo

Now here’s a real problem; a British literary critic whom I greatly admire, one James Wood, publishes an essay on why he doesn’t like a novel called, Underworld, by one of my favorite authors, the American novelist Don DeLillo. And that pesky rub is somewhere between the two, because I really like DeLillo’s book, while Wood’s 12 page critique of it, is an accurate and dead-on review that would make any fan of literature nod their head in one way or another. The facts: Und...more
Carlos
Probably the greatest novel I have ever read. Reading this book was like reading a symphony. The power of the different story elements ebbing and flowing at just the right moments is breathtaking. DeLillo takes what is good about modern literature--fragmentation, multiple narratives ...etc.--and combines it with a level of readability that is just right. The novel is neither condescendingly easy to read nor purposefully obfuscating. There are moments of naked humanity throughout the novel that a...more
joyce
Underworld, at 200-some pages in, I'm gonna have to get all Robert Plant and put you down for a little while. Not because I can't quit you, but because a) I'm not into baseball, b) the Cold War has no visceral appeal to me and c) neither does postmodernity. Seems to me a far bigger punch could have been delivered in far fewer pages, despite the fact that your prose and dialogue are lovely and I would give a limb to be able to write half that well. So I'm sorry, Underworld. We can still be friend...more
Rafa
Le sobran 800 páginas.
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Comentando Submundo 12 75 Feb 05, 2010 11:55AM  
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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...more
More about Don DeLillo...
White Noise Libra Cosmopolis Falling Man Mao II

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“Sometimes I see something so moving I know I’m not supposed to linger. See it and leave. If you stay too long, you wear out the wordless shock. Love it and trust it and leave.” 97 likes
“It is all falling indelibly into the past.” 16 likes
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