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Underworld

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  20,429 Ratings  ·  1,407 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
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Paperback, 832 pages
Published 1998 by Picador (first published October 3rd 1997)
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Byron Forney I think of it in terms of Grapes of Wrath being about the first half of the 20th Cent. in regarding migration, take over of land and farming by big…moreI think of it in terms of Grapes of Wrath being about the first half of the 20th Cent. in regarding migration, take over of land and farming by big corps. and the general reconstruction and relocation of American society and culture from a farming and agricultural society to the coming of a manufacturing society. Underworld is about the second half being the "cold war" society which has resulted from the same need for the accumulation power but done rather than through farming, through manufacturing all held together by the one thing we refuse to surrender, baseball used as metaphor. Remember, the core of the nuclear warhead is the exact same size as a baseball. I see the two stories back to back as the "story" of the 20th Cent.(less)
TheLongWait Absolutely appropriate. The sex is nothing major or graphic, and their is barely any violence throughout. I am not sure how many of the references a…moreAbsolutely appropriate. The sex is nothing major or graphic, and their is barely any violence throughout. I am not sure how many of the references a 15 year old will get, but I would let my niece read it and she just turned 16.(less)
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasLes Misérables by Victor Hugo
Big Fat Books Worth the Effort
186th out of 1,428 books — 6,396 voters
Underworld by Don DeLilloWhite Noise by Don DeLilloLibra by Don DeLilloGreat Jones Street by Don DeLilloMao II by Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo ranked
1st out of 15 books — 34 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
Nov 21, 2009 karen rated it liked it
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
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Paul Bryant
Nov 23, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it
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
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Ethan Fixell
Oct 03, 2007 Ethan Fixell rated it did not like it  ·  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
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Lauren
Apr 08, 2007 Lauren rated it it was amazing
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
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Manny
Jun 30, 2014 Manny rated it did not like it
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
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Jason
Feb 19, 2010 Jason rated it did not like it  ·  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
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Matt
Jul 20, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
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
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Szplug
Aug 06, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it
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
Adam
Jul 12, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
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
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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
Joseph
Mar 29, 2009 Joseph rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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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
Cosimo
May 16, 2015 Cosimo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 i
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Noce
Dec 27, 2011 Noce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Darwin8u
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 whil ...more
Steve
Sep 13, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Justin Evans
Apr 14, 2014 Justin Evans rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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 it was amazing
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
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Miloš Kostić
Feb 20, 2016 Miloš Kostić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ambiciozno i uspelo delo, pokušava da se dotakne svega, baš široka priča. Roman o jednom vremenu i jednoj zemlji, o pola veka istorije.
Bejzbol, hladni rat, atomske probe, paranoici, teorije zavere, beskućnici, kolekcionari gluposti, serijski ubica, umetnička avangarda, crtači grafita, stend-ap komičari, rasna pitanja, protesti idealista, Vijetnam... Ukratko, Amerika u drugoj polovini dvadesetog veka.
Dve glavne linije priče su isprepletane, međusobno ali i sa mnogim drugim. Istorija jedne loptice
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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
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christa
Jan 14, 2012 christa rated it it was amazing
“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
Simona
Apr 18, 2015 Simona rated it it was amazing
Come si fa a commentare l'opera di un genio senza essere ripetitivi o banali? Credo sia impossibile e non so se sarò in grado, ma per DeLillo cercherò di trovare le parole migliori.
DeLillo è un genio e lo conferma con questo ennesimo libro. Un libro che mi ha tenuto compagnia per quasi un mese. Un mese intenso, un mese ricco di poesia, di meraviglia, di cose che si tendono a rimuovere, di cose che si preferisce dimenticare.
Partendo da una partita di baseball e percorrendo la storia a ritroso, g
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trivialchemy
Feb 22, 2010 trivialchemy rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
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.
TheLongWait
Underworld is an astonishing meditation on the second half of the American twentieth century. DeLillo has chosen to focus on the impact of the Cold War and not only the fear, but also the routine of it and how it impacted everyday people in subtle ways.

The prose was clear and beautiful, and never overwrought despite claims to the contrary. Drawing from a wide range of characters, DeLillo has created an accurate portrayal of the waste and ennui that seemingly dominated the latter half of the cent
...more
Vivian Valvano
Sep 13, 2011 Vivian Valvano rated it it was amazing
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
Geoff
Dec 05, 2015 Geoff marked it as to-read
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1997/...

"History is a connective tissue, or the dream of one, a name for life outside oneself, for that which connects all human beings except the subjective observer, a narrative that even though it takes up the whole world can only be seen from a distance. The bomb is a challenge to this notion, because while it manifestly is history, a cause and effect and article of history, it also invades internal life, not as a consequence of altering external life the way
...more
Violet wells
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 med ...more
Hamish
Apr 06, 2008 Hamish rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
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
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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
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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.” 127 likes
“I long for the days of disorder. I want them back, the days when I was alive on the earth, rippling in the quick of my skin, heedless and real. I was dumb-muscled and angry and real. This is what I long for, the breach of peace, the days of disarray when I walked real streets and did things slap-bang and felt angry and ready all the time, a danger to others and a distant mystery to myself.” 30 likes
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