Joseph's Reviews > Underworld

Underworld by Don DeLillo
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's review
Mar 29, 09

bookshelves: 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 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.
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Comments (showing 1-8)

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Saxon Learn how to spell 'occasionally' before critiquing DeLillo or anyone else.

Joseph Corrected.

You're completely right, random guy. This solitary typo disqualifies me from further criticism of my literary betters. I owe DeLillo an apology (I'm sure he's never misspelled anything), and I owe you a debt of gratitude, pedantic twat. Without unthinking, overly defensive, and out of proportion snipes like yours, what would the internet be?


That guy who misspelled occasionally on the internet that one time.

message 6: by James (new)

James hahaha this is one of the funnier things I've read in awhile.

"Learn how to spell 'occasionally' before critiquing DeLillo or anyone else. "

When you think about it that's a pretty specific criterion... in order to criticize anyone's work, you must specifically know how to spell the word, 'occasionally'... you could misspell numerous other words, but if you misspell 'occasionally,' then you really are devoid of a worthwhile opinion.

message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Castillo This is a fantastic review. Spelling asside. OR aside. Or whatever.


Is this comment invalid now?

Lambert Look fine, if you don't get it - no worries, that's OK, but please just admit it. As for saying that the book should be 600 pages shorter - that says far more about you, than the quality of the book.

Joseph I don’t really think there’s much to “get”. DeLillo isn’t doing anything with technique or narrative structure that hadn’t been done fifty years ago. He tried to do an epic postmodern Big Novel - something I normally enjoy - and I didn’t feel like he pulled it off.

Snidely saying I didn’t “get” it isn’t an argument and doesn’t add anything to the discussion. Again, it’s the kind of insecure, exclusionary pose that turns off the average person to the literary world. I’d rather have more people in that circle than not, but that’s just me.

Nick You should consider criticizing the book instead of positing conspiracy theories about those who disagree with you about it merits.

message 1: by Greg (new)

Greg Atkin The book is America's War and Peace.

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