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It is a stunningly eventful day in the life of Eric Packer, a multi-billionaire who has recently married the heiress of a vast European fortune. A violent protest is being staged by anti-globalist groups and Eric fears that he may be a target. He is very much the target - but not by the protestors.

209 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Don DeLillo

91 books5,760 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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Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
875 reviews2,273 followers
June 10, 2017
Pre-Film Review

I re-read this novel, before seeing David Cronenberg’s film (see Post 21).


This review reveals what I think about the fate of the protagonist at the end of the novel.

My views are based on my interpretation of material that starts at page 55 of the 209 page novel.

If this material or my interpretation is incorrect, then the novel leaves you hanging at the end.

As my views on the novel as a whole depend on an interpretation of the protagonist’s fate, please don’t read my review if you want to form your own views in isolation.

Mutual Dedication

In 1992, Paul Auster dediciated “Leviathan” to Don DeLillo.

In 2003, DeLillo repaid the favour by dedicating “Cosmopolis” to Auster.

Here is a photo of the two of them [on the left] taken at the baseball with two employees of the Gotham Book Mart by the store’s owner:


The Name “Cosmopolis”

We are all used to the word “cosmopolitan”, but “cosmopolis” is less commonly used.

To the extent that the prefix “cosmo” suggests the world or the universe, it implies that the city is representative of the diversity of the world or the universe.

We can probably infer that the city is sophisticated and worldly, has an international rather than provincial character, and is home to many cosmopolitan people.

If so, the term would be a perfect description for New York City, where the novel is set.

It also applies to ancient Athens and Rome, perhaps the original “world-cities”.

Manhattan Odyssey

The novel is largely set in a long white limo that drives its protagonist, 28 year old billionaire and hedge-fund manager Eric Packer, across Manhattan.

Most plot summaries describe the purpose of the journey as to enable Eric to get a haircut.

However, this misses much of the narrative and metaphorical significance of the journey, not to mention the haircut.

The journey is more or less the whole of the length of 47th Street, which runs one-way between 1st Ave and the West Side Highway (called the Joe DiMaggio Highway since just before the publication of the novel).

Climbing Down from A Cosmopolitan Triplex in the Heavens...

At the 1st Ave end, you’ll find the United Nations Headquarters, perhaps the centre of cosmopolitanism.

Eric lives in a triplex close to 1st Ave. The building is not named, but the triplex supposedly cost Eric $104M.

At the corner of 47th and 1st is the Trump World Tower, which was completed in 2001.

The duplex penthouse in this building failed to sell for $58M, and was eventually split into four units.

However, as at 2003, the highest price for an apartment in Manhattan was the $70M paid by hedge-fund manager Martin Zweig for a triplex at the Pierre Hotel owned by Lady Mary Fairfax (of the Australian family that published the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers).

Eric’s purchase price represents a 50% increase on the highest price ever paid at the time. You can do that if you're a billionaire.

As you drive along 47th Street, you pass the Diamond District, a number of Broadway Theatres and Times Square.

Between 1963 and 1968, Andy Warhol’s Factory was on 47th Street between Second and Third Aves.

...and Descending into Hell’s Kitchen

On the West Side, the Street passes into Hell’s Kitchen, also known as Clinton (not named after Bill) or Midtown West (not named after Mae), the original home of Damon Runyon’s stories, Marvel Comics' "Daredevil", gang wars between migrants, and the musical "West Side Story".

The Wiki article on Hell’s Kitchen recounts a number of versions of the origin of the area’s name:

“…the most common version traces it to the story of Dutch Fred The Cop, a veteran policeman, who with his rookie partner, was watching a small riot on West 39th Street near 10th Avenue.

"The rookie is supposed to have said, ‘This place is hell itself,’ to which Fred replied, ‘Hell's a mild climate. This is Hell's Kitchen.’ "

Gail Wynand, the newspaper proprietor in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, came from Hell’s Kitchen and in Rand’s novel is described as “Petronius from Hell’s Kitchen”, a description that might also apply to Eric Packer (except that he ends there, rather than originates from there).

Interestingly, the original Petronius, believed to be the author of “The Satyricon”, was described as the “elegantiae arbiter” (or the “arbiter elegantiarum”), "the judge of elegance" in the court of the Roman Emperor Nero.

West 47th Street has yet to be developed and still contains relatively disused and derelict buildings (including the building that features in the end of “Cosmopolis”), not to mention the homeless and mentally ill treated at “Fountain House” who featured in the documentary “West 47th Street”.

Mapping Eric’s Progress

I have included all of this detail (thanks, Wiki), so that I can argue that this journey isn’t just some trip to the barber.

It represents a journey along a street that defines the extremes of Manhattan, from the cosmopolitan East Side to the Hellish West Side.

Just to help you map Eric’s progress, here are the pages at which his limo passes each Avenue crossing 47th:

1st: 9
2nd: 13
3rd: 23
Lexington: 34 (the hair salon Filles et Garcon actually seems to be at 51st)
Park: 38
Madison: 41
5th: 45 (The Presidential Cavalcade)
6th: 75
7th/Broadway: 87
8th: 129
9th: 130 (the Sufi rap artist Brutha Fez's Funeral)
10th 158 (the barbershop)
11th: 170
12th: 179 (the derelict tenement)

This is no mere haircut, this is a low-key to subtle homage to James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, in which our hero leaves the Heaven of his triplex, heads west (young man) and confronts his destiny in a derelict building in Hell’s Kitchen.

Perhaps, our hero even meets his anti-hero.

Upstairs at Eric’s

Eric is 28 and has been married to Elise Schifrin for just 22 days.

The marriage, so far, is loveless and apparently unconsummated. It represents a symbolic marriage of new American money and traditional European wealth and style, though Elise (“Swiss or something”) is worth a cool $730M herself.

Eric has made his money gambling on movements in currencies. He takes immense risks with vast amounts of money and has generated commensurate profits.

He is so rich, beyond normal moral or mortal contemplation, some would think it’s indecent and obscene. In the words of his nemesis, Eric is “foully and berserkly rich”.

Yet, until recently, Eric has seen his ability as just an example of what the Greeks call “Chrimatistikos”, the art of money-making.

He has had talent and drive, which he has "utilised... consistently put to good use."

His reward is to live in "a tower that soars to heaven and goes unpunished by God", something that aspires to scraping the sky and meeting God, but now in a Godless era seems only to defy the very idea of God and moral virtue or goodness.

He contemplates the word "skyscraper":

"No recent structure ought to bear this word. It belonged to the olden soul of awe, to the arrowed towers that were a narrative long before he was born."

Just as skyscrapers have lost their narrative drive, so too have money and the art of money-making:

"...because money has taken a turn. All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. There's no other kind of enormous wealth. Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself."

Money has turned in on itself, become introverted and meaningless. It no longer tells a story about something else, it does not relate to or measure some other achievement. [The novel echoes some of the concerns of William Gaddis' "The Recognitions", but then DeLillo has always mined similar veins.]

There’s a point at which you can have so much money that it becomes senseless, there are just no more narratives or stories you can spin with it, without repeating yourself. [I haven’t reached this point yet.]

Checking Eric’s Balance

Eric’s life so far has been dictated by balance.

He lives in a world “in which every force is balanced by another”. When there is another force, he is the equal and opposite reaction.

He takes positions and then waits for corrections to occur. The balancing process improves his bank balance.

It also dictates his aesthetic judgments.

Two private elevators rise to his triplex: in one the music is Satie, in the other Brutha Fez.

He gets artistic advice from 47-year old Didi Francher, an art consultant and one of his mistresses.

She’s "taught him how to look, how to feel enchantment damp on his face, the melt of pleasure inside a brushstroke or band of color."

In a way, she has created a balance to the crudeness and brutality of his occupation.

She has taught him how to reckon outside the world of money.

He now looks, he notices things, he gazes, he observes, he assesses, he judges.

Like Petronius, he has become an "arbiter elegantiarum", a "judge of elegance".

He is obsessed with acquiring a collection of 14 Rothko works housed in the Rothko Chapel:


He genuinely appreciates Rothko's art, but his principal motivation for the purchase is the fact that he can afford to.

Such is the power of money.

Consciously or not, Didi has also taught Eric how to flirt in an intellectually informed way.

In his limo, he metaphorically seduces his chief of finance, Jane Melman:

"My mood shifts and bends. But when I'm alive and heightened, I'm super-acute. Do you know what I see when I look at you? I see a woman who wants to live shamelessly in her body. Tell me this is not the truth. You want to follow your body into idleness and fleshiness. That's why you have to run, to escape the drift of your basic nature. ...What do I see? Something lazy, sexy and insatiable."

They "[reach] completion more or less together, touching neither each other nor themselves."

When she leaves the limo, Jane tells Eric that she “is a woman who would still be married to her husbands if they had looked at her the way you have looked at me here today."”

Catching Eric Off Balance

Despite, possibly because of, this transformation, Didi has noticed doubt creeping into Eric’s worldview.

"You're beginning to think it's more interesting to doubt than to act. It takes more courage to doubt."

When we meet Eric, he has gambled everything on the possibility that the Japanese Yen will fall.

He has also just been told that he has an asymmetrical prostate.

Without asking or knowing more about the medical significance of his diagnosis, he assumes the worst, that the cancer will soon take his life.

Even if it isn’t fatal, his prostate’s asymmetry challenges his idealization of balance.

He suffers pain. The pain undermines the foundations of his worldview. He starts to doubt both balance and himself. He starts to realise there is something in life apart from himself. He starts to recognise his own mortality.

Jane addresses him in the third person:

"He could think and speak of other things but only within the pain. He was living in the gland, in the scalding fact of his biology.

"Does he love himself or hate himself. I don’t think he knows. Or it changes minute by minute. Or the question is so implicit in everything he does that he can’t get outside it to answer."

Eric’s nemesis (who also happens to have an asymmetrical prostate) has worked for him before and has some insight into his personality:

"You should have listened to your prostate...You tried to predict movements in the yen by drawing on patterns from nature...You made this form of analysis horribly and sadistically precise.

"But you forgot something along the way...The importance of the lopsided, the thing that's skewed a little. You were looking for balance, beautiful balance, equal parts, equal sides...

"But you should have been tracking the yen in its tics and quirks. The little quirk. The mis-shape...

"That's where the answer was, in your body, in your prostate."

Living in the Shadow of a Doubt

So I argue that the purpose of Eric’s journey is to confront his own mortality, to deal with his doubt, not just to get a haircut.

Until today, he’s pursued business and wealth as a vehicle for achieving immortality.

Vija Kinski, his chief of theory, explains:

"Men think about immortality. Never mind what women think. We're too small and real to matter here…Great men historically expected to live forever even as they supervised construction of their monumental tombs on the far bank of the river, the west bank, where the sun goes down.

"There you sit, of large visions and prideful acts. Why die when you can live on disk? A disk, not a tomb. An idea beyond the body. A mind that's everything you ever were and will be, but never weary or confused or impaired.

"It's a mystery to me, how such a thing might happen. Will it happen someday? Sooner than we think because everything happens sooner than we think. Later today perhaps. Maybe today is the day when everything happens, for better or worse, ka-boom, like that."

However, having achieved as much as one man could ever achieve in a lifetime, Eric is not interested in trying to create an immortal digital replica of himself.

He is interested in his own death, because sooner or later, inevitably, we all have to accept our own mortality:

"He was alert, eager for action, for resolution. Something had to happen soon, a dispelling of doubt and the emergence of some design, the subject's plan of action, visible and distinct."

Ironically, on the way, Eric embraces the lopsided.

When he finally gets his haircut, it is asymmetrical.

However, it’s not the end of the journey. He resumes his trip before his haircut is finished.

His goal is beyond the haircut. It’s somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen. On the west bank, where the sun goes down.

The Threat of Death

Eric knows that somewhere on his trip, sometime today, he will die.

All along, he has been receiving death threats.

His journey across Manhattan is the date of reckoning with his own death, the date when death achieves a balance with life or knocks it off its axis.

He equips himself with a gun and abandons his security to deal with his nemesis Benno Levin single-handedly in a dilapidated building in Hell’s Kitchen.

By the time he arrives, he’s realised that even business embraces death and destruction:

"This is also the hallmark of capitalist thought. Enforced destruction. Old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed…Old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past, make the future...The urge to destroy is a creative urge…The logical extension of business is murder."

Death is a natural part of life. He has to endure one last arm wrestle with fate, until he knows that he has died appropriately:

"...it was the threat of death at the brink of night that spoke to him most surely about some principle of fate he'd always known would come clear in time. Now he could begin the business of living."

He must know and embrace his fate. It does not matter that he might die on the same day. He has already lived life to the fullest:

"This was the day, was it not, for influential men to come to sudden messy ends."

There is also a sense in which his wealth might come to an end, that his investments will get their own haircut or at the very least, a trim.

In his time of dying, the whole of Eric's empire might return, not home, but to nothing.

Money might have resumed its narrative drive towards nothingness.

Ironically, as the Global Financial Crisis has shown, even billionaires can die with nothing.

Frames of Reference

“Cosmopolis” is short and easy to read. It occupies a discrete time and space.

Rather than being DeLillo-lite or a disappointment, it’s a precisely structured novel that lends itself to being filmed.

As with much of DeLillo’s work, it’s concerned with ways of looking and seeing and understanding.

If anything, I would call it a highly polished example of "abstracted realism".

It is especially informed by Art and Film.

Eric finds in Art a pathway into life’s mysteries, one of them being himself:

"Don't you see yourself in every picture you love? You feel a radiance wash through you. It's something you can't analyze or speak about clearly. What are you doing at that moment? You're looking at a picture on a wall. That's all. But it makes you feel alive in the world. It tells you yes, you're here. And yes, you have a range of being that's deeper and sweeter than you knew."

To the extent that a painting is one framed work, Film consists of multiple frames.

It allows us to explore the situations that we might one day find ourselves in, it creates a frame of reference, it creates frames of reference within which to express ourselves:

"I've seen a hundred situations like this. A man and a gun and a locked door. My mother used to take me to the movies."

"Cosmopolis" is best construed as a gallery of images or a film.

It is highly visual and filmic, even though it's effectively set within the confines of a limo.

As Eric passes along 47th Street, he witnesses a gallery of events and images and women and must gaze at and judge and react to them, so that ultimately he can determine his own importance in the true scheme of things.

My only concern with respect to the film is how the dialogue will come across.

How will it convey the abstracted, conceptual precision of DeLillo's language?

Will it sound natural?

In My State of Grace

The result of Eric's movie-going is that, when he is confronted by the situation ("a man and a gun and a locked door", but also his mortality, his death), he knows how to deal with it.

This comforts him. In his hour of need.

While some of his apparent attempts at self-defence are clumsy, they seem to be designed to fail.

Ultimately, what really matters is that he submits gracefully to the inevitability of his own death.

It is perhaps the most graceful act of his life. And the last day of his life might equally be the most complete.

There is something perfect and satisfying in this grace and completeness, even if it's a little perverse, even if it lacks symmetry, even if (unlike Leopold Bloom) Eric fails to return home to his triplex at the end of the day.

P.S. Lapse or Claps, Chaps?

While I love this novel, there are passages that I recognise will annoy or vindicate those who question DeLillo's talent or consistency.

I choose to excuse them or to laugh instead.

Here are a few examples for your reading pleasure:

"Hoisting his genitals in his hand."

"The minute you sat there in that whole tragic regalia of running. That whole sad business of Judeo-Christian jogging."

"I want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on."

"Her feet flew out from under her. She uttered a thing, a sound, herself, her soul in rapid rising inflection."

"Eric decided to admire this."

"The rain was fine. The rain was dramatically right."

"The rain had stopped. This was good. This was clearly what it should have done."

"It was the last techno-rave, the end of whatever it was the end of."

"He stood in the street. There was nothing to do. He hadn't realized this could happen to him."

Sceptics, laugh with me.


Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown Traffic

Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,082 reviews620 followers
October 14, 2021
I should have known!

I read Falling Man and found it impenetrable at first and only slightly less so when I managed to finish it - at the third attempt. Maybe Cosmopolis is very clever; if it is it's way too clever for me. I did stick with it (it's only a short tale) in the hope all would become clear. It never really did.

The core theme is simple enough - man with everything really has nothing - but I just could't identify with the main character and, worst of all, the words just didn't knit together for me.

I don't know what it is with DeLillo. Maybe I just lack the wit to appreciate his prose, but for me the man just can't string sentences together that provide interest, let alone excitement. And, worse still, I just don't think his writing is cohesive or even understandable much of the time. I'm not going waste my time on him any more.

I'm happy to hear alternative views...
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,497 reviews2,383 followers
October 29, 2016
Sorry but this was for me below par for DeLillo's standards, which I have to say on the whole are remarkably good. Felt like a second rate Bret Easton Ellis, detached, cold and Narcissistic, infused with a surreal and nightmarish tone. The story is set on the corrosive and packed streets of Manhattan gripped by a state of paranoia and tension, and the comfy confinements of a billionaires stretch limo, this is basically one man's odyssey to get a haircut while the world outside his windows seems to be falling apart. There are clear nods towards 9/11 when written, and although this story is set a year before the terror attacks it quite clearly has a message on the state of American wealth and capitalism. underwhelming feel throughout, but these two reasons didn't help either,
1. The last book read by DeLillo was "The Names" which had a depth and intelligence far greater than this, and couldn't help but compare the two. 2. Having seen David Cronenberg's film adaptation first, I simply tried in vain to get Robert Pattinson's miserable face out of my head. The saving grace was it's short length.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,594 reviews2,829 followers
February 4, 2021
Don DeLillo writes about the relentless violence of surfaces and information, but unlike American Psycho, "Cosmopolis" hardly offers any comic relief (except for the pastry assassin, he's hilarious). Mostly set in the claustrophobic environment of a luxurious limo, we accompany our protagonist Eric Packer for one day as he roams New York City in his rolling office full of screens, repeatedly consulted by some of the specialists his venture capital operation employs (yes, at the beginning, he states that his aim is to get a hair cut, but it's very obvious that this is not actually his mission). 28-year-old multi-billionaire Eric has recently married a European heiress because, well, it made sense from an pragmatic angle and image-wise, and his wife is crossing his path multiple times, seemingly out of nowhere, like a ghost - and she is not the only bloodless, ephemeral character: In fact, the text contains multiple hints that Eric is some kind of zombie or even a vampire (which prompted David Cronenberg to give the role of Eric to professional vampire impersonator Robert Pattinson in the movie version of "Cosmopolis").

Eric's adventures in and outside the limo occupy the whole day: The President is in town and they are constantly stuck in traffic, the limo gets attacked in an anti-capitalist riot (foreshadowing Occupy Wall Street, which hadn't happened when the novel was first published in 2003), Eric gets caught up in the funeral procession of a sufi rap star and the making of an art film, he visits his lover and has sex with his bodyguard, his doctor does a check up on his prostate while he is holding a meeting in the limo (yup), etc. pp. - and the whole time, he is hunted by a dubious man and speculates on the yen, because/although he knows he can't win. It's the odyssey of a hero who has achieved the American Dream and feels nothing. Eric, as it quickly turns out, is on a mission to self-destruct - but can a vampire die (again)?

In this novel, art has become abstract, pointing to nothing (the Rothko Chapel is an important cipher), and information has become spectacle, equally unreadable. Surface and symmetry are Eric's downfall - but has he ever been striving for balance, as one character claims? This novel is interesting because of the numerous little ideas and intricate opinions that are presented and that make the reader ponder what to make of them. It's a puzzle that never tells you whether the image of Eric you created is utterly correct. In the end, Eric tries to be abstract, unreadable and a spectacle himself, but there are clues that he - contradicting popular opinion - is a person who suffers as well.

A haunting, dialogue-heavy book that needs to be devoured slowly in order to fully absorb its vibrating, dark energy. Almost every page contains at least one sentence that deserves to be pondered and discussed - great stuff.

You can learn more about the novel on the podcast (in German).
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,624 followers
September 26, 2020
As eerie, weird, morbid, (yet) concise as writers go, Don De Lillo takes the cake. In "White Noise", people go a lil crazy after a chemical spill makes an O.C.D. person's otherwise superdirty world into a superdooperdirty world. There are waves of radiation everywhere, as the world becomes infiltrated by 'lil parasites.

In "Cosmopolis", the Y2K scare is meshed with "American Psycho." Eric is a multimillionaire (billionaire?) who can control the American Stock Market via a gadgeted limo. Far out! But he ignores what occurs one fine April day (year 2000) in NYC... & he is the archetype we all have known and loved all along.

There is much to ponder after reading this "Day in the Life of..." There is much action within non action... if that makes sense... as if everything was its composite. ... micromolecules...

Anyway, if you have OCD, or you are completely terrified of germs, technology, & nonsense... De Lillo is NOT for you.
Profile Image for Emilio Berra.
240 reviews197 followers
November 28, 2017
Che ?
Ambientato nell'anno 2000.
Un giovane uomo ricchissimo e ben addentro nelle stanze del potere attraversa su un'iperaccessoriata limousine, in una caotica giornata di traffico, la metropoli per andare a farsi un taglio di capelli. Durante questo viaggio, dilatato nelle lunghe ore di percorso, accade di tutto, dalla buffonata alla tragedia.

Nel libro di Don DeLillo, molto bello stilisticamente e piuttosto noioso, c'è una rappresentazione inquietante ed implicitamente parecchio critica della realtà americana contemporanea, con una scrittura di vetro e acciaio, che ben si adatta al paesaggio urbano della metropoli, ed un linguaggio che evidenzia la pochezza umana e la volgarità della realtà descritta; linguaggio talvolta in bilico, a rischio di trasformarsi esso stesso portatore di quella volgarità. Lo stile dell'autore però regge, anzi diventa un meccanismo letterario collaudato, in cui spesso è possibile gustare il piacere estetico emanato dall'architettura del discorso, dal concatenarsi delle frasi : per me lettore, unica piacevolezza che questo libro consenta.
Qui DeLillo è punta di diamante dello scrittore tipicamente 'americano-americano' contemporaneo volto allo svelamento di personaggi che han perduto se stessi.
La pienezza di significato del libro sta proprio nella rappresentazione dello smarrimento di significato, in una società dove "la vita è troppo contemporanea" e "il denaro parla a se stesso", quando "l'unica cosa che importa è il prezzo che paghi".
Se il potere capitalistico-finanziario giunge ad avere un dominio pervasivo e totalitario, la realtà diventa agghiacciante e paralizzata: senza radici, senza una tradizione consolidata a cui attingere, priva di interiorità spirituale ; la ragione, poi, non è quella illuminista, bensì un cascame positivistico fatto di tecnicismo e aridità.
A questo punto, l'immagine emblematica che resta è "la grande, sparsa bellezza dei bidoni della spazzatura rovesciati".

La saggezza del nostro Alessandro Manzoni ci avvertiva che "non tutto ciò che viene dopo è progresso".
Profile Image for lise.charmel.
386 reviews166 followers
January 14, 2021
Mi è difficile parlare di questo romanzo-mondo di sole 188 pagine che tuttavia ho impiegato una settimana a leggere.
La trama è semplice: un giovane multimiliardario una mattina decide di andare a tagliarsi i capelli dall'altra parte della città, sale sulla sua limousine e arriverà dal barbiere solo a sera inoltrata per una serie di avvenimenti e "incidenti". Durante il giorno succede di tutto: insurrezioni, ripetuti incontri casuali con la moglie, appuntamenti con le amanti o i suoi consulenti, il medico, le riprese di un film, un rave ecc.
In un solo giorno De Lillo condensa la molteplicità e le contraddizioni di New York, la freddezza dei soldi e delle banche, le assurdità, la miseria nera di certi quartieri, l'assenza totale di speranza e di possibilità.
E' un romanzo che parla di autodistruzione in modo freddo e quasi respingente (anche se non difficile), forse perché nella mente dell'autore questi temi potevano essere trattati solo in questo modo. Non saprei dire se mi sia piaciuta l'esperienza di lettura, certo è che per me questo libro resterà a lungo nella mia mente come un tetro caleidoscopio.
Profile Image for 7jane.
683 reviews266 followers
July 29, 2017
Music: Moby - "First Cool Hive"/"Porcelain"

(I didn't get the book when I first attempted to read it. I feel one benefits from seeing the movie of this book first; the book only opened to me after seeing it. If you get the movie, this should also go easier - there's a little more stuff in the book that's not on the film, but that makes the film flow better.)

April 2000. We follow the one-day disintegration of a 28 year old billionaire asset man, Eric Packer, who decides that morning to take a ride in his stretch limo to the other side of New York, to a place where his father came from, to get a haircut at a place his father used to visit. The ride takes longer than expected, but it brings a conclusion he's content with.

This man is on a road to self-destruction and he knows it. He has been insomniac for a while, worried about the shape of his prostate (which turns out to), and so he feels this need to go down, Icarus-like, and taking unnecessary risks with money, including that of his wife who he recently married (she takes it) and whom he meets several times during the journey.

She's not the only one he meets - he also meets people related to his work, security for the limo which , his daily doctor - though this time someone other than regular - plus several lovers. He watches the president - who knows Finnish (this pleases me) - ride in his car live on camera; he sees a glorious funeral of a Sufi rapper (he's a fan, and this is the only time he truly gets emotional); he witnesses a very chaotic, riotous demonstration, including a rather distressing . You feel how the action dies down towards the end of journey, as the evening comes and he reaches the destination. And still, even after he reaches the place of haircut, he still has

There's themes: doubt and act, life and death, money and criticism against it, balance and off-balance. Packer is quite a weird man; he seems to sort of know beforehand that this is his , he feels free-er, indifferent to things he used to be motivated about, and doing things he would otherwise been unlikely to do: take this ride, .

This book feels very much DeLillo's style, and I can say there's some after-echoes of Great Jones Street in here (same city, different time - indifference in the other one too). There's some opinions expressed I found thought-provoking and scenes that were visually beautiful (even when it was destruction or death-related). It's not a book to consider as 'my first book of this author', but if you've read the book mentioned above, or some others - plus perhaps seen the movie - this should do very well. I certainly enjoyed it :)

When he died he would not end. The world would end.
Profile Image for Jakob J..
45 reviews1 follower
May 10, 2017

The Problem of Language:
“It was a matter of silences, not words.”

There are those who indict DeLillo on charges of criminal literary laziness, but I would submit that actually, what he possesses is an immense understanding of the limitations inherent in language as a mode of expression, and while perhaps superficially a little ironic, I would also submit that it is a crucial thing on which to have a grasp, as a practitioner of the written word. As evidenced by the overall pithiness, refusal to go into territory that would most likely be discussed at a quantum mystics’ board meeting (do they have board meetings?), and more specifically, the seemingly insignificant (and infantile?) inquiries into linguistics and etymology, he displays his… (hold on, let me grab my thesaurus)… perspicacity, not simple-mindedness, in these fields.

Our assigned protagonist, Er(obert)ic Packer(son), compulsively dwells on meanings of words. Here he “pokes a note to himself about the anachronistic quality of the word skyscraper”, and here asks his currency analyst, Michael Chin “Why do we still have airports? Why are they called airports?”, to which Michael esoterically replies, “I know I can’t answer these questions without losing your respect”, which makes sense in that inexplicable kind of way.

Perhaps what I am trying to do, if I may provide some context from the past, is defend the Hemingway tradition (not that DeLillo's prose bears much resemblance to Papa's) against the likes of Faulkner, who shunned the former for not requiring his readers to keep a dictionary within arm’s reach, but it’s also something more. I am not merely, or even necessarily, saying that the easiest way to say something is the best way (a literary Occam’s Razor?), but that some things can truly be so personal, harrowing, or bizarre, as to postulate nothing more than that most basic, one-word question, for which even speechless animals know, a head-tilt would suffice. DeLillo knows how to deal with complex issues using sparse, poetic language.

Even Libertarians Could…
Ayn Rand-ish elements may surface if the wrong pundit gets their hands on this book. If DeLillo were more of a blatant ideologue (I haven’t a clue as to his political outlook), it could be frantically asserted that he had foreseen what was going to happen in ‘Obama’s America’! People could be holding up copies as tea-bags dangle from their colonial hats. A book could be written entitled Don DeLillo: Prophet of Currency: How Don DeLillo Foresaw the Economic Collapse and the Ensuing Anti-Capitalism Protests of Dangerous and Disorganized Liberal Rats. Maybe in a few years.

Poetry Without Inference:
Our cosmic wonder is no mystical thing, and with consciousness fleeting it is no wonder to desire that it be “saved from the void”. The accumulated matter which we refer to as ourselves had its origins in stars that we have never seen, and when it flows free once again, we will likewise not bear witness to our former compositions’ many destinies. No, not dust in the wind Kerry Livgren and Native American poets, but dust in the vast quantum chasm.

Or, is the horror of immortality a cyclical event? In what time of space do we, strictly speaking, even exist? Don’t ask yourself these questions as you read them. It will only make you hate me.

Just for Fun…?
Here is Brutha Fez (who is obviously DeLillo’s literary alter ego) laying down some fresh rhymes:

Kid used to think he was wise to the system
Prince of the street always do things his way
But he had a case of conventional wisdom
Never say nothing the others don’t say…
Man gave me the news in a slanted room
And it felt like a sliver of icy truth
Felt my sad-ass soul flying out of my mouth
My gold tooth splitting down to the root
Let me be who I was
Unrhymed fool
That’s lost but living.

November 13, 2022
Cosmopolis follows a single day in the life of billionaire Eric Packer, founder of Packer Capital, a financial firm, as he is driven across New York City in his limousine in his quest to get a haircut. It's not as boring as it sounds, as he frequently exits the limousine to see various people, gets caught in the middle of some crazy and interesting events that unfold throughout the city over the course of the day, and ends the book not even in the car anymore but in a rundown industrial area somewhere in the city in the dead of night, in what turns out to be an intriguing finale.

It's not always the most fun book to read, because Packer acts just how you suspect a male billionaire would, i.e. like a huge jerk. He frequently cheats on his wife, who he's only been married to for a few days or weeks, he's horny for every female that breathes air and is ever in his immediate vicinity, and he's a complete self-absorbed narcissist. So generally it can be a bit difficult to even read about someone like that, at least for me.

That being said, I found myself enjoying this book and looking forward to picking it up again each time I sat down to read it, and this was mostly because of DeLillo's writing style. He is completely inimitable, and writes like no other author I've ever read. His writing is short and dreamlike, cold, but in a strange way almost lyrical. It's fascinating. The one thing about his writing that might put off some people is his dialogue, and I've seen this in his other books that I've read so far, most notably Zero K: his dialogue just isn't believable. It's just not how real people talk. It's completely unrealistic, with the characters talking in fragments and finishing each other's sentences, like they are able to communicate telepathically and magically know what the other is thinking at all times.

And even when it's not like that, most of the rest of the time it's just nonsense that no human being would ever say to another person. His dialogue is so unrealistic that it actually takes me out of his books sometimes, so if I had an overarching complaint about him as a writer, it's definitely that.

The book has an interesting ending that, for me, was open-ended and raised more questions than it answered, leaving the book feeling a bit empty. However, in spite of this, it's incredibly unrealistic dialogue, and it's detestable protagonist, Cosmopolis is otherwise a uniquely and at times beautifully written contemporary novel that can be quite insightful, and is far more eventful and engaging than you would expect, given its premise. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but if you generally enjoy contemporary literature that offers something different, or if you're already a DeLillo fan and know what to expect, I'd say this is worth checking out.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
812 reviews880 followers
July 24, 2020
A generous four stars for DeLillo's take on Cheever's story "The Swimmer," a mythic trip through midtown gridlock for a haircut, a 28-year-old master of the digitized finance universe right around the time of the dot-com collapse. Easy reading, orderly, clean compared to Players or Ratner's Star (the last two DeLillo novels I read). Worth it for quick observations about ATMs and the like. An unreal ghost trip in a white stretch limo, hopping on and off for meals, sex (at least four sessions with four different women), a riot protest in Times Square reminiscent of recent events, a film shoot featuring a crowd of naked people playing dead. Interestingly interspersed with two sections of the confession of our Bret Easton Ellis-like anti-hero's eventual killer, providing just enough narrative drive. An ironically audacious scene of touchless empathy intercourse to completion while a doctor palpates Eric's asymmetrical prostate. Loved that he incorporated a common line of criticism - "his best songs were sensational and even the ones that were not good were good." This isn't his best but it's still good, or at least easy, thoughtful, fun, and filled with perceptions rendered with total attention to the sound and vision of every phrase.
Profile Image for Schuyler.
208 reviews62 followers
July 11, 2008
This is book number eight on my journey to read everything written by Don DeLillo. I have not yet read his more famous works, Libra and White Noise, though I'm kind of saving them because in a way, I know it's probably going to be 'down hill' from there. That is to say, Underworld, Libra, and White Noise are probably his best work. So I'm jumping around them. Well, I did read Underworld, but I will probably end up re-reading that one.

Everyone seems to either hate Cosmopolis or just appreciate it for its stylistic prose but nothing else. And that seems to be how most people feel about DeLillo. What first drew me to DeLillo was his ability to write a sentence, to say things about the world that I had never dreamed of even thinking about, and then say them in a way that was simple, beautiful, ethereal, and complex. He is a man obsessed with words on a page: how they look, how they sound, the musicality of language. I often feel as if I am reading poetry. His later works, such as The Body Artist, Cosmopolis, and most recently, Falling Man, are becoming more and more abstract. I don't know if it's backlash from Underworld, which was massive and exhausting but in a good way, and now he feels the need to pare his work down to the bare essentials, to compress and compact his novels until he's just writing in between blank spaces. His last three novels combined don't add up to Underworld, page wise.

So I gave Cosmopolis four stars. I read it in about two days. I found it oddly compelling. The language is stunning. Just really amazing stuff. And I love the events and situations he puts his characters in. I'm not saying I understood/understand what he's doing all the time, in this post-Underworld space he has made for himself, but I enjoy it all the same, and I find him inspirational, both in how I live in this world, and how I choose to place myself more clearly into this world through words on a page. I will leave you with an excerpt from the end of the book...

"The things that made him could hardly be identified much less converted into data, the things that lived and milled in his body, everywhere, random, riotous, billions of trillions, in the neurons and peptides, the throbbing temple vein, in the veer of his libidinous intellect. So much come and gone, this is who he was, the lost taste of milk from his mother's breast, the stuff he sneezes when he sneezes, this is him, and how a person becomes the reflection he sees in a dusty window when he walks by. He'd come to know himself, untranslatably, through his pain. He felt so tired now. His hard-gotten grip on the world, material things, great things, his memories true and false, the vague malaise of winter twilights, untransferable, the pale nights when his identity flattens for lack of sleep, the small wart he feels on his thigh every time he showers, all him, and how the soap he uses, the smell and feel of the concave bar make him who he is because he names the fragrance, amandine, and the hang of his cock, untransferable, and his strangely achy knee, the click in his knee when he bends it, all him, and so much else that's not convertible to some high sublime, the technology of mind-without-end."
Profile Image for Eileen.
257 reviews6 followers
December 4, 2013
It's a weird and complicated novel. Absolutely not something I would normally read. It reminds me of the literary books I had to read for my High school graduation exams. So why torture myself and read it?
Well, in May 2011 David Cronenberg will start filming the movie based on this novel that will be released somewhere in 2012. The very talented Robert Pattinson (who I adore) will play the role of Eric Packer, a newly wed financial wizard and billionaire, who drives through town (New York) in his limo to get a haircut.
I think the part of Eric, who is pretty (excuse me for the language) f*cked up, will be very challenging for Rob. There are some scenes I'm really looking forward to see on the big screen and some saucy lines I'm really looking forward to hear coming from Rob's mouth.

Eric is like this multi-billionaire genius prince who lives isolated in his ivory tower and owns a white horse (limo). He seems to have everything, but yet he has nothing. He's bored, there is no challenge, no satisfaction, he's totally disconnected from the outside world (no friends, doesn't look people in the face/eyes, doesn't know/recognize his own wife), he has a medical condition that frightens him and he doesn't know what to do anymore. He wants to break free, to live, before he dies. He's ready to take the plunge which is pretty courageous for a control-freak like Eric and he wants to do it perfect.
During his limo ride through New York, he tries to connect to the world and 'his' women, he removes all obstacles, gets rid of everything until he's stripped and is ready to face... the end.

I would be lying if I say that I understand everything that's written in this book, because I don't. It's very poetic, the story has many layers, is confusing, crazy, weird and absolutely no easy read. I always take things too literally and that's why I have problems reading books like this one, but I'm still talking with others about this book and every day I discover new things. I didn't expect it, but I think it's a really interesting story and different from everything else I have ever read. My experience is that the more times you read it the more interesting it becomes.
I admit if it wasn't for Rob, I would have never read it, but I'm glad I did. I think you have to see this book (and the movie) as a piece of art, you think about it, you talk about it, you admire it (or not) and never fully understand what's it all about and that's totally fine.

For the people that are interested in the movie and need help understanding the book should pay a visit to:
Profile Image for Luís.
1,949 reviews615 followers
November 13, 2021
At first, I almost had the impression of reading a novel of anticipation. An environment that is corrupt and governed by profit, an unsympathetic character, without any human feeling, consults countless screens to analyze and decipher the world. Eric Packer has it all, yet his life is empty! It is no longer part of the real world. It belongs to an electronic future as Holden Caulfield in The Catcher wonders where the Central Park ducks spend the winter, the hero of Cosmopolis wonders where the white limousines spend the night. Quite a symbol! But one day, Packer leaves his glass tower to have his hair cut in his childhood neighbourhood. He climbs aboard his ultra-modern armoured car and decides to drive through New York. From that moment, Eric switches to real life. Misery, violence, death, filth, the others. It becomes lively, denser but this will cause its fall. Awareness of suicide? I do not know. In any case, this novel is impressive. In large part, thanks to his punchy style. Even if I sometimes felt a little lost in this strange journey, to the point of not always understanding where the author was coming from, I remained seduced by Cosmopolis.
Profile Image for Roula.
524 reviews147 followers
February 8, 2017
αυτο ειναι το 3ο βιβλιο του Delillo που διαβασα και αυτο που μου αρεσε περισσοτερο. σιγουρα θα αναζητησω κσι αλλα εργα του συγγραφεα αυτου.

Η ιστορια εκτυλισσεται κατα κυριο λογο κ σχεδον αποκλειστικα στην τεραστια λιμουζινα του 28χρονου πολυεκατομμυριουχου Ερικ.Ξεκινα μια διαδρομη για ενα..κουρεμα.Εμεις λοιπον τον ακολουθουμε σε αυτη την διαδρομη στη Νεα Υορκη του 2000 στην οποια επικρατει αναβρασμος εν μεσω διαδηλωσεων, επιθεσεων(ακομη και εναντια στον πρωταγωνιστη ως εκπροσωπου του καπιταλισμου) , επισκεψεων του προεδρου των ΗΠΑ ,ακομη και της κηδειας ενος διασημου ραπερ(μια απο τις αγαπημενες μου σκηνες).ολη αυτη η "αναστατωση" λοιπον τι αλλο θα μπορουσε να προμηνυει παρα δυσαρεστα γεγονοτα..και εκει ακριβως οδηγειται η κατασταση.εκει θελει να μας οδηγησει ο συγγραφεας.στο κλισε οτι το χρημα μπορει να αγορασει τα παντα ,αλλα οχι και την ισορροπία και την αθανασια..και ακριβως σε αυτο το κλισε καταληγει η ιστορια αλλα η διαδρομη ως εκει (με λιμουζινα, παρακαλω) καθε αλλο παρα κλισε ειναι..
4 αστερια.
Profile Image for Ruby.
602 reviews4 followers
April 15, 2017
"He said, 'My prostrate is assymetrical.'
His voice was barely audible. There was a pause that lasted half a minute. He felt the subject regard him carefully, the other. There was a sense of human involvement.
'So is mine,' Benno whispered."

I don't have time for this, ironic or not.
Profile Image for W.D. Clarke.
Author 3 books272 followers
June 28, 2016
For me, the slightest of the novels of DeLillo's that I've read (and I am not talking about length), and also the most disappointing, despite the compulsively readable prose. Here's why: One could read Cosmopolis as the logical outcome of what I would call the "economic sublime" that Fredric Jameson begins to outline in his influential Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, where Capitalism is an inevitable, all-pervading, almost naturalized force that colonizes every corner of the life-world but that is itself unknowable, the only transcendental signifier.

In Cosmopolis, it is not capitalism itself but a remorselessly technological deterministic finance that has driven every aspect of life into the market culture so inescapable that even a protest where lines from Marx’s Manifesto are hacked onto a giant stock-ticker display is a part of the system -‘a market fantasy’ (99) is revealed as a form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating an unfathomable machine. Indeed, for Cosmopolis the only action still outside the system is the ability to take one’s own life - though that too is sought by the cameras, and is considered ‘unoriginal’ , perhaps in an aesthetic sense, by Vija Kinski, his ‘chief of theory’, who seems to be speaking for the author in the following aestheticization of what once went by the name of political economy:

"But we have to give the word a little leeway. Adapt it to the current situation. Because money has taken a turn. All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. There's no other kind of enormous wealth. Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself [...] And property follows of course. The concept of property is changing by the day, by the hour. The enormous expenditures that people make for land and houses and boats and planes. This has nothing to do with traditional self-assurances, okay. Property is no longer about power, personality and command. It's not about vulgar display or tasteful display. Because it no longer has weight or shape. The only thing that matters is the price you pay."

I just feel that DeLillo is usually better than this-- by reducing capitalism to some unknowably sublime process in which "money is talking to itself", he is taking the political out of political economy -- something that, post-2008, post-Picketty, is demonstrably false, however it seemed to reflect the zeitgeist of its time.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews651 followers
May 14, 2021
I read this book when it was first published back in 2003. This time through it was book 13 in my “publication order re-read” of all things Delillo.

I had forgotten what a weird book Cosmopolis is!

You could build a strong argument to say the book is a dream sequence. It all happens during a single day and only takes just over 200 pages. A multi-billionaire, Eric Packer, decides to drive across New York in his stretch limo (fitted with priceless art and state-of-the-art technology) to get a haircut. Along the way he has sex four times with four different women, has four random meetings with his new wife, who is fabulously rich and beautiful (including once when they are both naked amongst several hundred naked bodies lying in the street as movie extras), encounters a burst water main and then a huge anti-capitalism demonstration that includes a self-immolation, and is consistently stalked by a potential assassin. Oh, and he is worried because he seems to sometimes react to things just before they actually happen.

This is a dream, right? Or a nightmare. The protester who sets fire to himself seems to be an image of Packer’s own purpose in the book to destroy himself. He is borrowing unbelievable amounts of yen at huge costs in the belief that the yen cannot go higher on the currency markets and increase his costs further. But it keeps on rising. And he keeps on borrowing. He seeks out experiences that will make him feel alive by bringing him close to death (at one point he asks one of his security guards to taser him).

The book is distilled Delillo, I think. It addresses the key themes that Delillo is known for (crowds, technology, American life etc.). It is heavy with the dialogue that characterises Delillo’s books and that is unlike the dialogue in anyone else’s books.

I went into this books with vague memories of having read it 18 years ago and with vague memories of watching the movie version. I was aware as I started it that it is, in general, slated in the press reviews and considered one of Delillo’s weaker efforts.

I have to say I really liked it on this second reading. This was Delillo’s first novel post-9/11 and you have to think that a man who has spent his life writing about American life can’t ignore that in the next book he produces. But the truth is that Delillo had largely foreshadowed something like 9/11 in his earlier works. And here the references are slight and subtle (New York high rise buildings are referred to "the last tall things, made empty, designed to hasten the future", for example, and the typical American is described as getting their global political awareness from the immigrant taxi drivers). It’s quiet about this, and the better for it, I think.

I’m surprised by the poor reception this book received and by the generally poor reader reviews on Goodreads. I found it a fascinating read. I think I might have to re-watch the movie while the book is fresh in my mind.

UPDATE: I re-watched the movie the next day and it's pretty true to the book apart from a significant structural change (no cut away from Packer) and a couple of things missed out. Most of the dialogue is lifted directly from the book as far as I could tell.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews887 followers
November 16, 2011
This week I have read two Don DeLillo books; this one and White Noise, which thus far I have been too lazy to review. This may be regarded as a strange turn of events as after reading The Body Artist (my first foray into Don’s world), I had already bitterly sworn not to pick up another of his books. Anyway for one reason and another (causality :Don DeLillo books on sale for £2 each in HMV) here we are and I’ve read two more of his books with Underworld sitting, brooding darkly on my to-be-read shelf.

If you have ever:
Made a billion
Lost a billion
Played the markets
Killed a man
Married a woman you do not know
Selectively read half poems in bookshops
Laid naked in the street
Shot yourself

Then you may find it quite easy to empathise with protagonist Eric Packer, multi-billionaire, statistical genius and modern day lost soul. If not, then like me, you might struggle a bit. Similarly if you have an asymmetrical prostate then you’ll be all over this one.

Virtually the entire plot unfurls from within the confines of Packer’s ridiculous white stretch Limo which is enroute between his 48 rooms apartment and the barbers. But that is OK because the substance contained within the white Limo is a bit ridiculous too but then that is because the space and its content are an allegory, or a metaphor or an analogy for the journey through modern life.... or something. The strife on the streets matches, reflects and gives a voice to Packer’s own internal turmoil - a collective release and a ripple effect. He watches acts of anarchy on TV screens inside his Limo when the riots are taking place directly outside his window. Parker is the living breathing unattached buffered modern day man drifting through life with the trappings of things cutting of his view of the world.

The confining space is matched by the sparse, sharp edged confining descriptions and dialogue which made me feel a bit like someone was taking a paring knife to my temporal lobe in order to remove extraneous matter. The words are nakedly stripped in a way which is painful to read. I won’t pretend this book made total sense, much like I won’t pretend this review makes total sense either. Maybe that is DeLillo causality. Don DeLillo flaps his wings in the Amazon(.com) and my reviews stop making sense on goodreads.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,302 reviews22.1k followers
May 23, 2009
I really enjoyed this book, enjoyed it in ways that I rarely enjoy novels. It is a couple of years since I read it and so I can only leave you with the impressions of it that have lasted. This is a book about the world that has built up around us and how even those who we might be excused for thinking ‘understand’ that world (we might perhaps even be tempted to claim they have ‘built’ that world) actually are as much acted upon and victims of it as we are.

The best summary I could give of this book is that it is the fictional version of Fooled by Randomness The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets.

There are moments in DeLillo’s writing when I nearly forget to breathe. It doesn’t happen often, so I’ll count them out for you. There is that moment in the hotel room in Americana where the script is written on the hotel room’s walls. There is that couple of pages in Mao II where the women are watching the funeral on television (and perhaps the two weddings that start and end that novel too). There is also the fire at the mental institution in White Noise. These are all simply incomparable pieces of writing. If I had written any of these I think I would be able to die happy.

In this novel he has stolen his greatest image from Tunick’s work as documented in Naked States an utterly fascinating documentary (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0259453/). All the same, the idea of having the central character in this novel dressed and walking around bewildered in one of these photoshoots with seemingly thousands of naked people lying on the ground about him is perhaps one of the most interesting images I have received from a modern novel in quite some time.

Profile Image for Jen.
8 reviews5 followers
February 11, 2011
If this is your first DeLillo, back away slowly and pick up a copy of White Noise or maybe the The Body Artist instead. (Unless you're breathless with anticipation to hear Robert Pattinson mutter the words "I want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on" while he submits to a prostate exam in crosstown traffic. In that case...well, carry on.)

Cosmopolis reads as more cultural theory/critique than novel, with exaggerated but vacant characters and implausible setpieces that are really no more than conduits for DeLillo's postmodernist riffs on global economics, innovation versus obsolescence, and the mystical patterns of nature and technology. However, I'm willing to forgive Mr. DeLillo his silly plotting because his writing is so insanely compelling. At the risk of repeating myself, Dude can write a fucking sentence.

Favorite moment: wading into the Spencer Tunick-style sea of nudity and - oh, why not? - deciding to join in. Runner-up, for sheer absurdity: the would-be Pie Assassin.

I also enjoyed Packer's mental meta-ramblings on anachronism (skyscrapers, ATMs), the abstraction of time, and the weird temporal displacement he observes on his fancy limo monitors and - at the book's culmination - on his even fancier watch.

The aforementioned prostate? It's asymmetrical. That might be all Eric Packer needs to know about his own obsolescence.

Regarding the movie adaptation...color me skeptical. For me, DeLillo's genius resides in his meticulous wordsmithing, not his plots, and I can't imagine translating the sublime experience of reading him to the screen. Although if anyone can create something delightfully weird and mildly unwatchable out of this, it's probably Cronenberg.
Profile Image for Ivan.
357 reviews53 followers
June 21, 2019
La distruzione secondo il punto di vista del capitalismo e dell’anarchia nichilista
«-Lavora con te quanto più agisce in base alle stesse premesse… per enfatizzare ancora di più l’idea che ci diamo tutti.
-Quale idea?
-Distruzione. – disse lei».

Le ultime 24 ore di un turbo-capitalista finanziario di NY, afflitto dall’insonnia a dal superominismo nichilista. Lunghe descrizioni, monologhi e flussi di coscienza; pochi i dialoghi, sufficienti ad affermare il Sé. Il passato è divorato e rimosso (il passato è il senso di colpa); il futuro è divorato dal presente e dall’Io. L’immortalità? Una speranza nella tecnologia futura che dia campo all’Io smaterializzato di espandere all’infinito il profitto. La scienza? Un modello matematico che permetta di descrivere perfettamente i flussi della moneta e dei mercati.

L’ecosistema? Una città mostruosa, ipertrofica e anonima, degradata e congestionata; quartieri invivibili e preda dell’immondizia entropica; una società civile fatta a pezzi e annichilita.
In una parola: Distruzione prossima ventura, anzi, già iniziata.

Il caso? Una prostrata asimmetrica; un paranoico omicida; un manifestante che si dà fuoco per protesta; un autista africano con una cicatrice all’occhio, fuggito a un colpo di stato e alle torture; un happening notturno di body art; una bottega di barbiere ove mangiare alle una di notte un pasticcio di melanzane.
Oh Fortuna imperatrix mundi!

Avevo dato tre stelle a DeLillo, ma ripensandoci gliene do quattro, e ‘nu miezz.
Profile Image for Marguerite Kaye.
Author 232 books333 followers
December 2, 2011
I'm not completely sure what existential angst is, but I am pretty certain this book gave me it. And nightmares. And it made me laugh out loud in places too, and some of the language stopped me in my tracks - mostly in a good way.

This was horribly compelling, utterly terrifying and unfortunately rang an awful lot of bells. In many ways it was picaresque a sort of modern-day Tom Jones journey through Manhatten, or maybe more like Alice Through the Looking Glass (meets Bonfire of the Vanities). What was so awful was that the 'vision' portrayed has already come true, and that's what gave me the nightmares, because it didn't feel like a too-stretched or too-ironic take on our world. Our fear that we're missing out, our cult of obsolesence, the constant striving for the next new thing and the next - I wish I could say it felt exaggerated, but it didn't.

This sounds bleak beyond enjoyment and it was, often, but the humour saved it. I won't spoil it, but the doctor scene, and the pastry thrower had me in stitches. I'm a major fan of Don DeLillo, but he's a writer I have to take in very small doses. In fact, I'm not going to OD on very, very light romance as an antidote.

I would highly recommend this - but don't read it if you're already depressed, and definitely don't read it just before you go to sleep.
Profile Image for Abe.
264 reviews74 followers
April 29, 2021
Cosmopolis has certainly received an unfair amount of criticism. I mean, you should know going into this book (if you are of the 99% who read the blurbs before reading the books) that nearly all of the action takes place in one limo in a single day - don't expect the story to follow a typical narrative arc. Not only is it not supposed to, but this book wouldn't work that way. It functions mainly on dialogue, and damn what beautiful dialogue it is.

This book is about the details, the why, the symbols, the duality of man. Rats for currency, the yen can't rise, the yen must rise; the limos are white, wealth for wealth's sake. Marriage for money's sake when neither sex nor money is an issue. There's a lot to stew over here.

The book is short enough to engage consistently without a traditional narrative.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
476 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2012
Strangely this novel has received many negative reviews. Most of them compare this book against other Delillo works and feel it falls below his usual standard of excellence in prose. Having only read one, at this point, my view is very different.
The novel is based on a day in the life of its main character, Eric Packer, a 28 year old brilliant Wall Street currency trader who has made billions of dollars anticipating the market trends of worldwide currency. Not unlike Joyce's, "Ulysses" and Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" Delillo opens the story with Packer's decision that "we" need to get a haircut. And where he chooses to have that haircut is across town, on a busy day in NYC, complicated by a US presidential visit to the UN and the security that results in ultimate traffic gridlock. The time is April, in the year 2000, before the internet stock market bubble burst. It is within the shelter of Packer's uber-equipped limo that we are introduced to his life and his world.
Packer is brilliant, obsessive to the most minute detail flashed on the several plasma screens within his limo, but has become disconnected from his humanity. Think Alvin Toffler and "Future Shock" 1970. Using mathematical formulas of probability and scientific physical theories of natural repetition, often interpreted in economics as a market predictor, he has become a financial wunderkind, revered and hated simultaneously, all over the world. His power is enormous. There are those that worship him, and those that hate him, both beyond reason. His trade orders can shut down economies, countries and banks and he knows it. The making of money for him is abstract and unconnected with jobs and individual needs for survival. He could care less. To him, it is a game against himself. Nothing more. And when he wins, there is no pleasure, no sense of satisfaction. It is 24/7, 365 days a year. The markets never sleep.
Unable to interact socially and emotionally, Packer becomes hyperfocused on his health and mortality. His limo has EKG monitors and examining tables. And, very bizarrely, he has obsessed over an incidental observation made by a physician that he has an "asymmetrical prostate". This observation results in intolerable anxiety for Packer, to such a degree that he pays for daily visits by doctors for prostate and heart exams. An EKG is not a big deal but daily prostate exams? Unpleasant at the very least and his need for it is telling.
On this particular day the Japanese yen's value continues to rise. Packer is betting against it, and despite the strong recommendations of his advisors, he stays on course. There are interactions, observations and events that occur over the period of his morning stuck in traffic, that threaten his well-being, both literally and figuratively. His security people tell him that there is a "credible threat" to his safety. Other executives in finance have been assassinated, but he dismisses their recommendations and continues on course.
As the traffic inches forward he begins to thaw, his confidence wanes, and he ultimately realizes that he has misjudged the market and has brought about his own downfall. Somehow this pleases him and he ensures it by hacking into his new wife's online account and losing her several million dollar inheritance as well. He has no shame in bringing everything down upon him. Banks, corporations, world economies. This is Part 1.
The second part of the book takes place in the afternoon, when his journey cross town is interrupted again by the funeral of a Sufi rapper musician he admires. He becomes emotionally overwhelmed by the display of grief and respect shown to this man by those who care for him. He finds his limo within a massive anti-capitalist, anti-tech protest, bordering on a riot. His limo is pelted with rocks and in every window he sees raging individuals.
Experiencing body sobs he starts noticing storefronts and the minutiae of everyman's daily life and then reflects on the barber shop he is attempting to reach. It is where his late father took him as a little boy. He knows he has destroyed his life, and that of countless others, but there is no going back. Nihilistic, he expects to die and finds this freeing. In the course of the afternoon he kills his security guard while examining his weapon, his intentionality is unclear, but there is no remorse. And he finally meets the credible threat.
This is extraordinarily well-written and timely. This was published in 2003, well before the 2009 US financial meltdown. Prophetic but deep. Had to read it three times before I could put it all together.
Profile Image for Tom.
Author 6 books192 followers
June 25, 2008
Supposedly, an old grad school teachers once said the following about a classmate's story: "There isn't an ounce of the milk of human kindness anywhere in this."

That pretty much applies here. I almost stopped on page 51 when the main character says, "I want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on," and then the woman climaxes without being touched. But I kept going because i hate giving up on books. Didn't get much better from there. Bad, choppy, inhuman dialogue. Overly preachy, pitifully oversimplified, aggressively cynical. A hateful world filled with hateful characters. Not an enjoyable read at all.

Plus, this is at least the second Delillo book featuring a pivotal scene in which hundreds of people lie on the ground and pretend to be dead (also in White Noise). Somehow loses its flair the second time around.
Profile Image for Meseceva.
50 reviews17 followers
June 24, 2018
Ponestalo mi je reči kojima bih objasnila zašto me se Kosmopolis toliko dojmio. Ima ovde nešto uticaja Kamija, Ostera (kome pisac i posvećuje delo), delovi koje “piše” Beno Levin podsećaju na minijaturnu verziju Sabatovog Izveštaja o slepima. No, Kosmopolisom ipak dominira originalan i snažan izraz, haotičnost i gustina, vapaj za smislom i još mnogo motiva i slojeva koji zavise od stepena prijemčivosti čitaoca. Stoga, izbegavati u širokom luku ukoliko ste u fazi mira i harmonije sa sobom i okolnim svetom.
Profile Image for Sarah.
186 reviews410 followers
February 9, 2022
“People think about who they are in the stillest hour of the night. I carry this thought, the child's mystery and terror of this thought, I feel this immensity in my soul every second of my life.”
Profile Image for Alex Telander.
Author 16 books157 followers
February 1, 2011
This is my second attempt with Don DeLillo, the first being last year’s The Body Artist, and having read Cosmopolis, I still don’t know what all the fuss is about this guy. Maybe it’s an “East Coaster” thing, for the guy just doesn’t impress me much. He’s the kind of author who attempts to use long words, complex run-on sentence, and go off on long and boring tangents which really have no bearing on the novel, and any real meaning or truth to offer the reader.

Cosmopolis is about a really rich guy who decided that he doesn’t want to have his barber come to his skyscraper with his huge office to cut his hair. Instead he’s going to take the limo across New York to have the barber cut his hair at his shop. As Mr. Rich attempts to cross town, the president is at the same time coming through with his vast motorcade, and has his life threatened by an assassin. So traffic essentially slows to a complete crawl, while Mr. Rich comfortably travels in his limo.

Along the way, for some reason (probably because he’s that rich!), he gets out of the car and meets people he knows, has sex with wives, ex-wives, and “little bits on the side” in their car and their apartment, and all this stuff happens while he is trying to get to the barber shop; essentially about a rich guy using his riches.

So if you would like to read about what it would be like to be so rich that you can get and do absolutely anything you want, read Cosmopolis, and get lost in long sentences that lead you into endless cul-de-sacs.

Originally published on May 12th, 2003 ©Alex C. Telander.

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Profile Image for Pamela W.
254 reviews3 followers
April 12, 2008
Listened to this on audio during the commute and found the reader's voice really grating. Main character? Creepy and hateful, but not in a provocative way. More annoying. I don't generally enjoy reading (or listening) to lengthy soliloquies that are just excuses for phrases/random analogies or waxing on life's headier ponderances. Sounded forced, not ---ophical (insert prefix of choice). I wanted to perpetrate violence by the end of this story time, and I don't mean riotous/life-affirming violence but just cold, gangsta ass-kicking. In a word...huh?
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