Dan's Reviews > Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
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's review
Apr 28, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012

an oil-and-water mix of brilliance and over-bearing allegory. the good outweighs the bad.

it's amazing that this book was written in 2003, because it ever-so-slightly predates the apex of corporate-greed-entropy in america. it's hard not to see mark zuckerberg in eric packer, the 28-year-old billionaire at the heart of the story. his icy, semi-autistic demeanor, technological zealotry and fascination with the movement of capital calls to mind the facebook guru immediately (they're even the same age as i type this). in the same breath, i'm also reminded of the 2008 financial crisis as packer's downfall unravels... not so much because it's a tragedy, but because it's the logical endgame of a vicious circle of privilege, where the very wealthy get wealthier by moving around other people's money. delillo seems horrified and fascinated by this, and he's quite good at laying out the odd fantasies that produce an eric packer - as well as the culture that's too complicit and solipsistic to bump him off of the gravy train. there's a particularly fatalistic passage in which packer's limo glides through an anarchist uprising that characterizes this perfectly. i'm excited to see what david cronenberg does with it on film. "team edward" could be a smart casting move after all...

on the other hand, not all of it works. and parts of cosmopolis feel like an endless string of unlikely non-sequiturs. there's a digression involving a sufi rap star that's almost embarrassingly misguided (delillo has many strengths; inventing rap lyrics isn't one of them), and some of the metaphorical maneuvers are annoyingly self-conscious. but i finished it with plenty of thoughts to untangle in my head, so the bumpy ride was certainly worth it.
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03/30 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Philip Bardach I sometimes cut DeLillo slack for some of his misguided fictional slip-ups if the ideas are there. However, it seems that over the last decade or so (i.e. post-Underworld) he has kind of been coasting on rehashing his thematic fixations in a manner abstract to the point that it feels vacant & self-parodic (tossed off even) & Cosmopolis to me is certainly no exception.

A part of me was convinced that DeLillo was inspired by the death of Mr. B. Smalls & instead of listening to any rap decided to imagine what rap is like instead?

message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan A part of me was convinced that DeLillo was inspired by the death of Mr. B. Smalls & instead of listening to any rap decided to imagine what rap is like instead?

totally. there's also the sense that he can inject some sort of literary double-meaning into the usual rap recipe, as if all sorts of rappers (even the most sexist and materialistic) don't do that already all the time.

i think the abstraction of cosmopolis is an inevitable by-product of telling the story he wants to tell. i agree that it's self-parodic, though i haven't read underworld (maybe soon?), and to be honest white noise kinda struck me as a pretty dated confession of pomo anxiety in the first place - i actually like cosmopolis quite a bit better. i'm not sure how he might have written this story without the occasionally obvious and clunky metaphors. and i think the good parts are pretty good, i guess.

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