0065 | Underworld ~ Don DeLillo

REVIEW
Having got to the end of this finally last night, I can be very glad of one thing: I can speed-read. This has to be one of the most boring books I’ve read for a while. DeLillo is verbose and he does himself no favours by breaking up the coherence of the text intentionally. It’s a labour to read, to follow, to understand and to appreciate.

An example of this is Manx Martin. This is a three-part story that runs every 200 pages. Because the book is so labouriously slow, you’ve forgotten what happened three weeks ago when you were last reading about Manx. The episodes are important for the plot of the novel. Why they have to be spread over the entire book like this is beyond me.

There’s an entire section of over 130 pages which consists of snippets from life over the 1950s and 1960s and has nothing whatever to do with the characters you’ve been attempting to follow for 500 pages.

In all, it’s as if the guy typed out 800+ pages of a story and, as he was heading for the stapler, tripped and scattered it all over his living room before finally binding it up. But no, it can’t be. The guy has a tendency to do this even within pages.

He’ll develop an episode, say, 10 pages long. He’ll think of three or six themes, write them, and then splice these up and interweave them so that each successive paragraph is about a completelly different aspect of the episode. You encounter the same topic every five or six paragraphs but it plays havoc with your mind. Sure, this could be used to effect but it seems to me that DeLillo likes to be different for the worst possible reason: for the sake of it.

Take the scene where Nick Shay blows someone’s head off by mistake (there, I’ve spoiled the entire book for you now 😉 ). After the gun goes off, DeLillo restates the microcosm of events no less than 15 times, a whole page of the event restated. If this was a 200 page novel, this would be significant stylistically. It’s simply lost when it occurs on page 780. It’s overdone.

This was no more evident to me than when I came to enter this book in my blog. I set about checking off all the tags I could apply to the book. Now, you can see my tag list right. It’s that list twice as long as you are down the right hand side of the page you’re looking at [at least it was when I wrote this review! – Aruk.] In all of that, look at the top of this post to see how many I thought were relevant. That capped it for me. I’d read a book 800 pages long which was pretty much about nothing.

Oh… and before I forget, I haven’t read an American novel with so little perspective for quite some time. If we really need to hear more about the USA, then this is a significant book. Trouble is, we really don’t.

OPENING LINE
He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.

WORDS
argot | bialy | boccie

CLOSING LINE
Peace.

RATING:
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb

  • Bellezza October 29, 2007, 9:57 am

    I bought this book years ago, and I have yet to finish it. I’m glad to hear you’re a speed reader, because I am not, and now I doubt I’ll ever work my way through to the end. Thanks for the confirmation!

    Reply
  • Arukiyomi October 29, 2007, 11:04 pm

    Hey Bellezza… long time no hear. Glad to see you’re still reading this at least 😉

    Yeah, I wouldn’t bother if it hasn’t gripped you yet. There’s so much else out there that we should be spending our limited time on.

    Reply
  • Sarra November 12, 2007, 5:08 am

    Great review. I read this book back when it came out and everyone was raving over it. I absolutely loved the first chapter (at least I think it was the first chapter) which covered the baseball game. I kept wondering if someone else had written the rest of the book which I found tiresome and tedious.

    Glad to finally find someone with a similar opinion. 🙂

    Reply
  • Arukiyomi November 12, 2007, 10:25 am

    Sarra… yes that is a good opening chapter isn’t it, despite what the rest of the book is like. I should have mentioned that.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: