Friday, January 16, 2004

Wow -- so I'm not the only one. Other people had a hard time plowing through Underworld,too. Gary Marshall in Spike:

"...other stories are neglected for over 400 pages before reappearing at the end of the novel, causing an unwelcome jolt as the reader tries to remember the pertinent details.

"In this respect 'Underworld' is a victim of its own ambition: by trying to cover such a wide range of characters and situations, DeLillo loses track of some of them and, in the latter parts of the novel in particular, the writing feels as if it is on autopilot while the author works out what to do next. "

See, I started thinking about this book today. I saw a girl reading it a lunch and I asked her if she liked it. She said she had only read the first 50 pages and thought it was pretty good; I told her the first 50 pages of that monster were all I remembered. She was a student and if I'm not terribly mistaken she looked at me as if I'm a superficial reader of the genius DeLillo, which, hell, I may be. All I recall is that the son-of-a-bitch took me three or four months to read and that by the end I was moving on sheer willpower. It bored me. What wearied me about it was DeLillo's ironic tone, which was more tolerable in books like Libra or Mao II, both well under half the length of Underworld. I got tired of listening to him, and thinking back over the book these several years later all I can remember is that it had something to do with a baseball, waste management, and a painter who seemed to vaguely resemble Georgia O'Keefe. And something at the end about the Internet. Maybe I ought to return to it, read it with more energy, connect with it in the way all its many advocates did. But maybe I'm just not a DeLillo reader; I started White Noise some months back and set it down after 20 pages -- that voice of his just bugs me; he's the kind of writer Dr. Spock from "Star Trek" would be if he were a novelist, I think. He writes like a Vulcan would, as if he sees the human race as this rather enigmatic species.

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