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Underworld [Paperback]

Don DeLillo
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 July 1998
Opens at the Shea Stadium at the World Series Game of 1951, where the ball is caught by a young, black man in the crowd, and continues to change hands throughout the book. The various recipients of the ball tell the story of post-war US history giving a panorama of America from the 50s to the 90s.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall & IBD; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction Ed edition (27 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684848155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684848150
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 555,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the Cold War and American culture, compelling that "swerve from evenness" in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying. Underworld opens with a breathlessly graceful prologue set during the final game of the Giants-Dodgers pennant race in 1951. Written in what DeLillo calls "super-omniscience" the sentences sweep from young Cotter Martin as he jumps the gate to the press box, soars over the radio waves, runs out to the diamond, slides in on a fast ball, pops into the stands where J. Edgar Hoover is sitting with a drunken Jackie Gleason and a splenetic Frank Sinatra, and learns of the Soviet Union's second detonation of a nuclear bomb. It's an absolutely thrilling literary moment. When Bobby Thomson hits Branca's pitch into the outstretched hand of Cotter--the "shot heard around the world"--and Jackie Gleason pukes on Sinatra's shoes, the events of the next few decades are set in motion, all threaded together by the baseball as it passes from hand to hand.

"It's all falling indelibly into the past," writes DeLillo, a past that he carefully recalls and reconstructs with acute grace. Jump from Giants Stadium to the Nevada desert in 1992, where Nick Shay, who now owns the baseball, reunites with the artist Kara Sax. They had been brief and unlikely lovers 40 years before, and it is largely through the events, spinoffs, and coincidental encounters of their pasts that DeLillo filters the Cold War experience. He believes that "global events may alter how we live in the smallest ways," and as the book steps back in time to 1951, over the following 800-odd pages, we see just how those events alter lives. This reverse narrative allows the author to strip away the detritus of history and pop culture until we get to the story's pure elements: the bomb, the baseball and the Bronx. In an epilogue as breathless and stunning as the prologue, DeLillo fast-forwards to a near future in which ruthless capitalism, the Internet, and a new, hushed faith have replaced the Cold War's blend of dread and euphoria.

Through fragments and interlaced stories--including those of highway killers, artists, celebrities, conspiracists, gangsters, nuns, and sundry others--DeLillo creates a fragile web of connected experience, a communal Zeitgeist that encompasses the messy whole of five decades of American life, wonderfully distilled. --Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘This book is an aria and a wolf whistle of our half-century’ -- Michael Ondaatje

‘Underworld is a magnificent book by an American master’ -- Salman Rushdie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
It took a big effort to read this - carrying around that extra weight to and from work and in planes, and having to search for the concentration to draw together the myriad threads of the storylines in the midst of the rest of my life. But I have to say that it was well worth the effort.
It is not just the length that daunts. This is not a "page-turner" in the normal sense. Whilst some sections draw you through, the majority of the text, for me, cried out to be read lovingly and for meaning - which meant that I had to slow right down to make sense of it all.
If you have the time, and energy, (and are prepared to read something almost wholly American) you should read this book. It is surely of the highest quality.
True - there were the odd fifty pages here or there which I struggled with. But that was counterbalanced with some moments of such emotion (the argument over which brother should look after the aging mother; the description of flying through the blast; the scenes of infidelity; the scene with the shotgun to name only a few) to make up for this many times over.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bravura opening fades away 9 April 2006
By Mr B
My advice: pick up this tome at your local bookshop and read the wonderfully evocative first 50-60 pages which describe a mythical baseball game at a pivotal moment in American history. Watch the game slowly unfold through the eyes of the youngster who vaults the turnstiles. Savour the descriptions of the stands going wild, the papers and programmes spiralling through the air and wonder on the fate of that coveted home run ball. And then replace your copy. For after this almighty beginning, Underworld's joys are but fleeting epiphanies. For me, De Lillo reads as if he is just trying too hard at times, and nowhere more so than in his constant reference to GenX assembly parts like linoleum and styrofoam in his descriptions. And it's such a shame because the set pieces are so huge in scale and ambition that you'd go with them, if the characters and situations didn't seem so studied, so plotted out. All the right tunes, but sadly minus the soul.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive and amazing 14 Feb 2012
Don DeLillo's Underworld opens with a baseball game at the Polo Grounds in the 1950s. The Dodgers are playing the Giants and we're introduced to the stadium through a black kid jumping the turnstiles and watching the game. In this opening salvo the point of view then switches from Cotter, the kid, to Frank Sinatra to Jackie Gleason to J Edgar Hoover. The game is a classic in American baseball history that saw batter Bobby Thomson hit a ball into the stands deep in the final innings to take the Giants to victory. It just so happens that on this day, October 3, 1951, the Soviets conduct a test nuclear explosion, and so begins two of the three intertwining themes of the novel: the journey of the baseball after Cotter manages to grab it in a scuffle, and the nuclear story that took place over the second half of the Twentieth Century. The final theme is that of civilisation's garbage; how we control and dispose of the rubbish we generate. There are other themes, art and media, religion and information, but the three mentioned above come back time and time again.

It's an incredible book, the most impressive I've ever read, if not the most enjoyable. Some parts are sublimely good. After the baseball game, for example, we are told the story of the Texas Highway Killer, a man who assassinates people by shooting them from a moving vehicle going the other way down an expressway.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, Brave and Beautiful. 31 Oct 2011
By Pierre
Format:Kindle Edition
This is undoubtedly one of the truly great novels. Not just of the second half of the twentieth century, but of all time.

It is not perfect. It perhaps a little too long. One or two of the characters, such as Klara, aren't completely resolved, and perhaps he doesn't make the art scene matter to us quite enough either. And yes, there were times when I wasn't sure who I was reading about.

But despite this, I'm not aware of much in life or in art that comes closer to perfection than this. Where it succeeds, it does so magnificently. Its exquisite language, its artistic imagination, its breadth of character, its ability to summon up not only events but the entire sense of experience, its exploration of other people's identities, all these things are so beautifully and grippingly executed.

Masterful, brave, beautiful. I can't praise it highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great American Novel 29 July 2011
Thoroughly deserves its place amongst novels classified as the "Great American Novel" ,such as Moby Dick. Awesome and poetic at the same time, It achieves that perfect mixture of the personal with the epic. I can't really adequately begin to describe what its really about or what makes it so special - loosely it's a history of the US through the Cold War-era, told in a sort of reverse order flashback - but that description does it no justice. If you have the patience, try this. P.S. the name is perhaps a little misleading - it's not a 'gangster' novel, "Underworld" being more of a metaphor for the interconnectedness of things and those connections being obscure and hidden.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Far too long
Far to long! Gave up at 60% as too boring. No likeable characters and no direction.
Published 6 days ago by K. Littlejohn
4.0 out of 5 stars encore
Touching and at times lyrically sharp and but also lurid. A great writer is able to inhabit the world around him, in DeLillo you can find the translation for a thousand American... Read more
Published 1 month ago by James Baines
2.0 out of 5 stars Underworld - overrated.
I, like many who came to this book under their own steam, was attracted to it by the sheer amount of critical acclaim it had received. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Time To Waste
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written but........zzzzzzzzzzzz
The sublime writing and ambitious non-linear structure is to be admired but ultimately this book just bored my balls off.
Published 5 months ago by Donkbettilidie
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is very very very dull.
I hated this very turgid , portentous, pretentious, dreary book a great deal. I brought it on holiday and so was compelled to soldier on to the bitter end. Read more
Published 10 months ago by JosephB
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming and Overwritten
If DeLillo was trying to write the `Great American Novel' then he surely must have known that brevity has always been the prima facia characteristic of such works. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mark Sean Tynan
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
The envelope was unfit to contain this book, entirely open.
It is disappointing because it would suffice common sense and care to deliver a
book properly.
Published 24 months ago by Valentinuz Matteo
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
I brought Underworld after reading White Noise which I also think is superb. Once again I was astounded by DeLillo's beautiful style & language creating such detailed scenes which... Read more
Published on 25 May 2011 by Charlie C
3.0 out of 5 stars James confirmed
One dares hardly praise Delillo's beautiful writing (unworthy), but while I loved his repetitiveness he seems to confirm James's warning as to the loseness of the first person... Read more
Published on 24 July 2010 by Jens
1.0 out of 5 stars Sterile, modern American drivel
I know nothing of literary culture but Don DeLillo is a meathead. This book is boring and pretentious. Read more
Published on 4 July 2010 by Mr. M. Brown
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