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The yen spree was releasing Eric from the influence of his neocortex.
on 18 January 2011
If you like sentences like that one, you might like Cosmopolis.
A day, possibly the last, in the life of 28 year-old multi-billionaire, Eric Packer, as he goes in search of a haircut.
It's a novel that aims for enormous profundity, using characters that verge on the risible.
Packer himself is close to a Bond villain caricature. 'Every act he performed was self-haunted and synthetic.' His apartment has 48 rooms, a borzoi pen, a shark tank, card parlour, lap pool. What, no fluffy white cat? He owns a bomber. His body fat is under six per cent. He wears sunglasses. His stretch limo has been 'prousted' - cork lined for silence. Inside is a twenty screen video bank, microwave, heart monitor, toilet. His head of security, voice-activated firearm at the ready, accompanies him. As do two bodyguards.
Packer heads across town. The traffic is hellish.The car moves in quarter-inches. The sentences are short. Declamatory. They include phrases like 'zero-saturation'. And words like 'misweave.' Packer stops off twice on the way for sex. Various employees keep popping in and out: Micheal Chin, currency analyst. Dr Ingrams, who gives Packer his daily check up, including prostate tweak. Jane Melman chief of finance. Vija Kinski head of theory. Packer keeps bumping into his wife of twenty two days, Elise Shifrin, bad poet and heir to the Shifrin banking fortune. 'When are we going to have sex again?' he asks her, over untouched green tea and toast. She feels this way about him: 'You know things. I think you're dedicated to knowing. I think you acquire information and turn it into something stupendous and awful.You're a dangerous person..a visionary.' The dialogue throughout is almost laughably mannered and I kept hoping the book was a comedy, perhaps an update of American Psycho, with which it shares many themes. Get this conversation with lover/art dealer Didi Fancher.
'I remember what you told me once.'
'Talent is more erotic when it's wasted.'
'What did I mean?' she said.
'You meant I was ruthlessly efficient. Talented, yes...'
'Did I mean lovemaking as well?'
'I don't know. Did you?'
'Not quite ruthless. But yes. Talented. And a commanding presence as well. Dressed or undressed. Another talent, I suppose.'
'But there was something missing for you. Or nothing missing. That was the point.'
It could be a rip-roaring satire, but Delillo, unlike Ellis, has a need for meaning - and, you feel, is half in love with Packer. DeLillo, via Packer's financial dealings, wants to explore his pet ideas, particularly 'the cross-harmonies between nature and data', the patterns that exist in the ambient world. And of course, he has to have a raving assassin on the loose as well.
Packer, already obviously bonkers, gets increasingly so throughout the day, as he encounters an anarchist demonstration, a rave, the funeral of his favourite rap star, Brutha Fez, and a film shoot which involves 300 naked people lying on the ground. Then he has to face his nemesis: though not before delivering a three page speech to a gun.
Well. You like this kind of thing or you don't. De Lillo can turn a sentence, of course, though his word choice often seems interchangeable with Martin Amis's. To me, like a lot of his work, it strains violently for effect and chucks far too much into the pot. There's a film soon, by Mike Leigh. Sorry, I mean David Cronenberg.