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3.3 out of 5 stars82
3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 12 December 1998
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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on 9 April 2006
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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on 22 March 2002
This is a stunning novel.When you have read it, pick it up again and open it at random and read the page before you like a poem - or see the photographs which rise from the text. Let the black-and-white images flicker back and forth and see the movie.All these on-going lives, all the frames, all this reality which combines into imagery and poetry - and back again. It is full of stories - gripping stories, if you will - and yet, there is no story, just the way history and life never are A-to-Z stories. Has any other writer ever managed to so accurately and sensually convey world history and individual lives all in one hu-u-u-ge breath?
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on 26 October 2002
A lot of the reviews here are picking up on what a "difficult" read 'Underworld' is, and to a degree I can see why - this is both a very long novel and one without a single, simple plot - yet this seems to me hardly adequate cause for criticism.
For me, 'Underworld' dazzles for a number of reasons. The most immediately apparent of these is DeLillo's prose which is masterful throughout; the novel contains chapters so beautifully crafted as to demand an immediate second reading.
Secondly, the subject is wonderfully handled, its narrative flitting through fifty years of history and back again to chart the lives of its (many) characters without ever sacrificing the detailed description which makes them believable. The result is a masterpiece of panoramic storytelling, managing to vividly conjure up both the patterns of politics and history and the minutiae of the lives which they both shape and are made of.
Thoroughly recommended.
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on 21 June 1999
'Underworld' requires time and effort on the part of the reader, but is immensely satisfying. The story of ordinary lives lives in the shadow of the cold war, fits together like a chinese puzzle : it is left to the reader to discover all the interconnections of plot and character. I found myself rereading whole sections to enjoy the beauty of the language. Worth reading a second time!
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on 17 April 2001
I loved the first chapter. The baseball game was electric. Then it meadered for pages and pages. Granted, all of his words are chosen and delivered with ace precision. Problem is, a page is a heavy morsel on its own. You get through 50 and feel full-up! I couldn't stomach too much of this "great" writing. It's now back on the shelf, for the time-being.
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on 20 November 2015
This was recommended by someone whose judgement I trust, but unfortunately it just wasn't for me. I read the first hundred pages, and then about another hundred pages after that in 20-page or so chunks throughout the book. The author has an annoying habit of repeating phrases two or more times within a few paragraphs, which makes for tiresome reading. The first time I just assumed it was bad editing but then it became apparent it's just a "feature" of this particular work. The beginning of the book isn't all that bad but my interest waned as the story [stories?] wore on.
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on 1 April 1999
This is a real treat for DeLillo fans - and, as far as i can gather, a bit of an ordeal for those who don't like to work too hard at their reading matter (see the reviews on It's probably fair to say it's a bit of a bloke's book - it is huge in scale, time span, ambition - you name it - and its prose style is very 'muscular'. Its themes are massive too, from the effect of the Cold War on American consciousness to the role of sport in society. What makes the book such a success is DeLillo's extraordinary openness to the varieties of lived experience. Essentially this book, like most of his novels, is about the incredibly intricate weave of alternative belief systems that is society - and how they complement or conflict with each other. There are parts which are a bit of a slog (around the third quarter of the book), but it's worth persevering because the last 100 pages or so are full of poetry and emotion. At the time of reading it (last year) I said to myself "This is the late C20 Ulysses." I still hold by that. It's a great book and i have driven my girlfriend completely round the twist by talking about it at every possible opportunity. Read it and find out why!
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on 31 October 2011
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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on 5 April 2016
I suppose if you took the time and considerable effort that finishing this book would require, you would have to justify that by declaring it a fantastic read. Like many others on here I was drawn in by the opening pages but after 100 or so it just became more and more of a chore. I don't often abandon books at that stage, particularly ones as apparently acclaimed as this one, but it just got boring. Maybe if America was more important to me.......
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