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Underworld by Don DeLillo

Underworld (1997)

by Don DeLillo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,56665891 (3.89)216
  1. 30
    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Bolaño's novel is set mostly In Mexico City, rather than the US. He uses some similar techniques to DeLillo to produce a much more accomplished and interesting work. It will probably appeal to those who enjoyed Underworld.
  2. 20
    Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (BrandonSiguenza)
  3. 00
    The Weight of Numbers by Simon Ings (ShelfMonkey)
  4. 22
    Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (xtien)
  5. 12
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (igorken)
  6. 01
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Hibou8)
    Hibou8: Profound, and profoundly american.

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» See also 216 mentions

English (57)  Italian (4)  Serbian (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Read the first 100 pages and quit. Didn't catch. ( )
  deldevries | Oct 21, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Apr 2009):
- I was in a receptive, uninterrupted state when I read this [in 2002], so that I can proudly say I got through it. How much can be retained from a literary tome like this? Hard to say, I think my brain had indigestion for a few days.
- My most favorite part is the Prologue "The Triumph of Death", with the Dodgers-Giants game, Bobby Thompson's shot heard 'round the world, Sinatra/Gleason/J Edgar Hoover in the stands, the dreamy chase for the winning belt. I appreciate the enormous literary talent of any author brave enough to craft such a sweeping saga, but for many readers I think it would be easy to run the battery low trying to decipher this. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | May 4, 2018 |
While I didn't have any trouble reading it, the structure of the book didn't really work for me (jumping back and forth in time & between characters) and I ended up with a feeling of "so what was the point of all that?" I never really became engaged with any of the characters and the connection between some of them seemed extremely thin. Oh well... ( )
  leslie.98 | Apr 25, 2018 |
Don DeLillo's "Underworld" is a very modern novel. The thing is, I despise modern novels. I have no interest in baseball. I couldn't even remember the character's names partway through this.... I just found it so very dull. I didn't care what happened to the baseball, who got killed and why or about Marian and her husband's martial troubles.

I know this novel has received heaps of acclaim and praise... so I'm sure it's wonderful if you're into these types of books, but this one definitely wasn't for me. ( )
  amerynth | Apr 9, 2018 |
“I believed we could know what was happening to us. We were not excluded from our own lives. That is not my head on someone else's body in the photograph that's introduced as evidence. I didn't believe that nations play-act on a grand scale. I lived in the real.”

Underworld opens breathlessly with one of the longest and most exhilarating prologues that I have read in a long time and features a famous baseball game played in New York in 1951 - the Giants versus the Dodgers. This was a key play-off game, won with a home run in the last moment of the final innings. DeLillo wonderfully captures the emotions of all those that were present,the spectators, the cops and vendors, the commentators, and a few notable celebrity guests namely Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and J. Edgar Hoover, among others. Also in the crowd is a young black lad wagging school and who manages to get in to see the game for free. This lad ultimately leaves the ground with the actual baseball that sailed into the crowd for the winning run. This ball, its owners and their fates, is used to guide the reader through the remainder of the story that follows. Although I am a sports fan I cannot truly say that I'm a baseball fan but I have got to admit that I was totally swept along on the wave of emotions in this section.

The novel's central character is Nick Shay, who will come to own the baseball was not actually at the game but rather he was on the roof of his home listening to the game on the radio. Other narratives belonging to those he knows, family and acquaintances, also feature heavily in this book. Nick grows up in the Bronx mainly with his mother and brother after his father, a small-time bookie, one night walks out of their lives never to be seen again. Nick's adolescence is troubled and aged 17 is sentenced to three years in a juvenile correctional facility for shooting a man. However, once there he settles down, gains an education before marrying,having kids and on the face of it leads a pretty normal middle-class life as an executive of a waste-recycling firm living in Phoenix, Arizona travelling a good deal for business purposes.

Following the baseball through a number of years, its owners and their fates allows the author to portray the various complexities that can bind seemingly disparate characters to a single item. Whilst at the same time featuring some of the key events of the late twentieth century American history ranging from the nuclear bomb and nuclear waste, the Vietnam War and its war protests, to more prosaic elements like sex, race, poverty, serial killers, art, cigarettes, condoms and graffiti to name but a few. All are connected to the life of Nick Shay by ways of the 'six degrees of separation'. All is rooted in contemporary life in all its ugliness and grandeur,

The novel is not told in chronological order. The book starts in 1951 then moves forward immediately to 1992 before cutting back to and fro through the intervening decades.

In many respects this novel goes a long way to reminding what we love about books as it can make seemingly ordinary lives seem quite extraordinary and I have to say that I enjoyed the author's writing style yet I feel that this book is 200 if not 300 pages too long making it an OK read rather than a great one. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jan 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
'"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' ... 'Despite its faults DeLillo has created an ambitious and powerful novel...'
added by GYKM | editSpike Magazine, Gary Marshall (Dec 1, 1998)
This "is his best novel and perhaps that most elusive of creatures, a great American novel."

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Don DeLilloprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mikulášková, LucieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the memory of my mother and father.
First words
He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful.
Parla la tua lingua, l'americano, e c'è una luce nel suo sguardo che è una mezza speranza.
"How is it we did so much laughing? How is it people came over with their empty pockets and bad backs and not so good marriages and twenty minutes later we're all laughing?"
"Sometimes faith needs a sign. There are times when you want to stop working at faith and just be washed in a blowing wind that tells you everything."
Tutto è collegato, alla fine.
Il ciberspazio è una cosa dentro il mondo, o il contrario? Quale contiene quale e come si può esserne sicuri?
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684848155, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:12 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A 1950s teenage hood from New York is transformed by the Jesuits into a respectable man, managing hazardous waste. A portrait of the decade from the viewpoint of the garbage industry.

» see all 3 descriptions

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