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Underworld by Don DeLillo

Underworld (original 1997; edition 2007)

by Don DeLillo

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,84553724 (3.89)154
Authors:Don DeLillo
Info:Scribner (2007), Hardcover, 832 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:American Literature, Postmodernism

Work details

Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)

  1. 30
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» See also 154 mentions

English (48)  Italian (3)  Serbian (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
My very favorite DeLillo novel even though I don't like baseball. I love the way he creates a binding thread of things to join all his characters together. The cover photograph of the World Trade towers is spooky... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Even though this is a long book I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. From the prologue I was hooked. By the way, everyone loves the prologue best. But the book as a whole, I don't know how to describe it. It's a stand-alone novella in itself. I guess I could equate Underworld to a bumble bee ride. At times the plot flies over time and space, flitting from one character to another without really touching down long enough to establish foundation. But, there there are other times this bee lands, spends an inordinate amount of time digging around one particular scene and rooting among the details; rolling through the dialogue and repeating itself a lot. Diverse yet nitty gritty. If you get to the part when Nick is trying to talk to his wife while she watched a movie you'll see what I mean. Excruciating! I found their dialogue painful.
As a whole, Underworld is a biography of 20th century American culture, flayed and dissected and analyzed. Guts and all. It's 50 years of society spanning the country, from Arizona to New York and points in between. It's 1951 and fifty years beyond. There is no real plot. There is no real point other than to show the complexities of the times we live in. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Feb 19, 2015 |
Personalmente ho sempre odiato le classifiche, tipo quelle di Hornby in 'High fidelity' - che tra l'altro mi è piaciuto. Oppure quelle stronzate da 'libro nell'isola deserta' , che pochi hanno visto e pochi possono permettersi - a meno di naufragare in un serial tv americano, dove di libri ne appaiono comunque assai pochi...Ad ogni modo, nell'ipotesi ridicola di dover salvare un solo libro dal Diluvio Universale, imbarcandolo a fianco di Noè e dei suoi animali copulatori, penso che questo testo di narrativa potrebbe permettere di ricostruire da zero la civiltà statunitense dell'ultima metà del secolo scorso, nella sua materialità, immaterialità e religiosità, laica e non. Ci sono frasi, paragrafi e intere pagine che, come le olive, possono essere spremute a freddo, a caldo, trasformate in pasta, e saranno sempre generose di senso e significato. La loro densità è così pregna da poter generare storie infinite negli occhi del lettore. La potenza delle immagini, degli intercalari, dei dialoghi, è qualcosa che va oltre la narrativa finora conosciuta. Un prodotto dalla potenza di un diamante grezzo radioattivo, e uno schiaffo molisano ai mediocri scrittori che popolano le classifiche da spiaggia. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
This is a very disjointed book. The skipping back and forth makes the story-line difficult to follow. I finished this novel but I would not recommend it. ( )
  Amusedbythis | Aug 17, 2014 |
This needs some explaining. After rating many hundreds of read books, this one had me the most perplexed as to how to rate it. I was thinking, either a 3 or a 5. A three>, or a five?! It was suggested I average it out as a 4, but that seemed to me to just misrepresent both ratings.

There is no question for me that the writing in this book is 5 star, all the way. Though the lengthy baseball stadium scene at the beginning, packed with American cliches and the slapstick team of Hoover and Gleason, started me off decisively thinking I was not at all going to like this book, it won me over with its amazing presentation and acute powers of observation. To my amazement I found myself eventually able to see the baseball game (and fans) from a whole other perspective than I thought possible. This is 5 star stuff. And it just keeps going, and going, and going...

And yet, honestly, the book is extremely American, and as much as I'm dazzled by the writing and observations, the characters and content just don't speak to me personally very much. Hence, for me, though the writing is top notch, I can't get much beyond "liked it" (3 stars).

So, seeking enlightenment, I naturally read a bunch of reviews here to get a sense of how others have evaluated this work. There's very little middle ground. There's a blanket of 4 and 5 stars, peppered with shotgun blasts of of 1 star holes.

The 1 star hits are, without a doubt, the more substantial (sadly) and fun to read. I guess the 5 star reviewers are just too in awe and humbled to attempt to write anything insightful after completing the masterpiece? What more is there to say?

I am in entire sympathy with most of the 1 star reviews I read. Yes, the book really feels long. Yes, what "plot" there is, there hardly is. Yes, Delillo is brutally long winded. Yes, it can't help but drag on probably even the most ardent fan in places. Yes, it's really hard to hang on to the thread, and not drift off into the aether of words.

I am in sympathy with those who "did not like", for these reasons. They are justified in this perspective. And yet I am also sad. They seem to have missed so much. I feel, when confronted with such a sweeping, complexly structured, and yet minutely detailed work as this, that the lack is in us the readers rather than in the text. This is a work we really do need to expand ourselves and apply ourselves to connect with, as lovers of literature, lovers of observation, and lovers of life.

And so, slightly ironically, it was the delightful and painful one star reviews that pushed me from the middle of the road into the extremely starry expanse. This book deserves the stars, even if I don't entirely feel them.

I still like White Noise more (the only other Delillo I've thus far read) -- though it has less stars from me.

I hope this explanation of my here aberrant rating is satisfactory (to me).
( )
1 vote tmiddleton | Jan 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (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 editionsconfirmed
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?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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