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Underworldby Don DeLillo
DeLillo's eleventh novel is a masterwork of language, character, vision, and story. Rarely does a book of this proportion succeed completely on every level, but from the cinematic opening in Ebbets Field on the afternoon of Bobby Thomson's legendary "Shot Heard Round the World" — the same day the Russians first tested the Bomb — to summer rooftop parties among the art world's elite and air conditioned office towers in Phoenix where executives attempt to capture the burgeoning international market in waste disposal, DeLillo has captured the dissonant pitch of our half-century with incredible clarity. Already established as one of the most powerful voices in American fiction – DeLillo won the 1985 National Book Award for White Noise and the 1992 PEN/Faulkner Award for Mao II — Underworld likely qualifies as his greatest achievement. It's arguably the best fictional history of the Cold War years.
"...Underworld is an encyclopedia of native delusions and a handbook of authorial ingenuities....Courageous, ingenious, and demanding, Underworld is a book to be talked about — by critics and readers, if not by its author — for years to come." Tom LeClair, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
Our lives, our half century.
Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life, haunted by the hard logic of loss and by the echo of a gunshot in a basement room. She is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.
Don DeLillo's mesmerizing novel opens with a legendary baseball game played in New York in 1951. The glorious outcome — the home run that wins the game is called the Shot Heard Round the World — shades into the grim news that the Soviet Union has just tested an atomic bomb.
The baseball itself, fought over and scuffed, generates the narrative that follows. It takes the reader deeply into the lives of Nick and Klara and into modern memory and the soul of American culture — from Bronx tenements to grand ballrooms to a B-52 bombing raid over Vietnam.
A generation's master spirits come and go. Lennny Bruce cracking desperate jokes, Mick Jagger with his devil strut, J. Edgar Hoover in a sexy leather mask. And flashing in the margins of ordinary life are the curiously connectecd materials of the culture. Condoms, bombs, Chevy Bel Airs and miracle sites on the Web.
Underworld is a story of men and women together and apart, seen in deep clear detail and in stadium-sized panoramas, shadowed throughout by the overarching conflict of the Cold War. It is a novel that accepts every challenge of these extraordinary times — Don DeLillo's greatest and most powerful work of fiction.
"Underworld is a magnificent book by an American master." Salman Rushdie
"Utterly extraordinary....In its epic ambition and accomplishment, Underworld calls out for comparison with works...that have defined the consciousness of their age." Melvin Jules Bukiet, Chicago Tribune
"Read and rejoice....Formidable characters, themes, language....Underworld delivers on every count." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"DeLillo always writes large, but here he has reached new dimensions....[A] stylistically magnificent, many-voiced, and soulful novel....Like novelists E. L. Doctorow and Thomas Pynchon, DeLillo uses historical figures to great effect, but DeLillo is a far more emotive and spiritual writer, and Underworld is a ravishingly beautiful symphony of a novel." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"There are some marvelously drawn characters...and thought-provoking ideas....But somehow the various parts of the story seem more satisfying than the whole. DeLillo is one of our most gifted contemporary authors...yet one suspects that his truly 'great' novel is yet to come." Library Journal
"DeLillo's most affecting novel yet...a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Astonishing....DeLillo has raised literary standards to new highs here, and yet the book is a page-turner, a scene-stealer, a triumph of language that takes us everywhere we've never been." Gay Talese
"DeLillo offers us another history of ourselves, the unofficial underground moments....This book is an aria and a wolf whistle of our half-century." Michael Ondaatje
"Working at the top of his form, DeLillo draws on his previous novels in shaping his most ambitious work yet...a brainy, streetwise, and lyrical underground history of our times, full of menace and miracles, and humming with the bop and crackle of postmodern life....He kicks the rock of reality, teases out the connectedness of things, and leaves us in awe." Kirkus Reviews
In Underworld, Don DeLillo has written a gloriously fused history of the past 50 years that offers a key to understanding American culture — our preoccupations and obsessions, our fears, our loves, our lives — as well as a chance to reexperience it. Moving through this country's most diverse landscapes, DeLillo gradually reveals his two central protagonists, Nick Shay, now a "waste analyst," and Klara Sax, a renowned artist, who had a brief affair in the Bronx in 1952 when she was thirty-two and he, seventeen.
About the Author
Don DeLillo is the author of eleven novels, including White Noise, Libra, and Mao II. He has won the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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