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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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Underworld

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Underworld Cover

ISBN13: 9780684848150
ISBN10: 0684848155
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"Read and rejoice....Formidable characters, themes, language....Underworld delivers on every count." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Review:

"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

Review:

"Underworld is a magnificent book by an American master." Salman Rushdie

Review:

"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

Review:

"DeLillo's most affecting novel yet...a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Synopsis:

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.

Synopsis:

A finalist for the National Book Award, Don DeLillo’s most powerful and riveting novel—“a great American novel, a masterpiece, a thrilling page-turner” (San Francisco Chronicle)—Underworld is about the second half of the twentieth century in America and about two people, an artist and an executive, whose lives intertwine in New York in the fifties and again in the nineties. With cameo appearances by Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover, Bobby Thompson, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and Toots Shor, “this is DeLillo’s most affecting novel…a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).

Synopsis:

“DeLillo’s most affecting novel yet...A dazzling, phosphorescent work of art.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“The clearest vision yet of what it felt like to live through that day.” —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“A metaphysical ghost story about a woman alone…intimate, spare, exquisite.” —Adam Begley, The New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant new novel....Don DeLillo continues to think about the modern world in language and images as quizzically beautiful as any writer.” — San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Don DeLillo is the author of eleven novels, including White Noise, Libra, and Mao II, and has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

h2oetry, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by h2oetry)
Underworld (You might think it that vampire movie - it is absolutely NOT that movie) is such an evocative title for a novel, especially when coupled with its cover's depiction of the Twin Towers covered with clouds and a flying bird angled in an eerily airplane looking way(this book came out in 1997). Not to mention several passages regarding the Twin Towers that read with new resonance after 9/11. But that isn't really what the novel is about; it's an opportune accidental feeling carried throughout the book. I digress.

DeLillo begins Underworld with pages describing Bobby Thomson's walk-off homerun (afterward called The Shot Heard 'Round the World). DeLillo places the reader at this game in the crowd at the legendary Polo Grounds in New York; you needn't enjoy baseball to like this setting. Thomson's homerun, which clinched the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants, erupts an emotional fanbase into pandemonium. A young fan, Cotter Martin, sneaks in to watch the game, eventually snagging the incredibly historic homerun away from another fan he'd just befriended. DeLillo (and history) describes this game as the same day the Russians tested a nuclear bomb. The Cold War has commenced, and the baseball takes the reader through time (the years between 1951 and 1997), as it passes through the hands of various owners. The narrative explains the American experience of Russia vs. America while mingling fictional characters with various heroes of cultural history (Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Lenny Bruce among others). Underworld covers the conflict in close detail and from a street level perspective. It's definitely a novel for anyone fascinated in global politics, media and culture.

Klara and Nick, the main characters, meet up in an Arizona desert in the 1990s and meander back in time as the story jumps chronologically through them and others until the early 1950s. Big events play out on the national stage, and each character's motivations and circumstances are shown, hinting that each life story shares synchronicity; the snapshots of the characters slowly intertwine into each others' lives.

The baseball is viewed by many of the characters as an object with a history; by simply owning the ball they feel they'll also get the history that comes along with it. A preacher in the book discusses how history's found in the most common of places -- only that it's hidden where few think to look. By learning the history of objects the characters become more in focus with themselves and society. Some characters deal in various types of waste: human waste, nuclear waste, garbage, etc. Every product, package, wrapper or explosion has a consequence. This is the core of Underworld -- it is the waste that humankind feverishly tries to hide away like a secret. But it's always there, and eventually we're forced to confront the waste we create and the fears that we hide behind, holding us back from true desires.

Sure, the chronology is a bit jumbled, but it all ties together in the end. The rewards of persevering through this dizzying novel are endless. The dialogue driven narrative means that good listeners will enjoy this book. Reading another DeLillo novel before Underworld will help an intimidated reader, but is not a necessity. In brevity, Underworld finds roots of today in the small moments of the past.

Postscript: DeLillo has said that the inspiration for Underworld was the October 4, 1951 front page of The New York Times. Essential reading: the Lenny Bruce comedy routines about the Cuban Missile Crisis in the novel. If, AND ONLY IF you can't make it through the entire book, read the first section about the baseball game, and then the Lenny Bruce routines which are found on pages 504-9, 544-8, 580-6, 590-5, and 623-33. They are remarkable in context of the novel, but are able to be read independently of the story with great results. Upon finishing the novel, these were the areas that I shuffled back to immediately.

http://bit.ly/dLOqej
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Joseph_Teresa, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Joseph_Teresa)
Best book of the decade!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780684848150
Author:
DeLillo, Don
Publisher:
Scribner Book Company
Location:
New York, NY :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
United states
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one author)
Subject:
Executives
Subject:
Fathers and sons
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one auth
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
new york times best fiction; pulitzer; national book award; national book critics circle award; pen/faulkner; pen/saul bellow; jerusalem prize; howells medal; september 11; 9/11; pafko; jackie gleason; frank sinatra; j. edgar hoover; cold war; lenny bruce
Subject:
new york times best fiction; pulitzer; national book award; national book critics circle award; pen/faulkner; pen/saul bellow; jerusalem prize; howells medal; september 11; 9/11; pafko; jackie gleason; frank sinatra; j. edgar hoover; cold war; lenny bruce
Subject:
new york times best fiction; pulitzer; national book award; national book critics circle award; pen/faulkner; pen/saul bellow; jerusalem prize; howells medal; september 11; 9/11; pafko; jackie gleason; frank sinatra; j. edgar hoover; cold war; lenny bruce
Copyright:
Edition Description:
B102
Series Volume:
98-147
Publication Date:
July 1998
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
832
Dimensions:
8 x 5.25 in 24.22 oz

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Sale Books
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Underworld Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 832 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780684848150 Reviews:
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Utterly extraordinary....In its epic ambition and accomplishment, Underworld calls out for comparison with works...that have defined the consciousness of their age."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Read and rejoice....Formidable characters, themes, language....Underworld delivers on every count."
"Review" by , "DeLillo offers us another history of ourselves, the unofficial underground moments....This book is an aria and a wolf whistle of our half-century."
"Review" by , "Underworld is a magnificent book by an American master."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "DeLillo's most affecting novel yet...a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art."
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by , A finalist for the National Book Award, Don DeLillo’s most powerful and riveting novel—“a great American novel, a masterpiece, a thrilling page-turner” (San Francisco Chronicle)—Underworld is about the second half of the twentieth century in America and about two people, an artist and an executive, whose lives intertwine in New York in the fifties and again in the nineties. With cameo appearances by Lenny Bruce, J. Edgar Hoover, Bobby Thompson, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and Toots Shor, “this is DeLillo’s most affecting novel…a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).
"Synopsis" by , “DeLillo’s most affecting novel yet...A dazzling, phosphorescent work of art.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“The clearest vision yet of what it felt like to live through that day.” —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“A metaphysical ghost story about a woman alone…intimate, spare, exquisite.” —Adam Begley, The New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant new novel....Don DeLillo continues to think about the modern world in language and images as quizzically beautiful as any writer.” — San Francisco Chronicle

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