Underworld exemplifies everything I love and loathe about Don DeLillo. Brilliance, frustration, depth, redundancy. All in 827 mostly readable pages.
A book has to be damn good for a reader to put up with it for so long and large stretches of this book are. DeLillo is such a sensory writer; he pens time and memory through sight, smell and touch in such a way as to occasionally leave me breathless. There are passages of this book that will really stick with me.
The central conceit of this book (as far as I can tell): that human life is connected in odd and unlikely ways, as evidenced through the fictional travels of the Bobby Thomson home run ball and the non-fictional concerns about Cold War and the nuclear arms race, is done well. This is a scope of epic proportions and for the most part, DeLillo is game.
Yet there’s a reason I say “for the most part.” I understand that postmodern writing is DeLillo’s forte. It is not my favorite. I appreciate it but it just breaks up the story and makes it difficult to appreciate. The reverse chronology is a fun concept in theory but in execution, it didn’t allow me to really sit with the narrative before something else was thrown at me. I started out loving this book and by the end, a bizarre ending no less (though I guess I shouldn’t have expected otherwise), I was glad it was over.
I think this is worth the time if you’re a DeLillo fan and you know what you’re getting into. Just know what you’re getting into. Read as many spoiler-free reviews as possible before deciding for yourself if you should pursue this.