Sunday, January 22, 2006

Book 1 - Cosmopolis

 By Don Delillo

Meezly’s unofficial entry into the “50 books” circle. If I can read one book per month, making a grand total of 12 books for 2006, I’d be a happy person! So here’s my first:

I’ve been curious about Delillo, as he’s considered an “important” writer. I tried reading The Body Artist in November, but the stilted dialogue and self-conscious style put me off, so I quit early on in the book. Then I gave Cosmopolis a shot, as the story of a billionaire financial genius taking a limousine ride across an otherworldly Manhattan seemed a more promising premise.

When the limo gets gridlocked in traffic many improbable events occur: the protagonist gets swarmed by an anti-globalization protest movement, witnesses an act of self-immolation (yeah, in Manhattan), gets his daily anal probe by his doctor, has multiple sexual encounters with various women, has lunch with his wife, joins a Sufi rapper’s mega-funeral procession, gets naked as an extra in a street-wide movie set, gets stalked by assassins, and loses his entire fortune. And that ain’t all of it either. Oh, and he gets a haircut, which was what got him out of the house in the first place.

I suppose the limo ride was like a metaphorical journey or visionary concept, but I just wasn’t buying it, the events seemed so utterly contrived. Perhaps Cosmopolis could’ve been a great satire. The novel had that disjointed quality and its share of ludicrous twists and turns. It was even quite humorous at times, like when the protagonist gets hit by a Romanian tartiste. The exchange was very well put together and spoke volumes. But those moments were few and far between and I spent much of the time annoyed by the author’s heavy-handedness. Alas, Delillo is a “serious” writer, and he takes himself and his subject way too seriously.

As a serious writer, however, there were passages that were quite eloquently constructed, and the novel had some things to say about society and technology, consumerism and conscience, meaning and randomness. It also had action, sex, rap and violence (yes, there were rap lyrics thrown in too). Then I came across dialogue that was so ponderously worded and pretentious, it just jarred me into annoyance.

Delillo’s style belongs to a certain camp and I guess ultimately, his books just ain’t for me. Maybe I should’ve started with Underworld instead.


Lantzvillager said...

Interesting. I had always thought of DeLillo as more of a populist (?) writer rather than 'important'. Unfortunately, thats probably because Underworld and White Noise are always sitting around peoples bookshelves.

Thanks for the review.

Lantzvillager said...
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beemused said...

yeah I read somewhere that Underworld is supposedly one of those great contemporary novels that no one ever finishes reading.

Crumbolst said...

I haven't goone near Underworld. I really enjoyed White Noise and sorta liked The Body Artist, but for very different reasons. Both books were worthwhile but, like you, I get the sense that the stories were a struggle for the author. Sort of like Jerry Garcia's guitar. Is it the music or the struggle to make the music that I like? I don't know.

The Body Artist was the quietest book I've ever read.

Anyway, that's for the review.

beemused said...

Very good analogy!

Jarrett said...

I haven't read any DD, but I am glad to see you joined the Bookworm Revolution! And, thans to your review, I can spare myself DeLillo, and when people (psudeo-snobs) bring him up at parties I can just dismiss them with the back of my hand a hearty guffaw. Except if it's Crumbolst, obviously. Then I'll just pretend to need to use the restroom.