is Don DeLillo's 13th novel. His reputation as one of the most provocative and innovative of American writers is assured, thanks to such books as Underworld
, but this new outing is as likely to challenge the author's legion of admirers as much as it will exhilarate them--and there's nothing wrong with that.
DeLillo's protagonist this time is a well-heeled American, Eric Packer, who sets out one eventful day for a haircut. Gazing through the windows of his white limousine (and availing himself of its state-of-the-art technology), this self-made millionaire takes in the spectacle of financiers being murdered, the funeral of a rapper and some violent anti-globalisation protests. As we come to know DeLillo's anti-hero, we realise that Eric Packer is by no means the most ingratiating of individuals. Cheating on his new wife, he specialises in using people in a cynical and exploitative way. And as this self-serving captain of industry takes an ever-more dangerous journey through a bizarrely rendered New York, it's inevitable that comparisons with Tom Wolfe's classic Bonfire of the Vanities will spring to mind. Resemblances of plot aside, however, the book is a very different animal. Wolfe's narrative had the epic spread of a latter-day War and Peace, whereas DeLillo sharpens and condenses his prose in Cosmopolis to produce an altogether more concise novel.
There are two ways to approach Cosmopolis: as a rudely pointed dissection of the American Dream, or as a surreal, symbolic (and disturbing) road trip. This is not a comforting book, but a bracing and caustic one. --Barry Forshaw
From Publishers Weekly
For a book about a 28-year-old new-economy billionaire with a "frozen heart," Patton adopts a distant, machine-like narrative tone that has all the warmth of the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick's 2001. It's a fitting approach, as the asset manager at the novel's center, Eric Packer, is hardly an avaricious tycoon, but rather an insular and literate egotist who seems more given to detached, philosophical reveries on everyday trivialities than to serious business analysis. That, too, fits, as this novel from DeLillo (Underworld; White Noise) takes place entirely in one day as Packer's life unravels while he's driven across Manhattan to get a haircut. He remains aloof both to listeners and to those around him, and Patton's understated reading imbues the proceedings with the subtle edginess of a mild drug. That's not to say that things are completely monotone, though; Patton also deftly portrays characters ranging from Packer's gruff, paranoid head of security to his aging Italian barber, one of the few characters who seem truly human. But the book is really an extended meditation, and while Patton's pitch may be perfect, the recording isn't for everyone.
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