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Cosmopolis: A Novel Paperback – Apr 6 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (April 6 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244251
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Cosmopolis 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 and Americana, 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

DeLillo skates through a day in the life of a brilliant and precocious New Economy billionaire in this monotone 13th novel, a study in big money and affectlessness. As one character remarks, 28-year-old Eric Packer "wants to be one civilization ahead of this one." But on an April day in the year 2000, Eric's fortune and life fall apart. The story tracks him as he traverses Manhattan in his stretch limo. His goal: a haircut at Anthony's, his father's old barber. But on this day his driver has to navigate a presidential visit, an attack by anarchists and a rapper's funeral. Meanwhile, the yen is mounting, destroying Eric's bet against it. The catastrophe liberates Eric's destructive instinct-he shoots another character and increases his bet. Mostly, the action consists of sequences in the back of the limo (where he stages meetings with his doctor, various corporate officers and a New Economy guru) interrupted by various pit stops. He lunches with his wife of 22 days, Elise Shifrin. He has sex with two women, his art consultant and a bodyguard. He is hit in the face with a pie by a protester. He knows he is being stalked, and the novel stages a final convergence between the ex-tycoon and his stalker. DeLillo practically invented the predominant vernacular of the late '90s (the irony, the close reading of consumer goods, the mock complexity of technobabble) in White Noise, but he seems surprisingly disengaged here. His spotlighted New Economy icon, Eric, doesn't work, either as a genius financier (he is all about gadgetry, not exchange-there's no love of the deal in his "frozen heart") or a thinker. The threats posed by the contingencies that he faces cannot lever him out of his recalcitrant one-dimensionality. DeLillo is surely an American master, but this time out, he is doodling.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By zorkie1966 on June 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
I guess I was lucky in that I began with Mao II and White Noise and went from there. So I know what DeLillo is capable of. I was giddy to read this new one. But, like other reviewers, I was reminded of Brett Easton Ellis, even from the title (which reminded me of "Glamorama"). And that made me nervous right away.
The worst part about this novel is that it's completely contrived. We never get the feeling these characters are truly alive, only that DeLillo is trying to tell us something via their interaction. The coincidental meetings with the wife (you'll see) are a perfect example. But there are others. If we're just going to ride around in a limo, slowly, without any solid plot to hang our hat on, then anyone who happens to stop in for a chat will appear to have been shoved into that limo by the author.
But for the good news: it's DeLillo. A fix for the addict. His dialogue is sharp, funny and truncated, as always. Some of the passages are pure poetry (the section about the kids dancing at a rave in a burnt-out building is sublime). We know about DeLillo's apocalyptic obsessions, which were firmly in place long before 9/11, and this is more of the same. Or is it? He never mentions terrorism, but he's got a two-bit gang of thugs flinging rats around the city in demonstrations against capitalism. And there are threats on the protagonist's life. And it takes place in New York City. NYC is the cosmopolis of the title, the "city of the world," a stage that shows a microcosm of the terror in store for all mankind. So this is good old prescient DeLillo, warbling, and the sound of it will stand up to anything being written today.
Don't get this if you've never read any Don DeLillo--you'll probably be turned off. Mao II and White Noise are both great starting points, but even some of the earlier stuff that DD has since scorned (Americana, End Zone, Great Jones Street) would be a better beginning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A DC Reader on Feb. 1 2004
Format: Hardcover
The dismissive reviews I read of Cosmopolis made me hesitate to buy it. After reading a library copy, I bought Cosmopolis to read a second time. I figure buying the book is the best vote cast in its favor.
Cosmopolis is not a facile entertainment. It requires work on the reader's part. Delillo is exploring territory that, by its nature, eludes description. The mind has well-evolved strategies for perceiving and reacting to the world; non-rational strategies largely inaccessible to waking consciousness; strategies that worked for millennia, now effectively shunted aside and concealed from view - even while they operate continuously in clandestine ways. How do you view or talk about this hidden stuff? You can't name it because language by nature is rational and this, by its nature, is not.
Delillo gives us a metaphor. Cosmopolis. It is incongruous. It doesn't match our world or its usual fictionalized portraits. The reader tries to fit the world s/he knows with the metaphor - it can't be done, it's incongruous. But in trying, the reader starts to sense an opening into something that is neither our world nor its metaphor Cosmopolis, something rising out of the tension between them.
The book is an exploration into the tension between the normal surface of things and an animating underworld we know is there but hardly know. Reading, rereading Cosmopolis, thinking about it is like opening a door in the mind that leads to rooms not often visited.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cliente Amazon on Jan. 3 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a novel it fails in every possible way: plot, characterization, dialogue etc.
If you consider Cosmopolis a prose poem it works a lot better. DeLillo should have gone all the way and write directly in verse. Cosmopolis could have been compared to The Dunciad, The Age of Anxiety, the 'dramatic monologues' of Robert Browning, The Vanity of Human Wishes, The Prelude, Byron.
In poetry the greatest possible meaning has to be expressed in the smallest possible space, and I think it works (to a point) in Cosmopolis.
The dialogues don't have to be naturalistic - just meaningful. The characters don't be to well rounded - they are just human types. The plot doesn't have to hang togheter - it has to illustrate the morality of the story.
The writing of DeLillo, in this way, is quite beatiful and his description of the effects that ridicolous wealth and power can have on people (both the rich, the hangers-on, the others) feels right.
And I don't really think that Cosmopolis is dated. A lot of things have changed after 9/11: among them not the lives of people like Eric Packer. Frankly I don't understand people who thinks that people like him are uninteresting or not important. Rich and powerful people are always interesting and important and no, they don't have to be sympathetic or human to command obedience, respect and even affection.
Of course, a real novel would have been better. Underworld is much better and important. Cosmopolis is an interesting attempt.
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By A Customer on June 22 2004
Format: Hardcover
Right from the beginning, this book gives you an eerie feeling. It has an unsettling mood, set off initially by being told that the young 28-year old hero/tycoon hasn't slept in 4 to 5 days. You don't have to stretch your imagination much to realize that weird, unpredictable things are going to happen and that his life is out of control, because he's not thinking clearly. He's doing things in an 'out of body' way. And added to this personal out-of-kilter state, the author adds a series of punishingly, over-the-top events to make life even more hapahazard for him, as he rides uptown and crosstown in Manhattan in his limousine, looking for a barbershop. On the way, there are stops for sex; there are rambling conversations with advisors; there are encounters with a rioting mob pounding the limousine; there's a stop to watch two kids play basketball; there's another stop to play a bit part in a movie nude scene. On tenth avenue, he reaches the barbershop that he has been symbolically seeking in the neighborhood that his father grew up in. He meets his father's old barber and the story, for a moment takes on a palpable reality, with the clipped dialogue between him, his driver and the barber. Then there is the final encounter with a disgruntled employee, seeking his revenge. Heavy stuff. More palatable than Chuck Palahniuk, however, and with some great scenes, such as in the barbershop. But, hey, aside from that, this guy is unbelievable. He didn't have the gumption to save himself, and the book doesn't offer one good reason why he didn't.
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