Cosmopolis: A Novel Paperback – Apr 6 2004
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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
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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
This is absolutly, by far, the worst book I have ever read. I purchased it in Germany at a train station where they did not have many english books to choose from. Read morePublished on July 14 2004 by StefanievPB
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... Read morePublished on June 22 2004
I enjoyed Libra-- or remember enjoying it. I enjoyed the idea behind The Players and some of his other devices-- the Hitler porno tape in one of his other novels. Read morePublished on June 6 2004 by gordon keegan
I was fortunate to read End Zone in the year of publication. Great Jones Street, et al - I've been on board. Even attended the Underworld book tour appearance in Los Angeles. Read morePublished on May 15 2004 by Mark Twain
Right about the time I polished off "Underworld" for the third time, this new tome by the same author comes along. Read morePublished on March 8 2004 by Jeremy Ulrey
DeLillo's latest novel continues his tradition of being more interested in the ideas his characters represent than in the characters themselves. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2004 by Gordon Neufeld
cosmopolis is wanting in many ways. if you have come to appreciate the remarkable humour in an average delillo book, this will, no doubt, disappoint. Read morePublished on Dec 9 2003 by Charlie Mcintosh
Bottom line: This is not one of DeLillo's best, and close to one of his worst. While it started out with promise, the promise was unfulfilled. Read morePublished on Nov. 7 2003 by Rocco Dormarunno