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UNDERWORLD by DON DELILLO

Countless people have recommended this book to me as being the novel to read and describing Mr DeLillo as being the definitive American author of our time. I dutifully purchased the book a couple of years ago, and it has sat on my bookcase ever since, gathering dust, until I was brave enough to begin. (I love books and reading but 827 pages is a lot of heft to be carrying around.) 5 weeks ago I started it.
I read it in the staffroom at work, and one of my colleagues exclaimed how much he adored this novel, so much so that he has bought it in 5 different editions. Such passion for it seems to be quite common, I understand that it inspires a lot of respect and love. But I just find it really, really irritating. I am half way through, and I just don’t know that I have it in me to finish. Another colleague remarked yesterday that the first half was the best, and in so doing has destroyed any further desire to continue reading, so I am debating if I should just abandon it in search of juicy, delicious reads.
The writing is wonderful, of course it is. Peoples speech rhythms and intonations are beautifully captured. He sets scenes wonderfully. His male characters are believable. His one main female, Klara, is a hollow nothing, I don’t think she could exist except except in a man’s mind.

If I was to sum up his writing I would say it is detailed, and sometimes it’s way too much. He sets scenes with sentence after sentence of minutiae;
“He spread the mayonaise. He spread mayonaise on the bread. Then he slapped the lunch meat down. He never spread the mayonaise on the meat. He spread it on the bread. Then he slapped down the meat and watched the mayo seep around the edges.”
Yeah, yeah, I got it already, there was mayo!

I think that perhaps it is a boys book. There are such things. There are male writers who men and women love, and vice versa, and then there are the male writers that women generally struggle with. Maybe Phillip Roth and Saul Bellow. Maybe, I am just wondering.

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6 responses »

  1. He’s a butch writer, like Tom Wolffe. I managed to get through Libra. It was touch and go for a while, but on the whole I kinda liked it. I think that’s only 600 pgaes, too.

    Reply
  2. Yeah, perhaps I should have gone for a slimmer volume before attempting his epic. I have skim read the last half now. Just couldn’t face it any more. It’s over, and I doubt that I’ll ever read him again.Does Libra have well drawn female characters?

    Reply
  3. It was the first of his I read, and yes, it was a bit of a struggle. I got to the end and don’t think I quite understood it all.However, I’ve since read others and enjoyed them far more. I’d stick with Don for a while, yet.

    Reply
  4. Oh darn it Chris, I was all decisive and sure that was the end of me and Don, now you’re making me rethink. Gah!

    Reply
  5. Having joined a granny stylee book group, I’m no longer stranger to this incredulous feeling towards much-lauded books. I think that some authors carry such clout, their publishers are too scared to edit them and so they get away with filling pages and pages of excruciatingly boring detail. Saturday by Ian McEwan is one of the worst things I’ve ever read.

    Reply
  6. Hey kellie, you are soooo right. Me and Mr McEwan are not pals after several people encouraged me to attempt to get through Enduring Love. An ordeal that I abandoned. there can be such freedom in just giving up!

    Reply

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