Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo

I would say that Cosmopolis is the strangest book I've read this year with the possible exception of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. It follows a day in the life of Eric Somethingortheother, an extremely wealthy stock picker in the near future. He's so powerful that when the Yen makes an unexpected rally, his faulty recommendation nearly cause a market crash. He spends most of the day in his cork-lined car (it doesn't keep the noise out, but the lining is the point) watching things on televsion that seem more real to him than real life. All he wants is a haircut, but a political assasination, a funeral for a rapper, and shooting for a bizarre movie impede his progress.

This is the second book of DeLillo's that I've read, and I found it rather difficult intially. The first half of the book is so strange that it's offputting, particularly an episode that involves a Eric receiving a prostate exam while talking to his sweaty coworker. At some point during the conversation, the look at each other and have a mutual, uh, climax. It's really bizarre in a way that even the rest of the book is not. Still, the themes are familiar ones for postmodern literature. The equation of the trivial and the personal to the same level of importance, the growing distance between people (comically illustrated by Eric's inability to recognize his wife immediately as he runs into her throughout the day).

Portions of the book are brilliantly written and even somewhat moving, such as the funeral for the rapper. Other parts, like the prostate exam, are offputtingly bizarre. Still others are confusing and probably laden with symbolic significance that I'm incapable of picking up on, such as the running theme of assasinations. (In the book, there is one actual assasination, one attack by the “pie assasin,” a man who throws pies at celebrities, and the repeated atempts on Eric's life). The end of the book is appropriately bizarre and oddly satisfying, but I can't really recommend this book to hardly anyone. Read White Noise or Underworld instead. Both are beter and more accessible than Cosmopolis.

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