Underworld - Don DeLillo Not only was this book a bestseller, you can find superlatives among the blurbs like "great American novel" and "thrilling page-turner." This book was runner-up in a 2006 New York Times survey of eminent authors and critics for best American novel in the last 25 years. All I can say is I felt about this novel the way I do about many a purported masterpiece hung in the Museum of Modern Art. Good God, why? By the end of a short section after Part One, 150 pages in of 827, I knew this book wasn't for me and stopped reading things through. (I did skim through the rest though.) I read even that far because the novel was on a list of literary fiction I'd been working through. I knew it was considered a difficult work and wanted to give it a fair chance to win me over. Otherwise, I would have stopped at the second page of story. I not only don't find this is a great book and a "page-turner," I think it's badly written. Let me give you examples of why--examples right from the first two pages that I'm sure many a critic think are the very signs of genius and might let you know if this is a book you would find a keeper or would leave you cold: He has never done this before and he doesn't know any of the others and only two or three of them seem to know each other but they can't do this thing singly or in pairs so they have found one another by means of slidy looks that detect the fellow foolhard and here they stand, black kids and white kids up from the subways or off the local Harlem streets, lean shadows, bandido, fifteen in all, and according to topical legend maybe four will get through for every one that's caught. Ah yes, the beloved run-on endless-sentence-of-doom, which, like the very doorstop length of the book, is supposed to demonstrate profundity. Let's have another sentence shall we? The faces of the ticket sellers hung behind the windows like onions on strings. Somehow, unlike Virginia Woolf's description of flowers like fresh laundry in Mrs Dalloway, this doesn't do it for me. Forced metaphors like this abound. Here, have one more sentence that struck me as typically clumsy: Some are jumping, some are thinking about it, some need a haircut, some have girlfriends in woolly sweaters and the rest have landed in the ruck and are trying to get up and scatter. This is in reference to 15 boys jumping the turnstiles to see a baseball game without paying for a ticket. So how is needing a haircut or having girlfriends in woolly sweaters relevant or add to the narrative at this point? All these quotes are from the Prologue of 60 pages that was published separately as "Pafko at the Wall." Even some reviewers who counted Underworld a mess thought that section brilliant. So if you don't find that Prologue a work of genius I don't think you're going to be in love with the rest of the book. I think that Prologue does say a lot about Delillo. Both it and a great deal of the book hangs on baseball as a metaphor for American culture. The Prologue is about a legendary game between the Giants and Dodgers in 1951--through it we follow not just one of those turnstile jumpers but characters like J Edgar Hoover and Jackie Gleason--who is described vividly and repellingly as throwing up on Frank Sinatra. That turnstile jumper, who skipped school and slipped in without paying for a ticket, finds a seat and is befriended by a man who buys him a soda. At the end of the game he'll wrench this man's fingers to pry the home-run baseball out of his hand. So, if baseball is America, then the message is America is grasping, greedy, thieving, treacherous and repellent. (One thing about Delillo is there's nothing subtle about how he pounds out his themes.) The bulk of the book then deals with the man who ultimately bought that baseball--Nick Shay--who is in waste management. When we turn to him in Part One, the omniscience of the Prologue with touches of second person turns to first person for this part, but there are still a lot of the hallmarks of the prose style of the Prologue. We get this long rambling scene in this part about condoms. The first person narrative is more accessible, but still at times disjointed, and we're headed to another extended metaphor: American culture as trash. You can tell looking at the section title pages that the main story is non-linear; like Pinter's Betrayal or the film Memento you work yourself backward from the early 90s to the early 50s in each of the 6 parts until you hit the epilogue set in the near future. After Part One, the point of view will shift again between first and third person. Nothing about this book is straightforward--not the prose, point-of-view, narrative, characters or the very thin plot. In short, if you're looking for a gripping story with characters you care about and a narrative that sucks you in, you're looking in the wrong place. But if you're a fan of "post-modern literature" with disjointed narratives and turgid, abstruse prose that revels in showing us the tawdriness of American life, by all means, go pick up a copy.