Recent reading: Cosmopolis

I’ve been warned away from Cronenberg’s film of this by various folks who are more au fait with uncle David’s work than I am; cf. Alex’s review here. And see also this. I was wary of it anyway because of Don DeLillo, with whom I do not have a good relationship; I got bored with Americana and I got angry with White Noise, neither of which I finished (I recall it was the line “I had never looked at coffee before” that put me into a particular red rage with the latter). Underworld gave me comparatively few problems, though the self-consciousness of its striving to be a masterpiece and the Great American Novel did it few favours with me, and I pretty much gave up on DeLillo. As such, I don’t fully understand why I decided to give the book Cosmopolis a go, but for some reason I did…

So, the story of an obscenely rich young man who needs a haircut and his adventures in obtaining same. Its chief virtue is its brevity, 200-odd pages of reasonably large print that only took me something like three, three and a half hours to read (actually only got it from the library this afternoon). Its chief problem is that almost every one of those 200-odd pages is full of wank, particularly when it comes to the dialogue; that parody I linked to above is pretty accurate. I know I should feel less bothered than I do by the fact that real people would never actually talk like that given that DeLillo’s characters don’t actually resemble real people, they’re barely even meaningless phantoms… but it still gets on my tits even so. And though it’s been said (here in particular) that DeLillo’s tendency towards much shorter novels after the 800+ page extravaganza of Underworld (his last one weighed in at only 117 pages) represents a move away from “era-defining”, Cosmopolis continually felt like it was trying to be exactly that, desperate to be a grand statement about the world. Maybe the emptiness and feeling of hollow disconnect it radiates is that statement?

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