Sunday, October 24, 2004

Blah blah blah

Why do I feel so bored? Bored I tell you! And uninspired! Which makes this a very boring post indeed.

You really should go read something delightful. If you continue reading here you will only hear about the very odd little meditation of a novel I finally finished reading. And I may further regale you with the boring details of our baby-less weekend. And look forward to a fuller exploration of this intense feeling of boredom.

You've been warned.

Cosmopolis, by Don DeLillo. I'm very glad I read it, maybe especially because I have yet to finish a book of his.

(Please don't tell anyone. I don't understand it actually. They all start off great, but then... But then. Yet, I rave about Underworld — the first 100 pages of which are among the finest ever written. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two-fifths of that book, but for some reason, that's where I left off. I don't get.)

It took me more than 2 weeks to read this book in an insane number of 2- to 10-minute sittings (bus, bathroom, and occasionally just waiting). Ironic, since the novel recounts the details of a single 24-hour period in the life of a billionaire, most of the action happening in and around his limousine (with a few stops for food and sex) as it makes its way across town to get a haircut.

Not a lot of reviewers liked it much.

Only, the review in the Washington Post points out that "a 'haircut' also happens to be a slang term for a major financial loss."

That tidbit helps make clear how some people find it philosophical while others think it comic.

He was watching the second ticker begin to operate, words racing north to south.


. . . It was exhilarating, his head in the fumes to see the struggle and ruin around him, the gassed men and women in their defiance, waving looted Nasdaq T-shirts, and to realize they'd been reading the same poetry he'd been reading.

The line is from a poem by Zbigniew Herbert. (I really ought to brush up on the cultural legacy that is my heritage.)

Our hero does end up getting a haircut (well, half anyway), the barber (an old family friend) proclaiming, "I never seen such ratty hair on a human."

There's both a joke and a deep commentary in there somewhere.

The language is mostly wonderful:
He was hungry, he was half starved. There were days when he wanted to eat all the time, talk to people's faces, live in meat space.
(I thought that was pretty interesting.)

But I was intensely bothered by the use of the word "what" — the way you say "what" to fill in the blank at the end of a sentence, or in the middle of a sentence, while you grope for the words. It drove me what. Up the fucking wall.

For 24 hours in reality, a heck of a lot happens; for a novel, not a heck of a lot happens.

Social commentary? There is some. Biting? No. Keenly perceptive? Ya, maybe. Something about materialism. The thing is, this book is lingering with me, and someday, for some inexplicable reason, I will read it again — pretty high praise, coming from me.

My weekend? Thanks for asking. I worked. Helena stayed with her grandmother, so J-F and I went out for a pitcher of beer and rented a zombie movie.

1 comment:

Michele said...

Sharing a secret: I have never read anything by Don DeLillo, and until now I have not been tempted to. However, did you mention food and sex? Perhaps I will consider beginning with Cosmopolis.

Sharing another secret: I ALSO shared a pitcher of beer this weekend with someone. Oh, wait, what kind of secret is that? No wonder my friends all swear never to reveal my secrets, they are too damn lame to repeat.