Underworld

Underworld - Don DeLillo This needs some explaining. After rating many hundreds of read books, this one had me the most perplexed as to how to rate it. I was thinking, either a 3 or a 5. A three, or a five?! It was suggested I average it out as a 4, but that seemed to me to just misrepresent both ratings.

There is no question for me that the writing in this book is 5 star, all the way. Though the lengthy baseball stadium scene at the beginning, packed with American cliches and the slapstick team of Hoover and Gleason, started me off decisively thinking I was not at all going to like this book, it won me over with its amazing presentation and acute powers of observation. To my amazement I found myself eventually able to see the baseball game (and fans) from a whole other perspective than I thought possible. This is 5 star stuff. And it just keeps going, and going, and going...

And yet, honestly, the book is extremely American, and as much as I'm dazzled by the writing and observations, the characters and content just don't speak to me personally very much. Hence, for me, though the writing is top notch, I can't get much beyond "liked it" (3 stars).

So, seeking enlightenment, I naturally read a bunch of reviews here to get a sense of how others have evaluated this work. There's very little middle ground. There's a blanket of 4 and 5 stars, peppered with shotgun blasts of of 1 star holes.

The 1 star hits are, without a doubt, the more substantial (sadly) and fun to read. I guess the 5 star reviewers are just too in awe and humbled to attempt to write anything insightful after completing the masterpiece? What more is there to say?

I am in entire sympathy with most of the 1 star reviews I read. Yes, the book really feels long. Yes, what "plot" there is, there hardly is. Yes, Delillo is brutally long winded. Yes, it can't help but drag on probably even the most ardent fan in places. Yes, it's really hard to hang on to the thread, and not drift off into the aether of words.

I am in sympathy with those who "did not like", for these reasons. They are justified in this perspective. And yet I am also sad. They seem to have missed so much. I feel, when confronted with such a sweeping, complexly structured, and yet minutely detailed work as this, that the lack is in us the readers rather than in the text. This is a work we really do need to expand ourselves and apply ourselves to connect with, as lovers of literature, lovers of observation, and lovers of life.

And so, slightly ironically, it was the delightful and painful one star reviews that pushed me from the middle of the road into the extremely starry expanse. This book deserves the stars, even if I don't entirely feel them.

I still like White Noise more (the only other Delillo I've thus far read) -- though it has less stars from me.

I hope this explanation of my here aberrant rating is satisfactory (to me).