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Underworld | [Don DeLillo]

Underworld

Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life, haunted by the hard logic of loss and by the echo of a gunshot in a basement room. She is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.
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Publisher's Summary

Our lives, our half century.

Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life, haunted by the hard logic of loss and by the echo of a gunshot in a basement room. She is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.

Don DeLillo's mesmerizing novel opens with a legendary baseball game played in New York in 1951. The glorious outcome - the home run that wins the game is called the Shot Heard Round the World - shades into the grim news that the Soviet Union has just tested an atomic bomb.

The baseball itself, fought over and scuffed, generates the narrative that follows. It takes the reader deeply into the lives of Nick and Klara and into modern memory and the soul of American culture - from Bronx tenements to grand ballrooms to a B-52 bombing raid over Vietnam.

A generation's master spirits come and go. Lennny Bruce cracking desperate jokes, Mick Jagger with his devil strut, J. Edgar Hoover in a sexy leather mask. And flashing in the margins of ordinary life are the curiously connectecd materials of the culture. Condoms, bombs, Chevy Bel Airs and miracle sites on the Web.

Underworld is a story of men and women together and apart, seen in deep clear detail and in stadium-sized panoramas, shadowed throughout by the overarching conflict of the Cold War. It is a novel that accepts every challenge of these extraordinary times - Don DeLillo's greatest and most powerful work of fiction.

©1997 Don DeLillo (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

What the Critics Say

"Underworld is a page-turner and a masterwork, a sublime novel and a delight to read." (The Baltimore Sun)

There's pleasure on evey page of this pitch-perfect evocation of a half-century." (Newsweek)

"Masterpieces teach you how to read them, and Underworld is no exception." (The Seattle Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (106 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.8 (89 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (90 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Ruth Ann Orlansky Northampton, MA, USA 07-01-12
    Ruth Ann Orlansky Northampton, MA, USA 07-01-12 Member Since 2009

    Audiobook Afficionado

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "CYBEX burned into my eyes"

    The word "CYBEX" burned into my eyes while listening to this book on the treadmill at my local "Y" because I had to intensely concentrate so that I did not miss a single sentence. This is not your usual novel - it does not have a conventional beginning, middle or end. The book starts off describing the playoff game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1951 National League pennant in which Bobby Thomson hit a three-run home run known as "the shot heard round the world". This section is priceless - the best part of the book, in my opinion. I felt like I was in the thick of the game with the various spectators, famous and not. Even though I knew the outcome of the game before listening to the narration, I was in complete suspense.

    After this long section, the rest of the book skips through time, examining portions of the lives of people who were peripherally affected by this event. The next section of the book is a long first-person narrative from the point of view of Nick, a sanitation engineer, who owns the Bobby Thomson home run ball and is in the Arizona desert sometime in the late 1980's or early 1990's viewing an art installation by a woman who it seems he had some sort of involvement with years before (you will find out later - no spoiler alerts here!). We meet J. Edgar Hoover, Lenny Bruce and various other people, both fictional and "non".

    And so it goes. The novel jumps back and forth, from the mid 1980's to the early 1990's, then to the summer of 1974, then to the 1960's and back to the period of time immediately before and after the historic 1951 baseball game. Not only do we view the lives of various people during these periods of time, but we also get a cultural snapshots of what was going on during these times. Some of the characters appear and reappear during these times. It is up to you, the listener, to put these narratives together.

    Some listeners may be very disconcerted by this jumping around, and may not like putting various pieces of information together, but I found it fascinating. If, however, you want a conventional story, you only need to listen to the first part of the book describing the playoff game. It stands alone, and there is no need to listen to the rest of the book unless you want to.

    I found Richard Poe to be a superb narrator - he took paced the narration very well, taking his time with the exquisite phrasing, and gave good voice to all the characters.

    I only gave the novel 4 stars because I felt that DeLillo introduced too may "characters" that did not have much to do with the story. I also felt that he left a few loose ends. For instance, the home run ball was eventually caught by a black boy who snuck into the game. I was wondering what ever happened to him, but never found out. There were a few other instance of this.

    In short, if you decide to listen to this book, you are in for a unique, fascinating, but possibly frustrating experience.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Mule Connecticut, USA 04-18-12
    Robert Mule Connecticut, USA 04-18-12 Member Since 2001

    lawtalk

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    "Great Writing"
    Which scene was your favorite?

    The book opens with a lengthy description of the "Shot Heard Round the World," Bobby Thompson's home run that gave the New York Giants the 1951 American League Pennant. This may be some of the best writing in American literature. Seriously.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marissa Toronto, ON, Canada 03-01-13
    Marissa Toronto, ON, Canada 03-01-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I loved it."
    What did you love best about Underworld?

    I loved this complex interwoven story; the well developed charaters and how real life and all its strangeness is captured. It's a portrait painted with words. The narrator's voice suits the material perfectly.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allie San Francisco, CA, US 08-28-12
    Allie San Francisco, CA, US 08-28-12 Member Since 2007
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    "A postmodern classic"

    DeLillo is a master of weaving intricate motifs, themes, and conflicts, across time, space, and individual lives. The breadth of knowledge--historical, cultural, sociological, political, and psychological--DeLillo displays in this novel is truly brilliant. Although the connections are often a bit overdone (e.g., the nuanced manifestations of the "underworld"), this is somewhat characteristic of DeLillo's style and postmodern fiction.

    This is a masterfully planned and executed postmodern classic.

    Richard Poe's narration is fantastic, as always. He is such a talented artist.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura San Francisco, CA, United States 06-08-13
    Laura San Francisco, CA, United States 06-08-13 Member Since 2011

    Just not into normal.

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    "Masterful performance of a masterpiece"

    Underworld is a great book, a sprawling nonlinear narrative encompassing the great themes of the second half of the 20th century in America portrayed in the intimate lives of many characters. I read it when it first came out, and recently decided to listen to it on a long road trip. This performance is mesmerizing, Richard Poe always sounds as though he's speaking the words, not reading them, with variations appropriate to the many different characters. The audio quality on this recording is top notch as well, all around a very well done audiobook, highly recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Zurich, Switzerland 06-17-12
    Michael Zurich, Switzerland 06-17-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great storytelling, fluid prose, snappy dialog"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. There are many different characters in this long novel and Delillo interweaves their stories brillianly. They keep popping up at unexpected and yet absolutely correct spots in the novel.

    I don't know of another writer who writes better dialog than Don Delillo.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Underworld?

    As another reviewer noted, the long opening set piece in the Polo Grounds during the final 1951 national league playoff game between the Giants and the Dodgers is truely great writing. Delillo's imagined banter among Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and Toots Shor, who in reality did attend the playoff game together, is very, very funny.


    What does Richard Poe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    There is a great deal of sparkling dialog in the novel and Richard Poe does an excellent job in giving each character his or her own voice. I especially enjoyed his rendering of Marv Lundy, the retired sports memorabilia collector. Almost everying that Marv says sounds off the wall, yet hilarious. You don't get the full effect without Richard Poe's voice inflections.


    If you could rename Underworld, what would you call it?

    I wouldn't rename it. I like Delillo's metaphor. No matter how deeply you bury nuclear or other toxic waste, eventually some of it is bound to rise to the surface. So too, no matter how far under the surface emotional pain and trauma is buried, it still has a great deal to do with what we do and who we are.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a great novel with snappy, yet absolutely authentic-sounding dialog.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Kelley Homer, AK United States 04-27-14
    A. Kelley Homer, AK United States 04-27-14 Member Since 2013

    AlaskanAli

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    "Don Delillo's Best, Flawlessly read"
    Would you listen to Underworld again? Why?

    Absolutely. In fact, I've gone back and re-listened to several chapters. It took me forever to get through this as I kept going back to savor passages.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Underworld?

    The parts of a shoe, Matt's chats with his colleague at the desert lab, Clara Sax "ride" with her "childhood" friend, Nick's chat with his co-worker re: "dietrologia." DeLillo's overall fascination with language stirred me to many lookups. The sisters in the 'hood.


    Which character – as performed by Richard Poe – was your favorite?

    Like other male readers, he's weak on women. But his readings for Nick and the priest were my favorites.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Just dread of the impending end. It's hard for me to break up with a book I love when I reach the end.


    Any additional comments?

    Just additional kudos to the reader. Nuance, accents (not overdone), Poe really evoked each character individually. His voice is narcotic with inducing sleep.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Normal San Francisco Bay Area 02-08-14
    David Normal San Francisco Bay Area 02-08-14 Member Since 2012
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    ""Underwhelm""
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I'm not sure who it's for. Perhaps the author himself might enjoy it, or perhaps anyone that savors ponderous non-linear ruminations about . . . well, after listening to it for 5 hours I still don't know what it's about . . . A baseball game and some guy that runs a waste disposal company and thinks too much. I think that after 5 hours I should have an idea of what a novel is about.


    Has Underworld turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I listened to Infinite Jest recently, and I'd put the two in the same genre. After having read "Libra" I expected much more from Don Delillo. Libra was so well composed, and tightly structured, and moved at a good pace. Underworld is soooo slow, and confusing by comparison.


    What three words best describe Richard Poe’s performance?

    Not too bad.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Marietta, GA, United States 10-16-13
    Stephen Marietta, GA, United States 10-16-13 Member Since 2012

    I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Will be looked at as a classic in time"
    What made the experience of listening to Underworld the most enjoyable?

    Great story with an excellent reader. DeLillo takes a simple concept (in the path taken by the Bobby Thompson home run ball) and twists into an incredibly detailed and interesting story about the many lives the ball affected in the subsequent years.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It engaged me from the beginning. DeLillo is a great author and knows what it takes to write a captivating story with many hidden meanings that I'm sure will be debated for years to come.


    Have you listened to any of Richard Poe’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    N/A


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Not one particular moment. The way the author creates an intersection of each characters life is captivating on its' own.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronald Silver Spring, MD, United States 06-17-13
    Ronald Silver Spring, MD, United States 06-17-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Hard to make sense of"
    What disappointed you about Underworld?

    There are excellent vignettes, but that is all there is. It is a huge work, but just consists of unrelated snippets. I kept waiting for everything to come together but it never does. It is very confusing, so maybe I just missed it! One thing that I hated is that all of the characters talk the same way. It is not only the narration, but the words and phrases are the same, and they all have the same way of repeating themselves. It is really terrible!


    Which character – as performed by Richard Poe – was your favorite?

    Couldn't say.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, it has some great parts, that are very evocative of the time, and people. The beginning is great, but don't except it to ever again rise to that level.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • shirley
    4/30/14
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    "A modern classic - read it"

    I have tried to read De Lillo's underworld three times. I've got 3 quarters of the way through on one occasion. Circumstance always drags me away, but despite this I maintain, this is one of the best books ever written - a modern classic.

    It's a sprawling epic that you have to dedicate time to, an ensemble piece that spiders webs out of the Bronx into wider America, and wider life. There's a definite poetry to the way De Lillo writes, he loves rhythm and repetition. The repetition doesn't always sound totally convincing (or naturalistic) on the audio book, however, Dellilo's words are often profound and thought provoking, golden nuggets of wisdom spilling out as thick and fast and thrown away as garbage going into a landfill.

    His reveals about his characters come seemingly randomly throughout the book, often when we've grown to trust characters, we suddenly learn something about them which we're perhaps not so fond of - like life maybe!

    The book documents the end of the last century, it's peppered with historical characters some real some fictional, all fallible. It made me google certain events and I loved the continually present problem of waste, and junk (the central character is in waste management).

    I managed to listen to the book when I was driving, when I was ironing, when I was cooking. I've had a real Underworld couple of weeks and loved every minute.

    Maybe I'll even do it again sometime.

    A great book. One of the greatest books of our time. Highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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