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Underworld
DON DELILLO

Underworld by Don DeLillo
4 reviews (1997) (832p)
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Finalist
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction Finalist
National Book Award Finalist
New York TimesĀ® Best Fiction Books

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Book Description

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.


Amazon.com Review
While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the cold war and American culture, compelling that "swerve from evenness" in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying. Underworld opens with a breathlessly graceful prologue set during the final game of the Giants-Dodgers pennant race in 1951. Written in what DeLillo calls "super-omniscience" the sentences sweep from young Cotter Martin as he jumps the gate to the press box, soars over the radio waves, runs out to the diamond, slides in on a fast ball, pops into the stands where J. Edgar Hoover is sitting with a drunken Jackie Gleason and a splenetic Frank Sinatra, and learns of the Soviet Union's second detonation of a nuclear bomb. It's an absolutely thrilling literary moment. When Bobby Thomson hits Branca's pitch into the outstretched hand of Cotter--the "shot heard around the world"--and Jackie Gleason pukes on Sinatra's shoes, the events of the next few decades are set in motion, all threaded together by the baseball as it passes from hand to hand.

"It's all falling indelibly into the past," writes DeLillo, a past that he carefully recalls and reconstructs with acute grace. Jump from Giants Stadium to the Nevada desert in 1992, where Nick Shay, who now owns the baseball, reunites with the artist Kara Sax. They had been brief and unlikely lovers 40 years before, and it is largely through the events, spinoffs, and coincidental encounters of their pasts that DeLillo filters the Cold War experience. He believes that "global events may alter how we live in the smallest ways," and as the book steps back in time to 1951, over the following 800-odd pages, we see just how those events alter lives. This reverse narrative allows the author to strip away the detritus of history and pop culture until we get to the story's pure elements: the bomb, the baseball, and the Bronx. In an epilogue as breathless and stunning as the prologue, DeLillo fast-forwards to a near future in which ruthless capitalism, the Internet, and a new, hushed faith have replaced the Cold War's blend of dread and euphoria.

Through fragments and interlaced stories--including those of highway killers, artists, celebrities, conspiracists, gangsters, nuns, and sundry others--DeLillo creates a fragile web of connected experience, a communal Zeitgeist that encompasses the messy whole of five decades of American life, wonderfully distilled.


Other Award Winning Books by Don DeLillo
Zero K by Don DeLillo
212 reviews (2016) (288p) (PW Fiction) (NYT100) () (PW ANMCT) () () ()
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo
33 reviews (2011) (224p) (MK Top) (NYT100) (New Yorker) (PF)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
96 reviews (2007) (256p) (Amazon)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Mao II by Don DeLillo
47 reviews (1991) (256p) (PP) (PF)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Libra by Don DeLillo
78 reviews (1988) (464p) (NBCCA) (NBA) (NYTimes) (LATimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
White Noise by Don DeLillo
297 reviews (1985) (326p) (NBCCA) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Don DeLillo Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 10  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 5  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 2 Mao II · Underworld ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 3 Libra · Underworld · White Noise ·  
National Book Award Wins 1 White Noise ·  
National Book Award Nominations 3 Libra · Underworld · White Noise ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 1 Mao II ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 2 Mao II · The Angel Esmeralda ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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