Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Books Tip of the Week

By Ray Pride

NOVEMBER 10, 1997:  Like all of Don DeLillo's eleven novels, "Underworld" (Scribner, 827 pages, $27.50) is about the secret and the subterranean, that which language can describe with glittering ease and that which language can only imply, with mortal dread and Zen-spare, comic-flip sentences. Much like the century DeLillo strives to capture, there is underbrush wanting to be cleared in "Underworld." DeLillo hopscotches his familiar thematic concerns through his postmodernist magpie's nest of deceptively inflected spoken language, fistfuls of jargon, jittery cadences summoned from bombardments of arcana and specialist's verbiage. Characters mingle with "real" people to their own detriment: dust-dry, solipsist-dull, they can't measure up to DeLillo's re-creation of events such as a 1951 baseball game or Truman Capote's 1966 Black-and-White Ball, the social event of the century, some say. But there is magnificence in many patches of "Underworld" and its brilliant set-pieces. And who else can marshal a line masquerading as a paragraph so fluently: "It was raining in the mountains." "His hand hurts where it touched hot metal." "At dinner, she told him she had been selfish."

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