- Pan Macmillan
- Publication Date:
- 04 March 2011
- Modern & Contemporary
Showing 1-4 out of 17 reviews. Previous | Next
The whole book is about the protagonist Eric Packer being driven through town, through traffic jams, mostly standing still, while inviting people into his limo, talking to his ex wife through the side window while she is stuck in traffic in the opposite direction. A very remarkable novel. Despite the fact that the action seems to be boring, once you read you an't stop. Delillo has a very convincing style of writing, the reading itself makes the novel fun to read. After you read this, read Underworld.
Re-reading this, it seems stronger than I remember it. DeLillo turns the cliche of the 'global village' round, & has the cosmos existing in the city, in the person of Eric Paker, & his mobile empire. DeLillo is exact in his choice of words, asking if certain words such as 'vestibule' & 'mutton' are obsolete, while at the same time creates a sustained and complete picture of the world of the world of the flow of information, money and power (like the waves & radiation of White Noise). It is funny, precise and prophetic, as you would expect from DeLillo.
This book was pretty wild. It really bothered me at first; DeLillo has this tendency to be overly lyrical and poetic in his prose which leaves me feeling lost (also the lack of question marks: "What."), but once I slipped to the groove I felt like it was definitely worth it. I am still thinking about this one.
A headlong rush to oblivion, Cosmopolis is DeLillo's take on the consequences of pure unfettered unregulated market capitalism. Comparing society to capital markets is not unique, but viewing the travails of one twenty-something billionaire on a quest to get a haircut as a microcosm for market forces, theoretical capitalism and the never ending quest to separate capital from labor, and thus humanity, is brilliant on multiple levels.Eric Packer, self-made billionaire by way of a computer program to predict foreign currency markets, wants to get his hair cut. He leaves his multilevel penthouse apartment, summons his driver, and embarks across Manhattan on a day from hell. The President is in town, a massive protest is taking place, and a famous rapper's funeral procession are all converging on Eric. This is going to be a long drive. That Eric could probably step out of his limo and walk to get his hair cut perfectly symbolizes the sheer inhumanity on display by the soulless megarich in their pursuit of wealth for wealth's sake.As Eric lurches through the crosstown traffic, various people intrude upon his mobile sanctum, including his new wife, whom he has barely seen since their marriage though she has apparently been in their massive apartment (perhaps on the other side of the gigantic aquarium), various business functionaries such as his company's Chief of Finance and Chief of Theory, whose sole job seems to be to stimulate Eric's capacity to think of new ways to make more money. Packer has bet on the yen and bet large - so large that if he has bet wrong he and his company could be ruined. The avarice that allows someone to risk such a fortune regardless of the consequences reminds me of the massive JP Morgan trading losses comeing to light in June 2012.As with much of DeLillo's work, the things said and unsaid are equally important as no one writes of the small spaces and hesitating communication gaps as well. The second person dialogue, rather than intruding upon the reader, reinforces the impersonality of Packer and helps with the feeling that Eric is out of synch with time, much as the markets seem to be out of synch with society. So much is spoken of the market, it begins to take on anamorphic qualities - ironic since the people attempting to master or manipulate it couldn't be less human.In an effort to predict and control the markets, the attempt leads to a spectaclar conflagration of ego and id with devastating consequences. After all, if corporations are people, according to standard psychological definitions, they would be sociopaths - lacking empathy and the ability to understand other people.Read it and weep.
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