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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Ruth Ann Orlansky on 07-01-12
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.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful
By L. J. on 06-08-13
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!
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By shirley on 04-30-14
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.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By floremolla on 07-11-17
Riveting audio experience!
First class performance from Richard Poe. His deep steady voice, with its myriad of subtle shifts of accent and character made this audiobook head and shoulders the best I've heard in several years of Audible membership.
Helped of course by the high quality of the novel itself - an elegy for America in the second half of of the twentieth century, despite the seedy, sordid glimpses of its underbelly.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful