I’ll be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have pushed through this if I wasn’t already a big DeLillo fan. The prologue and parts of the epilogue are beautiful and memorable. And then there’s the seven hundred or so pages in between. Of course, since it’s DeLillo, the dialogue is excellent and many of the passages can stand alone on their own as master works of fiction. But there’s just so much else there, and much of it winds up feeling bloated and superfluous.
Yes, I feel stupid saying all of this about a modern classic. But approaching this subjectively, I didn’t love reading this book. Last year when I read Infinite Jest — an equally challenging monster of a post-modern novel — I felt immensely fulfilled in spite of the challenging nature of the book. But it pains me to say that I just didn’t feel that way with Underworld. I liked Nick Shay’s coming-of-age-story told in reverse. I liked a lot of the themes and metaphors. I liked that DeLillo tied it all in with the cultural history of the United States during the Cold War. There was just too much of the last part.
I’m still glad I read it. As I said, I love DeLillo. I owed it to him to read this. If you consider yourself a DeLillo fan like I do, it’s hard to avoid tackling this behemoth. And in the end, I have to admit: there’s something undeniably special about experiencing a work of fiction like this from a master like DeLillo.