Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Marty Demarest
DeLillo is one of America's most difficult authors. He regularly takes on major themes that, despite their prominence in contemporary life, are difficult to pin down and discuss, much less turn into a novel. His newest, Cosmopolis, is no different, choosing as its theme the metaphysical destruction that advances in technology have caused in contemporary society.


Setting DeLillo's philosophical investigations in motion is Cosmopolis' main character, Eric Packer. We're informed right away that Mr. Packer is a technology-obsessed billionaire who is experiencing an existential crisis. And so he decides to simplify his life and get a haircut. His wealth and power, however, lead him to the hubris of deciding to get his hair cut across town on the day that the president is in town. As his head of security observes: "You will hit traffic that speaks in quarter inches." And so the bulk of Cosmopolis details Packer's journey across town in an impossibly long white limousine. What occurs on the way is something of a nihilistic absurdist comedy, replete with a pie fight, a murder and non-contact sex.


What DeLillo seems to be investigating with his scrubbed-down prose are the ways in which we are nullifying ourselves by developing technology that makes not only recent technology obsolete, but makes the people who operate it relics as well. Like the limo that is always dozens of feet ahead of Packer as he journeys across town, time seems to have overleapt the characters in Cosmopolis. Security cameras show the actions of people a few seconds before they actually make them, and every technological device is described as being obsolete, "vestigial."


This is the crisis that lies at the center of Cosmopolis: Where are we now when we so continually live in the future? DeLillo seems to suggest that there is no now, now; there are only voids. "It was a matter of silences, not words," he writes in the book's first paragraph. It's a depressing thought. Despite its abstract and alarming topic, Cosmopolis, at only 209 pages, is not a daunting read. Indeed, in the very act of writing a novel, with its trappings of awkward language and inefficient technology, DeLillo reminds us that even in the face of annihilation, art offers a sanctuary, even when it's talking about nothing.





Publication date: 05/01/03

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Crash > Click > Cash
  • Crash > Click > Cash

    Lawyers and chiropractors already have your name, your address and the police report from your car accident — and they want you to hire them
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Starting Small
  • Starting Small

    A village of tiny houses in Spokane Valley could serve as a model for fighting homelessness in the region
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Drastic Action
  • Drastic Action

    Spokane among seven school districts sued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction; plus, trio of police-chief finalists are in town
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Lane Ends Ahead

    Spokane wants to improve a mile-long section of Monroe — but that means taking away two lanes
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Too Smart for School

    What happens when a 12-year-old prodigy tries to go to college in Spokane?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

green zone


marijuana


Briefs


election 2016


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Justice Cycle
  • Justice Cycle

    Downtown patrol officers steer minor criminals toward Spokane's therapeutic Community Court
    • May 26, 2016

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation