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DeLillo & New York

DeLillo & New York

Eric Packer is a twenty-eight-year-old multi-billionaire asset manager. We join him on what will become a particularly eventful April day in turn-of-the-twenty-first-century Manhattan. He's on a personal odyssey, to get a haircut...

Eric Packer is a twenty-eight-year-old multi-billionaire asset manager. We join him on what will become a particularly eventful April day in turn-of-the-twenty-first-century Manhattan. He's on a personal odyssey, to get a haircut... Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis is a witty commentary on capitalism. This two-hundred-page "poem-prose about New York" (according to Blake Morrison, Guardian) is both cynical in it's approach and satirical in it's delivery. The seasoned writer engages the reader with a rhythmical to-ing and fro-ing between topical issues and the more mundane nuisances of life, the former shadowing the latter.

We begin with sleep-depravity and after the first few paragraphs, perhaps, start to wonder: what's the point? It is not until (only a little) later that realisation dawns: it is through the display of these trivialities - such as the protagonist's vain attempts to calm himself down - that DeLillo skilfully shapes the reader's perception of the type-A young man's characterisation, of whom this entire novel concerns. In some ways, Eric Packer could be considered as the microcosm to his nation's macrocosmic situation. As though he is the human representation of what is right, but in many ways, too, not ideal, with the society in which he thrives. His reveries, habits and pedantic tendencies, for example, all act as a guide to later actions, or shall we say reactions...?

This is the sort of book I would have enjoyed even AFTER knowing the full plot summary. DeLillo writes with style and minute-precision in a way that simply demands the attention of the reader. This book could be finished in a day. Yet there is one thing: the pace, especially where sentence structures are concerned. The story is as much for the characters as it is for the readers, meaning that the language - and, indeed, it's form - is so internalised, so in tune to the character's perspective that it can be difficult to grasp. The reader and the writer do not quite have the same running start and it takes a little bit of focus to truly delve into the story.

Nevertheless, it's an endeavour worth making and one of those books that will keep.

By Patricia Yaker Ekall

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Designs by Grace Ekall. Photography by Thomas Heming

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