A Quip Concerning Don DeLillo’s ‘Underworld’

The image which DeLillo leaves us with, more or less, is that of a man peering into the screen of a laptop, maybe indifferently, maybe abstractly curious, while sitting on top of a mountainous pile of garbage amidst many more mountains of garbage. DeLillo leads us to believe that the search for any and every piece of product or waste can be found, categorized and at times glorified, in the data stream accessed through the search engine of the computer. The World Wide Web, in fact, is an attempt to connect all the incidental waste-product and collateral run-off of our human quest for meaning. We hope to find it somewhere, even in a seemingly inconsequential item, such as a four-decade old baseball, stained and battered, which may or may not be the very same baseball struck and sent into the stands during a legendary World Series victory which united the American city that for decades has stood as the epitome of the globalized, mega-sized super-production of the modern world: New York.

The logic of this image and metaphor make clear that the final word at the end of the novel should not have been ‘Peace’, but rather ‘Searching…’ Alas, though Underworld is an achievement of a refined understanding of advanced literary technique, it goes to show the limits of rhetoric: it cannot hide a lack of insight in the final analysis.

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