Sunday, August 16, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 18.2 (Don DeLillo)


Underworld
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
DeLillo, Don
Underworld


I just read this a few years ago. I think I bought it at Talking Leaves Books, but I a can't be sure.

When I was hired part-time to run a poetry series at Just Buffalo Literary Center in 1998, my first official task was to drive to the airport, where I had never been, pick up a representative from a major national foundation, which I'd never heard of, and drive her to a restaurant in Buffalo to meet with a group of board members that I'd never met.

She was a petite Asian woman and she carried a copy of the newly published Underworld with her. I asked her if she liked it and she said it was fabulous and that "Don" and just been out to read in L.A. and she had been to dinner with Don and that Don was such a wonderful person and that Don was such a great writer and that she thought this was Don's greatest book. I don't think I looked sufficiently impressed by this, which caused the tension in the car to rise over the course of our fifteen minute journey together.

I was probably the last person that should have been picking her up because of my unfamiliarity with Buffalo -- I had only lived here for a couple of months and had only had a car for about a week. Neither did I know anything about the literary organization I had just started working for, other than that my landlady was the founder. She became visibly annoyed when I could answer none of her questions about Just Buffalo or about the city of Buffalo or about anything else pertaining to the place she'd just arrived.

By the time we got to the restaurant, I could tell she wanted nothing more to do with me, and the feeling was mutual. I pulled the car to the curb in front of the restaurant and said, I think this is the place. She was now really pissed and asked -- aren't you going to come in with me? I said I wasn't invited and that truth be told, I didn't know anyone that was coming to dinner, so I would not be able to help her find her group anyway.

I guess I could have been a little nicer, but I really, really disliked her by the time we'd gotten to the door. Anyhow, she stormed off, but our grant was renewed, so someone must have charmed her at dinner.

from Underworld

He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful.

It's a school day, sure, but he's nowhere near the classroom. He wants to be here instead, standing in the shadow of this old rust-hulk of a structure, and it's hard to blame him--this metropolis of steel and concrete and flaky paint and cropped grass and enormous Chesterfield packs aslant on the scoreboards, a couple of cigarettes jutting from each.

Longing on a large scale is what makes history. This is just a kid with a local yearning but he is part of an assembling crowd, anonymous thousands off the buses and trains, people in narrow columns tramping over the swing bridge above the river, and even if they are not a migration or a revolution, some vast shaking of the soul, they bring with them the body heat of a great city and their own small reveries and desperations, the unseen something that haunts the day--men in fedoras and sailors on shore leave, the stray tumble of their thoughts, going to a game.

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