Let’s talk about some stuff. Cosmopolis reading group is on. Get in the Limo.

Who’s ready to hop in the limo? *adjusts chauffeur cap to a rakish angle*

I liked Cosmopolis. It’s not exactlyΒ a feel-good novel (Where is that sarcasm font?) but I enjoyed the way it was told and the frenetic pace. Discussing Cosmopolis also allows me to use two of my favourite words; ‘absurd’ and ‘surreal’. πŸ˜‰ More importantly, I could see Robert Pattinson in this role. Easily. I’m not going to say much here – I’ll save my comments for the discussion below. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Here are a few questions to get you started…

General thoughts: your gut reaction. Is this your normal type of reading material? Are you going to read more DeLillo based on your experience with Cosmopolis? Was it what you were expecting?

Do you have a favourite line? Yes, yes, I think we’re all onboard with I want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on.”Β Β Any others? I really, really like the lineΒ “The noblest thing, a bridge over a river, with the sun begininng to roar behind it.” There were many times I was distracted by a beautiful or, conversely, a really crude but very vivid line.

Β Eric Packinson himself. Love him? Hate him? He’s a complicated guy (or is he?) and I’m really looking forward to your opinions.

So, now we open the limo door and invite you all in. It might be difficult to stick to first half of the book as we originally planned. Let’s just have at it! The comment section will workΒ  as threads – leave a new comment to start a threadΒ or reply to an existing comment to discuss that topic.

Let’s examine Eric Packer, I mean, Eric Packer’s strange day. See you down there. πŸ˜‰

UPDATE: WOW, the limo filled up with spoilers faster than expected!!! Proceed with caution if you haven’t completed the book.

Fifty is distracting me and I want to talk about Eric and his day. Vote HERE if you have a strong opinion on the fifty shades thing. πŸ˜‰Β  Update: Poll is closed. Eric resoundingly won the crown of Mr Most Fucked Up in a Story in which we Picture Rob. Let us never speak of it again. πŸ˜‰

  • General thought: i loved it for being different from what i normally like. it had a gritty poetry to it. how the story and plot is punctuated. i liked that alot and could see Rob embody this character…this mind. i’ve talked to chauffeur M about this and there was a blending of several movies and styles that popped up in the convo: collateral, phonebooth, american psycho. the last one, american psycho, was from me. Eric Packer isn’t crazy like Patrick Bateman but there was a similarity in the way a story is told. the streams of thought. the privileged arrogance. the corporate, yuppie vibe.

    on a raunchier note, i loved the sexual nature of it. it worked with the story. this isn’t your mamas new york city. it’s very raw and hellish. mixing the downfall around the city with Eric’s insatiable sexual drive…it gave the story a thumping pulse. knowing who was going to play Eric Packer during the whole reading certainly made the experience more….invigorating? πŸ˜‰

    its gonna take a 2nd reading for me to get into the business layers. that’s not my cup of tea but it hardly lost me in the story. it goes back to being an aspect necessary in this man’s metropolitan odyssey. it’s going to be very cool to see who’s cast in what roles.

    i’ll put my thoughts on hold to give people something to jump off on. i was a bit all over and said several things in one shot but hopefully it inspires people to discuss.

  • Favorite line (one of them): Nancy Babich.

    that name packs a punch in this story πŸ˜‰

    • Marina H.

      I wish the rest of that line was PG enough to post on here because i laughed my ass off in the book.

      • you can post the line. we can swear on here. we warned at the top πŸ˜‰ if Eric doesnt censor himself, neither do we πŸ˜‰

        • Marina H.

          I really can’t, lol. It’s terribly inappropriate.

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  • Another favourite line: “Ok I was a kid and a bit pedantic but I maintain I had a point.”

  • Eric’s appetites for food, money, sex, whatever he wants right now. I want to talk about this. πŸ™‚

    • Marina H.

      He wants something chewy…mmmm….

      • Karin

        I love how he licks her hand and bites her knuckle before he says that…. mmmmm πŸ™‚

    • Eric is hungry. He is a hunter. He doesn’t want money. He wants to understand the purity of the pattern of movement in the yen. He has a yen for it. It’s about purity not money.

  • Eileen

    I would love to talk about the book, but I haven’t read it yet. I ordered it, it’s on its way and I can’t wait. Picturing Rob as Eric while reading the book will make it for sure more vivid and exciting. It’s not my normal ‘cup of tea’, but anything for Rob and his work.

    • Enjoy reading, it’s quite a ride (limo reference πŸ˜‰ ) We’re having a general discussion now and will continue with more detailed topics over the next weeks so you’ll have a chance to share! I’m really excited to talk casting. Awesome female character/roles in this. πŸ™‚

      • Eileen

        I’m really exited about this book/movie and curious about the casting I can’t wait to join the discussion. You’ll be hearing from me soon, I hope! In the mean time I’ll just keep reading the reviews/opinions of others.

  • Fab

    Well, first, English is not my primary language and I read it in English so at the begining I was thinking that was the reason I got lost at some points but then I saw everybody saying the same thing. It’s not a very easy read but I enjoyed very much. I think imagining Rob doing it was the main reason for that and the fact that I had to picture that story turning into a movie. I have to read scripts all the time for my job so I loved doing that. If I’d read it anyway despite these motives? Probably not.
    Favorite parts: Erick and Elise interactions and the monologue (with the gun) near the end.
    I have several favorite lines but I like when Elise sort of describes Eric: “Why do you have to be rich, famous, brainy, powerful and feared?”
    and a hot one:
    “I smell sex all over you.”
    “It’s hunger you smell.” (he was talking about food, but, well lol)
    There are so many challenging scenes for Rob and now I’m dying to read the script and to know all the cast.

    That’s it. I apologize for my grammar mistakes… oh, I started this thing stating that English isn’t my primary language so you understand that πŸ˜‰

    Keep up the good work, girls o/

    • Love the interactions with his wife πŸ™‚

    • What do you do that you have to read scripts all day? Just askin’.

  • Marina H.

    *rubs hands together* I’ve been waiting for this! A few comments:

    First of all I LOVED the book. I’m so thankful that we were given a reason to seek this book out and read it. I haven’t read a book in a long time *ahem* and sincerely enjoyed this as a piece of literature, Rob involvement or not. I absolutely fell in love with the descriptive quality of the narrative. I know that’s one thing we probably won’t get in the movie but I enjoyed it so much in the book. It really gives an interesting view on New York, also one that changes symbolically throughout the course of the plot. Starting in Eric’s wealthy neighborhood and ending by the docks of Hell’s Kitchen. Quite a rise and decline, non?

    Let’s talk about Eric. I loved Eric. I thought he was so complex and ridiculous and sexy and funny and all sorts of things. Of course, we can all agree that it is very easy to picture Rob in this roll, as deep and dark as he’s going to have to go. Eric has a lot of ego and a lot of charisma and yet when it comes to some things he is so lost. Love, for example, weapons for another. He’s a very smart man but somewhat sheltered. The thing I liked most about Eric in the book was that it was about his downfall, NOT about his “heroic journey.” His struggle, conflict and resolution. This is all about Eric’s last day in power and how everything crumbles at his feet because of his choices. (“Consequences, choices…” hehehehehe) I think, as a reader, you can tell he’s doomed from the beginning. (Why else would the story setting be a simplistic as a limo?)

    The cast of supporting characters were fun as well. I loved Elise and her sort of…symbolic “angel” appearances throughout the book (mostly at meal times). I like that she represents all the things that could be good in his life yet he struggles so much with accepting that. But here’s something I want to discuss…if they’ve been married for 22 days and she’s never seen his eyes before, did he wear sunglasses at the wedding? Did they have a wedding? Did they go on a honeymoon? These are things i think about…

    Lastly, favorite bits. Of course the bottlefuck part nearly made me crash my car (I was driving, how appropriate) and I also love the “I smell sex on you,” “It’s hunger you smell” part as well. All of my favorite parts occur at the near end of the book so stop reading if you don’t want to hear about them.

    1. The movie set scene (fans self…whoooeey….that was hot as hell)
    2. The barbershop scene (awww…Eric’s human after all!)
    3. The pistol monologue. (I DIED laughing. And Chauffeur Tink, my favorite line is “Nancy Babage” as well.) I can go on and on about this part. I LOVED IT!

    I’ll wait to talk about my feelings on the end of the novel until more people have read it. I have some stuff i wanna talk about there too πŸ˜‰

    Those are my thoughts!! <3

    • love that line. “It’s hunger you smell.”

      loved that the downfall was symbolic in his losing of clothes as well.

      • Marina H.

        you lost me at “losing his clothes”

        No, I’m joking. That was really great symbolism. There was a lot of factors that symbolized his downfall…hmmm should start another thread about that…

    • Your questions are literal. She remarks on his eyes. This contrasts with Eric’s acute perception of details. The strands in Jane’s hair that are signs of single strands that will turn gray. Eric pays attentions to signs of the future. As the day goes on he sees with a painter’s eye.

      And oh have you ever seen a real Rothko. An art historian friend of mine went to Rothko’s studio in New York as she was writing on him. I would love to have seen him there. Photos in books just can’t reproduce him at all. If you want to know sort of what they are like then look for awhile at a saturated color. Then look at a white wall to allow the negative after image to develop. That is the closest I can think of of what a Rothko experience is like.

      And the part where he says that the “scorched blonde” taught him how to see.

      • Rothko committed suicide. That’s important.

    • Eric did not have a downfall. He deliberately imploded the yen and crashed the currency market. Exposing it as a simulation.

      • Marina H.

        Ooh, I want to talk about this more. πŸ™‚

        The way I read it, I can see how his toying with the Yen was intentional, but I feel like the whole point of this story is following Eric’s downfall from power. (Rather, his presumed position of power)

        It starts out slow and subtle, then as you get into the story he starts losing money, people, clothes, hair…everything. Until he is literally left with nothing and no one. Not even a bullet left in his gun. If that’s not a downfall, I don’t know what is.

        He IS totally blase about the whole thing, which makes me really think about how intentional his choices were. I guess I just don’t see how it’s not a downfall, deliberate or not. Care to elaborate?

        • As I see it a downfall is usually viewed as one form or another of retribution. Not intentional.

          Eric purposely destroys. Wants to wipe the slate to zero. (Brings down the yen, his own fortune, and then Elise’s fortune as well. By impersonating her. Simulacra, again.) In fact he wants to go beyond zero. He knows the notion of linear time is defunct. He says it at the start:

          “Freud is finished, Einstein’s next.”

        • Downfall is pjorative in western culture discourse. Downfall is an incorrect word. Eric is involved in potlatch. Maas has recently written on it as it is an important concept of our time. It dates from North American Indian culture as Ruth Benedict described it in her book Patterns of Culture. The one who destroys the most wealth in a bonfire is the one who wins the potlatch.

          So he wins. He divests himself of EVERYTHING! Then he steals Elise’s wealth that she has already offered him. To take a gift entails a debt. Stealing it does not so he steals it. They meet as equals. She is no longer the “wife subject to her duty” and he is no longer the “husband who takes care of her”. They meet spontaneously and ecstatically as lovers.

          • But isn’t potlatch a redistribution of wealth through gifting? But in some traditions gifting itself is destruction. For instance in the repaying of dowries (marriage debt), some of the property of the other tribe is actually destroyed. You kill the debt.

            Elise has her own fortune, she isn’t indebted to Eric on that plain. She is however indebted to her father (inherited, not created wealth)… from whom Eric frees her?

            This for Eric is capital, but for Elise? THey make love before he tells her the money is gone.

  • Marina H.

    Here’s a thread I want to start for discussion. Originally, a lot of us were geekin’ out because it seemed easy to make a comparison between Eric’s wealthy, financial wunderkind self and our (read: MY) favorite fanfiction character, Mr. Fifty Shades.

    Here’s what I think about that…
    I think that there are SOME parts that have a similar quality, but in the end Eric holds VERY few similarities to Fifty. If anything…Eric is like…Fifteen to Twenty shades of fucked up, non? Fifty is sex driven, Eric (while he enjoys and takes part in sex) is driven by power. They both like money, flaunting their money, and women (“I like the cooooncept of a woman.” heh heh heh) but I feel like that’s where their comparison ends.

    Do any other fanfiction characters seem similar to Eric? Beautiful Bastard maybe? I’m not really sure. I like holding Eric to being unique πŸ™‚

    Thoughts? Feelings? Disagreements? I wanna hear…

    • I”m going to memorize the gun monologue and perform it as a one-woman show on a Toronto street corner during filming. :p

      • rpattzgirl

        LMAO! Now I would pay to see that performance!

      • lol, deeewwweeeettt!!

      • Marina H.

        I’ll be the gun, you be Eric.

        Maybe we’ll get an audience, and by audience I mean Rob.

        Do de doooooo….

    • Oh and I think Eric is more shades than that, maybe 25-32 shades of fucked-up. But not generous at all and that was Fifty’s redeeming feature, generosity. I’m not sure if Eric has one yet… *allows story to seep into my blood*

      • Marina H.

        I agree, i don’t think he has anything redeeming like Fifty either. Definitely not…not in the confines of this story anyway. I like to think the ending didn’t happen as expected and things turned up for Mr. Packer…#hopefulcomment

      • how are you guys saying Fifty has redeeming characteristics yet you’re saying Eric Packer is less fucked up than Fifty?! Did Fifty change so drastically in the 2nd story to becomes a detached, paranoid, egotistical, self-inflicted wounded, gun slinging, disenchanted, killer?

        • You can be fucked up and still have redeeming qualities. Eric chooses to live/think that way – he has built that persona for his own reasons which, I don’t feel are ever really explained. Fifty gives to charity, he TRIES to meet people half way. He’s protective and loyal. Can you imagine Fifty shooting Tyler because he wants to be vulnerable??

          • what are Eric’s redeemable qualities?

          • He is courageous. And he knows the world he lives in. and he djliberately brings it down. That’s a hero.

        • Marina H.

          Ok let me just clarify what I’m judging my “shades of fucked up” on. Fifty judges himself based on his past. His past was MESSED. I said Eric was only 15-20 because of his past life…past life being childhood. Seemed like a normal, privileged childhood to me.

          As far as CURRENT actions go, I agree Eric’s are on an ENTIRELY different level. But that’s where I stop comparing them.

          Ok, i need to go be good now. *waves and tips Chauffeur hat* <3

          • so u meant in the past. Eric is not as fucked up as Fifty is in the past. hm.

          • Marina H.


    • Hmm, yeah, I don’t think Eric and Fifty are similar at all. In fact I don’t think Eric has many Edward-esque features at all. He’s really a quite “unlikeable” character, but somehow, at least I, manage to love him anyway. It’s more the first setting, in the 48 room large 3-floored penthouse with the fancy schmancy interial design, shark-tanks and elevators and god-knows-what that reminds me of both BB and Fifty…or I don’t know, James Bond?? OhmygodRobisgoingtoholdagunwhilewearingasuitit’slikeaminiaturebondmoviemoment!!!

      • Marina H.

        Rob + Gun = awesome.

        Plus he busts through a door. EPIC!


        • Aussiegirl


        • Karin

          I particularly liked his whole narrative about busting through the door and then BAM! Door off hinges.

          I want to bust down a door… haha

          • Marina H.

            That monologue was my favorite part. FAVORITE!

      • I agree. I dont see Edward/Fifty in this character beyond the coldness/suit type. And that’s not even Fifty’s MO in the long run. I’ve only read the 1st MotU but Fifty clearly became a person you love. I don’t love Eric Packer as a character. I can see Rob playing this perfectly and giving Packer the dynamic he needs to jump from page to screen.

      • Yeah, I have to wonder when people compare Fifty to Eric. Did you read the book or did you just look at the pictures? Cause yeah, they look the same, not the same person at all…

        And why the HELL didn’t I think about the gun! Man, I’m re-reading now!!!

        • the comparison with Fifty is superficial. the blog chuaffeurs agree there. we’re just debating levels of fucked upness. πŸ˜‰

          being fucked up is universal lol

    • Fab

      Yep, I feel like the power is the only thing that remembers me of Fifty (and Rob, of course LOL)
      I want to make a Eric Packer video with the song “Asshole” by Julian Coryell (you can listen to it here http://www.juliancoryell.net) but I’m so lazy LOL

    • Eric Packer seems more fucked up to me than Fifty. Eric is like 100 shades of fucked up. For some clear differences. Are we talking about spoilers yet?

      • Marina H.

        I’ve been holding back from spoilers…but if you disclaimer it maybe people won’t mind. You think Eric is more fucked up? Maybe because he’s so removed from humanity…Fifty is just tragically flawed. Eric is genuinely an asshole.

        I guess I was looking at it from his early life. Fifty had a fucked up childhood and Eric’s seemed less dramatic. That’s what i was basing my scale on. As far as being currently fucked up, I think you’re right. Eric wins…

        • Eric is SO fucked up. I pulled it out in a comment above. I can’t take you guys saying Fifty is 50 shades and Eric is like 20-30 when he is hardly redeemable. Did Fifty really change in the 2nd MotU?

          • Marina H.

            No he didn’t. I think we’re just looking at fucked-up-ness differently. Or looking at different things being fucked up.

          • yeah i am. when you kill, you become more fucked up than someone who doesnt kill. when you shoot yourself…you become more fucked up than someone who doesn’t. but i said i was gonna hold off until you can talk right? πŸ˜‰

          • How can he structure his death if he employs someone who will stop him? He has to kill Torval so he can sacrifice himself.

          • so fucked up

          • No. Fucked up isn’t in this category. Don’t mix categories. You are too smart for that. This is Symbolic Exchange. Death.

          • oh abbey πŸ™‚

          • Exchange as in troc. Swap. Barter. But who exactly is on the other end of Eric’s swap? The Cosmos?

            Torval was a problem for Eric from the onset, he “did not fit the pattern.”

          • Sparkle_balls

            I completely agree with you, Eric is more fucked up then Fifty, at least Fifty has a reason why he is the way he is, terrible childhood and a cougar who preyed on that, made him become Fiftyshades of fucked up. Eric on the other hand loves the money and power, he loves being able to get what he wants, when he wants it and loves to toy with people.

          • right. equals more fucked up to me. seems whatever got Eric to this point had to have been from his past. therefore his past must have been pretty fucked too.

          • Sparkle_balls

            Right, I mean you’ve got to be fucked up to marry someone for their money, and not have sex with them until you know your life is on the line, he’s a man for Christ sake what man is not going to have sex with a women he married even if he was not attracted to her.

          • sounds pretty 50+ shades of fucked up to me

          • Well Lou Andreas Salome never had sex with her husband. She was Nietzsche and Rilke’s lover and left them both. She was one of the most unusual muses of her time. But Freud turned her into an analyst instead of a lover. But she refused to be analyzed herself by Freud or anyone else. Marriage and sex are not necessarily required unless procreation is desired. Elise is thinking and writing poetry. Eric wants to fuck. She knows the difference. And when she comes (no pun intended) to him she knows he knows the difference.

        • Aussiegirl

          Eric is in complete disconnect from society, intimate relationships with other people etc. He ponders and over analyses and is bewildered by events and the reactions of other people to situations. But it is completely separate and disconnected to it. I am still at the riot scene with the rat people so I haven’t reached the climax *fans self* yet.

          • sounds like 50+ shades of fucked up to me πŸ˜‰

    • 4tlashes4erimus

      I haven’t read Cosmopolis yet (waiting for my copy to arrive) but I have read (and continue to read) MoTU. If Eric Packer is about power then he and Fifty are VERY similar in that regard. I disagree regarding Fifties sexual pursuit being simply sex driven. Fifties entire existence has been based on power and control. His sexual proclivities are simply a vehicle by which he experiences them. His business is another vehicle. Even his hobbies are power/control based. If his sex life was just about sex, he would simply have been a man-whore. Clearly he is not. His sexual appetites are specific (desire to dominate/control), his involvements detailed, with clear perimeters and goals. I think these aspects of Fifties sexual pursuits place him solidly in the power/control aspect of sex. So it sounds to me like they have MORE in common than less in this regard. Just my take on this particular issue. Looking forward to getting into the book and finding out for myself about Eric Packer and his world. :-).

      • Suziekew

        well put…agree that Fifty is totally about being in control or a position of power/dominance in all aspects of his life (business, sex, whatever) because he’s made damn sure he CAN be now. When he was child and all those horrible things were done to him he wasn’t in control (as kids normally aren’t…but he doesn’t have that perspective). It’s a defense mechanism to prevent him from being hurt that deeply again.

        I gotta re-read the book before I pass on my observations cause I’m blanking on the movie set scene and other parts people have mentioned here! All I know, and I know this with absolute certainty, is that Rob is going to KILL in this role! ha…I made a double entendre AND I made a point!

    • Are you sure?

  • Whitbysucks

    Fab, your English is wonderful. It is my 1st language and you have a much better grip on it!
    Marina: THANK YOU for giving a spoiler alert as I am on page 96.
    I am finding Cosmopolis weird, sensual, dark and darker, making me think. Some of the imagry is very vivid and some I’m trying to figure out.
    A line that, well I don’t particularly like it, but it has stuck with me :
    He was hungry, he was half starved. There were days when he wanted to eat all the time, talk to peoples’s faces, live in meat space.

    • Fab

      Thank you <3

    • love how bizarre that is…live in meat space. Eric Packer is so bizarre.

  • rpattzgirl

    I’m totally frustrated. I haven’t READ the book, I listened to it on Audio and it was like going to the dentist…it was so painful. I’m hoping the book will be easier to process-but I honestly believe I need the script (god please).
    No, this is not my cup a tea at all…and honestly if it weren’t for Rob..I would have stopped listening by chapter II.
    Can I see Rob in this part? You bet your ass I can.
    It’s gritty, obnoxious to a point, highly sexual, self indulgent…I was not a fan of Eric Packer-and I think ROB is going to knock our socks off (not that he already doesn’t).
    I can see this maybe appealing to men…and Rob has the woman factor sewn up.
    I really have no intelligent comments because I think I slept through 1/2 of the audio…
    Let me say again….I really need the script.

    • I have a very difficult time listening to audio books as well. I’ve listened and read the pdf since the book I ordered hasn’t arrived. Definitely have not fully digested this.

      I like that you used the word ‘obnoxious’. That’s perfect. You can almost see Eric do something, not get a big enough reaction and then push further. Almost childish.

      • rpattzgirl

        Oh good, I felt supid through most of it, like why aren’t I getting this!

        • Sparkle_balls

          I felt the same way, I hate feeling like I am the only one not getting this book, I usually comprehend thing easily, I can skip parts of books and not get lost but this one threw me for a loop.

          • robsexme

            You are not alone hun. Don’t feel bad. If I could get a hold of the script then maybe I’d understand the book better too! @Rpattzgirl go ahead let’s say it again together.. we really need the script! πŸ™‚

          • Whitbysucks

            I don’t know how you would follow with audio, the author does not end dialogue with he said or she said or Eric said etc, I’ve gone back in the text a page because I have lost track of who is talking.

        • It’s very very hard to understand. Don’t blame yourself. It needs to be taught to most people. As an undergraduate I had an incredible American novel professor. She began lecturing as soon as she walked in the door while taking off her coat, poking up the blinds etc and she never took a breath.

          Henry James, Melville, Howell, Faulkner, oh I was enthralled. She taught me how to see, hear and think about literature.

      • petitesorciere

        hi, deb…. would you consider emailing .pdf ?

    • Wow, I don’t think I could listen to the book in audio version. Sometimes I had to go back and read the same lines twice with different “intonation” to get it…I’d get a headache from trying to understand it spoken out loud.

    • Aussiegirl

      I agree with you. This is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own. Rob’s involvement dictated it. Demanded it. Having said that I am finding the audio quite captivating. I think that I would have found the text harder going. But I will need to have a copy for ‘quoting purposes’. That will be mandatory. Just like commentreee!!

      • agreed. DEMANDED it. im curious about the audio now…

      • Marina H.

        People die on the weekend. People die because it’s the weekend.


        • Karin

          When he died he would not end. The world would end.

          Oh Eric, you conceited bastard πŸ˜‰

          • That is a Hebrew concept. When a man dies a world ends. The terrible lost worlds in the Holocaust.

          • If reality is a product of language, as long as someone keeps talking, can we say that nothing today is real?

          • Is reality a product of language? No. This is where it all comes unglued. Words do not refer to things. Language is a separate entity and refers only to itself. Language has no outside referent. Neither does money as currencies float on screens. And I’m not even going near sex right now but politics also has no referent.

          • Passionson

            May I peek in? I love that this discussion exists. It is helping me digest this little behemouth, disguised as a quick read, known as Cosmopolis.
            Ayn Rand’s philosophy was the same. When we die the world ends. Because there are different philosophies touched on throughout the book, I thought I’d throw Ayn’s on the bonfire.

          • It’s a classic doctrine: the world is constituted by human consciousness.

            It’s the tree falling unheard in the forest dictum.

          • No. Consciousness is Hegellian. That’s gone too.

        • GREAT line. i said it too a friend on friday. i got weird looks.

    • apotampkin

      Wow, I only did the audiobook and like I said, it was deeeeelishious to me! I will now read the book but the audio was just so indulgent… I lapped it up.

      • Suziekew

        how do you get hold of the audio?

        • Suziekew

          doh, nevermind, sorry, iTunes has it *considers ponying up an additional $16*

      • im thinking i should listen to the audio so i can hear the intonation of the text.

        • apotampkin

          You should – I often don’t like the way audiobooks are read (Twilight anyone?!?!?!) but this one is great – he speaks just the way it’s written… it’s hypnotic.

  • robsexme

    *hops in the limo for a quickie * πŸ˜‰

    I finished reading Cosmopolis & my heads spinning a little because that’s how it left me slightly dizzy & confused. If I had to describe the book in one word I’d call it bizarre! Eric’s messed up, but I agree with Chauffer M. he’s not as similar to Fifty as I first thought. Eric & Fifty are both filthy rich but that’s about where the similarities end to me. Eric is more money hungry & uses women for sex and doesn’t seem to have any compassion for people. He just seems more detatched from people in general to me than Fifty i.e the scene where he watches the man being killed on TV over & over & is turned on by the injured women? Yeah weird. No? *shrugs* It will be interesting to see how his inner monologue comes across in the movie. There were definitley parts of this book that remind me of American Psycho. Yay Tink! I may be in the minority, but I actually like that movie. I thought his mental breakdown was depicted well and even though it was gruesome some of his madness was just too funny & made me laugh out loud. Yes people in the theater may have thought me a little crazy too. Oh well.
    Is Eric somehow able to see what will happen to him even before it’s about to happen or am I wrong. ?! If you can’t tell I was confused in Cosmopolis so help me out with an answer on that anyone. Buehler? Hopefully reading more comments will help me make more sense of it. I would love to hear Rob exult, “I am a world citizen with a New York pair of balls” no doubt! **giggles** My favorite quote from the book however is when Jane says to Eric just as she’s about to leave the limo (after Eric’s prostate exam) β€œI am advising you in this matter not only as your chief of finance but as a woman who would still be married to her husbands if they had looked at her the way you have looked at me today.” Here is exactly where I could picture Rob as Eric because we all know Rob can deliver that look like no one else! πŸ˜‰

    • Marina H.

      Ohhhh….that’s a GOOD line! I forgot to pay tribute to that scene in my review. I LOVE that scene…totally hot. I want to know who they’re going to cast as Jane. That scene needs to be done well. Yummy…

    • I flove that line!! πŸ™‚

    • GREAT line πŸ˜‰

      oh and I love American Psycho too πŸ™‚

    • RSM!! Go look at the tags! You win! LOL

      I agree with you; “seeing things that haven’t happened yet” is intriguing and very dramatic at the end but I haven’t completely made sense of it from a theme/characterization point of view.

      More agreement regarding eyefucks: Mr Cronenberg could not have hired a better man for the job. πŸ˜‰

      • Pattinson: King of Eyefucking

        • Marina H.

          *likes this*

    • Suziekew

      Rob is gonna hit that “New York pair of balls” line out of the park and halfway into New Jersey. No doubt.

      • trufax!!! can’t wait to hear what voice he’ll use.

        • Suziekew

          it’s such a brassy, arrogant line…I just haven’t seen Rob deliver this kind of dialogue before. So hard to picture what choice he’ll make here. I can clearly see Robert Downey Jr saying it cause Tony Stark is somewhat like Packer – does what the hell he wants when and how he want to and doesn’t give a crap what anyone else thinks.

    • That was a beautiful comment by Jane.

  • Well ok, I LOVED it!! Have I said that before?? lol

    One of the reasons for that is because it’s so different from everything I normally read, both is style and content. The language was sometimes hard to keep up with, but I loved the poetic feel of it.
    It defenitely wasn’t what I expected to find! In reviews, the sexual content has been highlighted and Packer has been slandered for his sexual thirst…once again, I’m the completely wrong person to judge this cuz I’m pretty jaded, but I thought it was a lot less sex than what I expected it to be (#perv). There are some sex-scenes, and some scenes that are just sexually charged (I hope they’re even stronger in the movie!!), but given that this is an arrogant, wealthy, uber-smart, bored, young guy with nothing much to do all day…um, isn’t it pretty tame? lol
    Other than that the most surprising thing was the language, and just the over all feel of the book.

    It’s hard to talk about just the beginning of the book since I feel that everything makes much more sense after reading the end. Eric’s persona and his behaviour is so much more relatable then…even though I felt you got the impression of the background from the very beginning. So I’ll just shut up for now…and bide my time *muahahah*

    Thanks guys for doing this πŸ™‚

    • loved the poetic feel of it too πŸ™‚

    • Marina H.

      I know I want to talk about the end too…

    • Ah but that is the point. That you read outside your habit reading. That you push yourself beyond your usual boundaries, limits.

  • DebbieCDC (aka Seattle Chik)

    Sliding into the back seat of the limo….

    I’ve not yet finished the book, so I’m avoiding the comments above so as to not pick up on any spoilers. This is a VERY different style of writing than I’m used to, but it’s compelling nonetheless. At times it’s more like poetry than prose, at least to my eyes. I’m rather partial at the moment to the quote “I’m a citizen of the world with a New York pair of balls”. LOL, having lived in NYC for a time while working for Columbia Pictures, I can appreciate the New Yorkness of that sentiment. I have only just now gotten to the hotel room/vodka licking scene, which in all honesty I am DEFINITELY looking forward to seeing in the film!

    • i said the same thing! poetic…i like that about the story and how its told.

      and that’s a GREAT line as well πŸ™‚

  • Chauffeur M and Chauffeur Debb are more fucked up than Eric but not nearly as fucked up as Fifty. lord no. I’d say they’re about 38 shades. there we go. that’s arbitrary enough. πŸ˜‰

    • Marina H.

      shut uuuuughhhhppppppp

    • *bitchbrow* I made a poll for you. And this totally reminds me of this one time, on twitter, when you harangued me into watching The Notebook. :))

    • I just spoke to my husband. I am exactly 4.5 shades of fucked up. Double that at PMS time. *sweet smile*

    • If you like fanfic then you will love Toni Morrison. No one except Joyce Carol Oates writes about sex as exquisitely as she does. Especially in Sula.

      • I’ve read several Morrison novels a long time ago but not Oates. I wouldn’t say I like fanfiction in general because I don’t read it from a variety of fandoms. Just found a nitch I’ve enjoyed.

        • Both of them are down and dirty and sublime. I think Oates is our Balzac.

          • abbey, you’re waving your literary dick around in here and the thread is old. we’re gonna start a new one on Monday and you can tell us how we’re wrong, or close, or “too smart for that” in the new thread πŸ˜‰

          • I think within the context of Cosmopolis, being told you killed the thread is quite a compliment!

            Yes, in her proliferation, scope of vision and social dissections… Oates is indeed our Balzac. With the key difference that his works were popular in his day, while contemporary readers have yet to widely embrace her. A dumbing down of the times, or simple shrinking of the reading population?

  • β€œI want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on.” When I read that line, I started praying to the sex-smut Gods that it be in the script…Because when Rob gets to says that line, theaters everywhere will be giving out Cosmopolis care packages instead of 3-D glasses…The bags will consist of bottled water, hand held fan, hand towel, wet ones, and spare panties… πŸ˜‰

  • β€œI want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on.” When I read that line, I started praying to the sex-smut Gods that it be in the script…Because when Rob gets to says that line, theaters everywhere will be giving out Cosmopolis care packages instead of 3-D glasses…The bags will consist of bottled water, hand held fan, hand towel, wet ones, and spare panties… πŸ˜‰

    • Marina H.

      One of THE weirdest and sexiest scenes I’ve ever read.

      I can’t wait to see that sexual tension on screen!

      • it will be crackling!

      • It is absolutely beautiful and absolutely singular. It is Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange of “floating signs”. I can’t imagine how De Lillo sees through Jane’s “bodily inscriptions” where she is lurking in a way to reach us so effectively. Remember Mary asking Laura to see for her after she was blind? Which Little House was that line in?

  • Sorry I think I double posted…Damn mouse

  • Clarabelg1

    Hello, I haven’t posted before, but just wanted to say I loved, loved, loved this book! I thought it was fantastic and couldn’t put it down. I actually liked Eric in a way. Okay he isn’t exactly your usual hero, but something about his completely ruthless nature and the way he is so resolute in making sure his downfall is total and unyielding, I quite admired him for that – maybe that says more about me πŸ˜‰
    I think this is a fantastic role for Rob and an opportunity to get guys on side. He’s a great actor, this is the sort of challenging role he should be taking on. I just really want to see a script now!

    • I thought the same thing while reading. “What does it say about me that I like the way this guy thinks?”

      Glad you posted! πŸ™‚

    • i know what you mean! i liked him too and couldnt quite pin point why…

    • O.o I didn’t even think about this…should I be worried? Do I need therapy?? (Probably need it anyway, but let’s not go there…) lol

      • i do think we should seek minor help for liking Eric Packer πŸ˜‰

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  • pingvingirl

    I loved the book which seems to put me in a minority! Absolutely loved the writing and will be reading more DeLillo (I hadn’t read any before). The style reminds me of Fitzgerald which is a really really good thing in my mind. I found it much easier to read than I expected according to what I’d seen people saying on Twitter. Because the writing was my favourite aspect of the book, I feel like I should be wondering how it’ll translate into film- but I actually think it’ll be amazing. The big scenes- especially the protest in Times Square-are bound to look fantastic on the screen and the way they’re interspersed with what goes on in the limo – or more specifically in Eric’s head- should make the pacing good. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the tension builds towards the end.

    I like the way he sees things happen on the screen in the limo before or almost before they happen in reality- that should be interesting. Possibly I liked Eric more because I was picturing Rob than I would have otherwise but I did think he was a more complicated character than first appears. It’s obviously a massive role for Rob- I’m almost more excited to see what he does with it than I am even for WFE. I thought despite the power and the crazy levels of security and the amorality- or maybe because of them- he was somewhat vulnerable and definitely tragic.

    The Fifty comparisons are annoying me a bit (sorry) – I just don’t see it at all.

    I haven’t picked a favourite line yet- I’ll need to read it again. I know I’m repeating myself but I just loved the way it reads- even descriptions of simple things like the tower where he lives: “The one virtue of its surface was to skim and bend the river light and mime the tides of open sky.” I like the contrast between the poetry of lines like that and the matter of fact lines that occupy Eric’s mind- like the seemingly random “His prostate was asymmetrical.”

    I really am excited by this film (if you haven’t guessed by the rambling!) Great opportunity for Rob.

    • Yes, the visual potential is huge. I hope some of the absurdity comes through; the pastry assassin when there is a “credible threat” out there? And the “Rat People”. I got the creeps just reading those scenes – can’t wait to see how Cronenberg incorporates that.

      I’m going to read more DeLillo, I liked the poetic style too.

      • SO agree πŸ™‚ i think Cronenberg is going to do wonders with the bizarre aspects of the novel.

    • Oh I agree!! Well put!!
      Except for one thing…
      I think the “His prostate was asymmetrical” thing really is the most important line in the whole book…I’ll say nothing more about it right now but my head is spinning!! πŸ˜‰

      • Suziekew

        bbbee…you are spot on, I think – that line crops up too often, like the rats I commented on below – not to be extremely significant. Eric is so hung…I mean hung up, on the fact that he’s not perfect because his prostate is asymmetrical that he fails to see or apply this aberration to his big bet

    • are you the minority? maybe we need to poll this too debb. i know all 3 chauffeurs loved the book. πŸ™‚

      the fifty talk is superficial and in jest. we play around with the word “fucked up” today but later, we can really dive into the psyche of Eric Packer and evolve beyond calling him merely “fucked up”. he had a complexity about him i’d love for us to really tear into.

    • Marina H.

      The narrative on New York was stunning, I agree. I absolutely LOVED the writing style. It will make it easy to translate the description into cinema, while sparing us the lengthy narrative.

      And I agree about actually “liking” Eric more because of Rob. Looking like Rob makes it hard to hate anyone fully πŸ™‚

      • this is totally a factor for the Eric “like”. if an actor was playing him that we didn’t like, we would not be climbing in his limo.

        • Karin

          we’d be part of the crowd defacing his limo…

          however, I, too, like Eric. I never really thought of it as a bad thing til I really started to think about it… now I’m slightly worried haha

    • Suziekew

      “despite the power and the crazy levels of security”…hmm, yeah, well Rob can certainly relate to those aspects of Eric’s life given the isolation and forced segregation from regular folks his superstardom now entails. I think they’ll provide him with a bit of a touchstone from which to springboard his interpretation of the character.

    • I love your comment so much. I hadn’t resonated with Fitzgerald until you mentioned him but of course, of course. The skinof the building. I must put down how Baudrillard describes the Twin Towers (he wrote it before 9-11) with no facade, just two towers facing each other, two monopolies of capitalism combined into one monolithic universe of capital. How interesting the Islamists destroyed it. Sorry don’t want to get into that but it is something to think about.

  • Amoca

    I am rushed but I am trying to read your convo and not too happy that I don’t have time now. I have just downloaded Cosmopolis to my Kindle and read a few pages; I can’t wait to get into it. How often are you discussing this on here. I want to read what you are up to.

    Looking forward to more interaction with you all.

  • Karin

    Okayy so here we go:

    I read Cosmopolis like… 2 weeks ago? I think? Whenever we first heard Rob will be attached πŸ˜‰
    Anyway, even though this isn’t really a book a would have voluntarily picked up to read, I still absolutely loved it! I lit’rally read it in less than a day, could not put it down. I’m reading it again now to really commit it to memory, and I’ll probably read it a few more times since I seem to fly through it.
    My quick little take on Eric, he’s pretty conceited, egotistical, simple, yet complex. I would definitely have to agree that he is so many more shades fucked up than our beloved fifty. My view on his complexity comes from his inability to sleep. His mind is complex. He’s very knowledgeable and that seems to be his downfall. Because he has such an expansive knowledge of like, everything (um, reading Einstein in English and German… well alrighty then) he has a tendency to over analyze. Since you have already warned people about spoilers I guess I can say this, right? Well regardless, here I go: His “downfall” revolved around the yen and his inability to predict how the yen would act when all along he had the answer in his prostate (hahaha). All he had to do was realize that some things just don’t act in a certain pattern, that there’s a certain imbalance to it and that not everything is perfect.
    My view on his simplicity is just that he wants what he wants when he wants it. No if’s and’s or but’s. He completely disregards all obstacles in his path. The President’s in town? Who the hell cares, we need a haircut and we need a haircut today. He’s also very… specific, in his wants. He wants a haircut at a particular barber shop. Getting someone to cut his hair in the limo or in his office just won’t suffice, he wants the specific atmosphere he requires.
    Hmm, what else… oh, anyone else find it weird that he doesn’t even bother to look at certain employees (Shiner) because he knows them oh so well but meanwhile when he looks at his wife (even seeing her multiple times in the one day) that it takes him a moment to realize that he knows her?
    And although he has a lot of sex and appears to be sex-driven, I think some of those parts were pretty tame (self proclaimed perv I guess).
    I’m sure there’s tons more stuff that I’m leaving out but my mind is swimming, plus I feel I’ve already written a novel myself so I’ll leave it as this for now.

    • Marina H.

      GREAT point about looking at people. He NEVER 100% recognizes his wife i LOVE that symbolism. It’s like she’s not completely real to him. I think that’s a great reflection of her sort of “angelic” persona.

      I agree about the sex as well. Very understated. It’s the situation that makes it sexy πŸ™‚

      The “bottlefuck” part was one of the hottest scenes and nothing even happened! (aside from the whole bending over naked part…) πŸ˜‰

      • Karin

        I know right! It seems like everytime he has sex, we catch them at the end of it! Well, except for one particular moment that I won’t dive into because it’s at the end so….

        But anyway, I like the symbolism for his wife. She could be the one good, solid thing in his life but he never fully acknowledges or recognizes it. I think it might be partially because he would have to focus on something other than himself for once and he’s just too fucked up to do that.

        • Marina H.

          oooh…that scene gives me goosebumps. i can’t WAIT to talk about that scene. can’t. wait.

          the symbolism in that scene was wonderful too.

          gah! LOVE!

          • Karin

            I need to read this book again. And again. And again. Well, you get the point. πŸ™‚

      • She’s always a different woman to him. He sees a different facet of her each time. She is not one dimensional. And as the day goes by and he changes, so does she.

  • Denise

    As soon as I heard Rob was in Cosmopolis, I got the book right away on my Kindle and read it. Along with many who have commented, I have to say I would not normally put this type of book on my “to read” list, but Rob’s movies and his own book choices have broadened by horizons when it comes to reading. I enjoyed the read, but it did require some extra thought at times to try and figure out what the author was trying to convey. I read it rather quickly the first time so I will have to read it again and take into consideration all the awesome comments and analysis from others. I have to admit though that the rather invasive doctor exam in the limo while simultaneously conversing with the female financial advisor was a kind of WTF moment for me – this was really an “I will do whatever I want (get a doctor exam every fricken day), where ever I want (in a limo, really) and when ever I want” mentality. Eric is so wealthy, so intelligent, so complicated, and so detached from humanity, although he has some moments where you think, yeah, maybe he’s not totally lost in himself. I think this will be a very interesting and challenging role for Rob, but I have the up most confidence that he will do great.

  • Karin

    Oh and also, being from New York, the details were spot on. I could really picture the city; the beautiful parts, the crazy hectic parts, the crawling at even slower than a snail’s pace traffic, the dirty, grimy, grittiness of it. I guess that’s also part of the reason why I loved it, because I could clearly picture moments in my mind.

    I honestly cannot wait to see this brought to the big screen.

  • *looks at limo driving buy holding sign* “Don’t stop. I haven’t read it yet.”

    I’m too tired lately to even attempt to read that complicated story … I can’t even focus on FF these days. #says.a.lot But I’ve read all the intelligent and insightful comments on here. They made me even more intrigued to know more about this story and all the characters, and to find out what will / won’t make it to the big screen. *crossing fingers on a few mentionned today* Oh and of course, I can’t wait to see Rob’s amazing performance as Eric. πŸ˜‰

  • apotampkin

    Two favourite bits…
    Sweet sweet irony:
    It was twilight, only dimmer, with a silvery twinge in the air, and he stood outside his car watching taxis extract themselves from the ruck. He didn’t know how long it was since he’d felt so good.

    She licked his face and shinnied up his body and he could not remember where the money
    went. She ran her tongue over his eye and brow He lifted her rhapsodically higher and mashed
    his face in her breasts. He felt them jump and hum.

    • sweet jesus!!!! i want us to have a day we talk just about the sexual nature. LOL

    • Suziekew

      GAH!! ok I definitely have to read this book again…which woman was that with? I can’t remember! Rats.

      Oh, and that’s a whole other conversation…the symbolism of the Rat (the currency currency) and the street rats and the overall pervasive mentions of rats strewn throughout this book. In the bad old days, rats were very common and were synonymous with disease, the Plague and the great unwashed public. For these very valid reasons, the rich did not associate with the poor. Like the privileged nobility of old, Eric has distanced himself completely from the common folk and barricaded himself inside his limousine and wealth.

      As E. Packer would say, “it charts” (i.e., there’s a relationship there)

      • Suziekew

        my kingdom for an edit button…didn’t mean to type currency twice

      • apotampkin

        it was his wife…. finally!!!

        • Suziekew

          ah thanks! I really need to re-read, stat!

  • apotampkin

    Oh and PS, I will now read every Don Delillo novel there is… reading this book was for me like eating the most delicious dinner and dessert ever, his words had taste… and I ate them up with abandon… love love loved it.

  • Loisada

    Hey ladies, I am delighted you are hosting this. This will be a really quick drive-by drive into the limo as it looks like I’ll be up all night working. I think my sleep deprived state may well put me in an Eric state of mind!

    There’s so much to discuss. First I loved part of this book and railed at others. I find it very uneven, probably because it’s so experimental and challenging, but it’s a great read from a great writer. It has so many different levels and tones: horror tale, comedy, raunchy porn, philosophical treatise. Some work better than others for me but I’m going to really enjoy talking about all of them.

    Just for starters: as a pure character study I don’t think Eric has much at all in common with Fifty besides the superficial traits. He’s so lost in his head and the virtual world, trying to fuck and eat his way back into his body and “reality.” He shares his thoughts but not what he’s feeling. Even the narrator doesn’t get inside his mind. We have no idea who he “is” or how he got that way. It’s a split second look at a man spiraling out of control as his world spirals out of control. And everyone around him is symbol, and they only interact on symbolic levels. There is a total disconnect between them… even in sex. That’s why the screens (monitors, stock trons, windows, sunglasses, etc.) are so important, in that they separate people throughout the story.

    I see you ladies started right in on the bottle fuck!! Well it’s another screen! Plastic between bodies, in the form of the ultimate symbol of a consumer society. And he wants to put on his sunglasses to do it… another screen. Everything is a show, an appearance. Or everything is words. Because talking is doing. That’s one of my favorite lines right now, what he says to Jane before the infamous bottle fuck: “Say the words.”

    This is going to be fun. Hopefully after a few hours sleep I’ll be able to get more into this tomorrow (and Abbey, if you make your way here I’ll reply to the possibility of using a little theory for this type of read with this type of group… delicate). Until then enjoy yourselves in a world with rats as a unit of currency, which just about sums up New York!

    (BTW I’ll be using my moniker borrowed from my old stomping grounds in New York: Loisada. Others know me as SteffiTwoBits…. long story!)

  • Pingback: Cosmopolis Reading Group Day 2: Now with 75% less bloodshed | Cosmopolis – The Movie Starring Robert Pattinson, Marion Cotillard and Paul Giamatti()

  • Here’s a beautiful review of Cosmopolis:

    Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis did turn out to be perfect airplane-reading length–just long enough to last the whole flight and to provide a few more satisfying pages as I settled in.

    DeLillo is one of those novelists who makes me want to immediately drop whatever else it is I’m doing and write a novel. (David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest had that effect on me too but I’ve soured on him a bit–though it was in part his take on White Noise that turned me on to DeLillo.) DeLillo’s probably the contemporary novelist who it’s easiest (and maybe most dangerous) to imitate or parody; his style’s often called stilted, unnatural, perhaps because the narration is often a jarringly baroque contrast to the mannered flatness of the dialogue.

    For instance, some of the opening lines of Cosmopolis: “He did not take long walks into the scrolling dawn. There was no friend he loved enough to harrow with a call.” Scrolling? Harrow? A million workshop instructors are waiting with pens of all shades: “Overwritten.” “Pretentious.” “Show don’t tell.” On the other hand, DeLillo’s characters often seem to be saying nothing, their favorite utterance–“What.”–not a question but a mere punctuation mark.

    The NY Times review I read took Cosmopolis to task for lacking narrative coherence and character development. What century are we living in? DeLillo’s characters don’t develop; that’s the point. They’re hardly even characters–more like projections, constellations, complexes. Some critics think this is because DeLillo’s read too much lit theory, but it’s most likely that most reviewers have read too little; anyway, DeLillo’s pontificators are usually set up for parody or an ironic fall.

    What’s most interesting about this book, though, is that it’s about a poem. In fact, one might even say that it’s an enactment or expansion of a poem. In an age when it’s said that no one reads or cares about poetry, it’s striking that one of our best-known novelists would create a protagonist–one on the cutting edge of wealth and technology, no less–who reads it. Here’s the book’s second paragraph:

    He tried to read his way into sleep but only grew more wakeful. He read science and poetry. He liked spare poems sited minutely in white space, ranks of alphabetic strokes burnt into paper. Poems made him conscious of his breathing. A poem bared the moment to things he was not normally prepared to notice. This was the nuance of every poem, at least for him, at night, these long weeks, one breath after another, in the rotating room at the top of the triplex.

    DeLillo riffs effortlessly on some of our conceptions of contemporary poetry: the material text, the breath-based line, poetry as meditation. And yet we don’t know how seriously to take this, as it seems to appear only as fodder for the protagonist’s self-absorption. Later in the book:

    He stood in the poetry alcove at the Gotham Book Mart, leafing through chapbooks. He browsed lean books always, half a fingerbreadth or less, choosing poems to read based on length and width. He looked for poems of four, five, six lines. He scrutinzed such poems, thinking into every intimation, and his feelings seemed to float in the white space around the lines. There were marks on the page and there was the page. The white was vital to the soul of the poem.

    Did your high school English teacher talk to you about the white space? Mine did.

    The role of poetry is much broader than this in the book, though. The book carries an epigraph from Zbigniew Herbert’s “Report from the Besieged City”: “a rat became the unit of currency.” Herbert’s poetry has never done that much for me, personally, but I can see why DeLillo picked this poem: it’s an apocalyptic collage, spoken by a reluctant chronicler in an unknown place, in a strange combination of the specific and the abstract:

    I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks
    monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency
    tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants
    wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers
    we don’t know where they are held that is the place of torture
    thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected
    the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender
    friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender
    N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back
    an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance

    all of this is monotonous I know it can’t move anyone

    Cosmopolis is a kind of prose version of this poem; DeLillo literalizes the allusion by inserting into the narrative a group of guerilla performance artists who roam the city in rat costumes, release rats into exclusive restaurants, and finally mount an attack in Times Square, where they project Herbert’s line onto the electronic ticker-tape boards. It’s as if DeLillo were bringing to life all of the demands for poetry as political action, injecting it into the heart of media discourse. But it’s left an open question as to whether poetry connects or disconnects, whether it foments revolution or simply becomes more discourse, more media pleasure:

    It was exhilirating, his head in the fumes, to see the struggle and ruin around him, the gassed men and women in their defiance, waving looted Nasdaq T-shirts, and to realize they’d been reading the same poetry he’d been reading.

    posted by Tim at 2:51 AM on Jun 27, 2003


    • Thank you for posting the review, it opened many a new door.

  • Poems. The Soviet Union. Mandelstam sent to the Gulag to die for his poetry. His wife preserving it and living to be the most feared woman in Russia. Akmatova blackmailed into silencing her poetry to protect her son’s life in the Gulag. Samizdat to keep souls alive.

  • And here is the entire poem by Herbert:

    Too old to carry arms and fight like the others –

    they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler
    I record – I don’t know for whom – the history of the siege

    I am supposed to be exact but I don’t know when the invasion began
    two hundred years ago in December in September perhaps yesterday at dawn
    everyone here suffers from a loss of the sense of time

    all we have left is the place the attachment to the place
    we still rule over the ruins of temples spectres of gardens and houses
    if we lose the ruins nothing will be left

    I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks
    monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency
    tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants
    wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers
    we don’t know where they are held that is the place of torture
    thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected
    the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender
    friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender
    N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back
    an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance

    all of this is monotonous I know it can’t move anyone

    I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write about the facts
    only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets
    yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world
    that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children
    our children don’t like fairy tales they play at killing
    awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones
    just like dogs and cats

    in the evening I like to wander near the outposts of the city
    along the frontier of our uncertain freedom.
    I look at the swarms of soldiers below their lights
    I listen to the noise of drums barbarian shrieks
    truly it is inconceivable the City is still defending itself
    the siege has lasted a long time the enemies must take turns
    nothing unites them except the desire for our extermination
    Goths the Tartars Swedes troops of the Emperor regiments of the Transfiguration
    who can count them
    the colours of their banners change like the forest on the horizon
    from delicate bird’s yellow in spring through green through red to winter’s black

    and so in the evening released from facts I can think
    about distant ancient matters for example our
    friends beyond the sea I know they sincerely sympathize
    they send us flour lard sacks of comfort and good advice
    they don’t even know their fathers betrayed us
    our former allies at the time of the second Apocalypse
    their sons are blameless they deserve our gratitude therefore we are grateful
    they have not experienced a siege as long as eternity
    those struck by misfortune are always alone
    the defenders of the Dalai Lama the Kurds the Afghan mountaineers

    now as I write these words the advocates of conciliation
    have won the upper hand over the party of inflexibles
    a normal hesitation of moods fate still hangs in the balance

    cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller
    yet the defence continues it will continue to the end
    and if the City falls but a single man escapes
    he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile
    he will be the City

    we look in the face of hunger the face of fire face of death
    worst of all – the face of betrayal
    and only our dreams have not been humiliated

    Zbigniew Herbert

    • And De Lillo read this poem aloud when writers-artists?- met after 9-11 to read aloud to the public. It won a prize the year before one of De Lillo’s books.

  • Sorry the next time I will get the print friendly version.

    • I forgot to add Cosmopolis goes from 213-220 so you can find it easily.

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