BOOK: Going deeper into Nancy Babich

"Let me see the thing"

SPOILERS after the cut. 


This picks up from where we left off HERE. From Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis:

He found his sunglasses in the champagne well and put them in his shirt pocket. There was a sound outside, a bouncing ball. He was about to give the driver the signal to move when he heard the sporadic heavy bounce of a basketball, unmistakable. He got out of the car and crossed to the north side of the street, where a playground was located. He looked through two fences and saw a couple of kids crouched and growling, going one-on-one.

The first gate was locked. He climbed the fence of spiked iron palings without hesitation. The second gate was also locked. He climbed the chain-link fence, which was twice as high. He went up and over and Torval followed, fence to fence, wordlessly.
They went to the far end of the park and watched the kids go at it, playing in shadow and murk.

“You play?”

“Some. Not really my game,” Torval said. “Rugby. That was my game. You play?”

“Some. I liked the action in the paint. I pump iron now”

“Of course you understand. There’s still someone tracking you.”

“There’s still someone out there.”

“This was a petty incursion. The whipped cream. Technically irrelevant.”

“I understand. I realize. Of course.”

They were intense, these kids, hand-slapping and banging for rebounds, making throaty sounds.

“Next time no pies and cakes.”

“Dessert is over.”

“He’s out there and he’s armed.”

“He’s armed and you’re armed.”

“This is true.”

“You will have to draw your weapon.”

“This is true,” Torval said.

“Let me see the thing.”

“Let you see the thing. Okay. Why not? You paid for it.”

The two men made little snuffling sounds, insipid nasal laughter. Torval removed the weapon from his jacket and handed it over, a handsome piece of equipment, silver and black, four-and-a-half-inch barrel, walnut stock.

“Manufactured in the Czech Republic.”


“Smart too. Scary smart.”

“Voice recognition.”

“That’s right,” Torval said.

“You what. You speak and it knows your voice.”

“That’s right. The mechanism doesn’t activate unless the voiceprint matches the stored data. Only my voice matches.”

“Do you have to speak Czech before it fires?”

Torval smiled broadly. It was the first time Eric had seen him smile. With his free hand he took the sunglasses out of his shirt pocket and shook the temples loose.

“But the voice is only half the operation,” Torval said, then paused invitingly.

“You’re saying there’s a code as well.”

“A preprogrammed spoken code.”

Eric put on the glasses. “What is it?”

Torval smiled privately this time, then raised his eyes to Eric, who leveled the weapon now.

“Nancy Babich.”

He shot the man.

A small white terror of disbelief flickered in Torval’s eye. He fired once and the man went down. All authority drained out of him. He looked foolish and confused.

The basketball stopped bouncing twenty yards away. He had mass but no flow. This was clear as he lay there dying. He had discipline and a sense of pace, okay, but no true fluency of movement.

Eric glanced at the kids, who stood motionless watching. The ball was on the ground and slowly rolling. He gave them a casual hand signal indicating they ought to continue their game. Nothing so meaningful had happened that they were required to stop playing.

He tossed the weapon in the bushes and walked toward the chain-link fence. There were no windows flying open or concerned voices calling. The weapon was not equipped with a sound suppressor but there’d been only one shot and maybe people needed to hear three, four, more to rouse them from sleep or television. This was one of the routine ephemera of the night, no different from cats at sex or a backfiring car. Even if you know it’s not a backfiring car, because it never is, you don’t feel a prod to conscience unless the apparent gunfire is repeated and there are sounds of running men.

In the dense stir of the neighborhood, living so close to street level, with noises all the time and the dead-ass drift of your personal urban anomie, you can’t be expected to react to an isolated bang. Too, the shot was less annoying than the basketball game. If the effect of the shot was to end the game, be grateful for moonlit favors.

He paused imperceptibly, thinking he ought to go back for the weapon. He’d tossed the weapon in the bushes because he wanted whatever would happen to happen. Guns were small practical things. He wanted to trust the power of predetermined events. The act was done, the gun should go.

He climbed the chain-link fence, tearing his pants at the pocket.
He’d tossed the weapon rashly but how fantastic it had felt. Lose the man, shed the gun. Too late now to reconsider. He dropped to the ground and advanced to the iron fence.

He didn’t wonder who Nancy Babich was and he didn’t think that Torval’s choice of code humanized the man or required delayed regret. Torval was his enemy, a threat to his self-regard. When you pay a man to keep you alive, he gains a psychic edge. It was a function of the credible threat and the loss of his company and personal fortune that Eric could express himself this way. Torval’s passing cleared the night for deeper confrontation.

He scaled the iron fence and walked to the car.

A man from the century past played a saxophone on the corner.

What a scene. My reaction to this part of the book was complete shock. Jaw drop. Gasp. Stunned. It was a turning point for me. I can’t wait to see this interpreted on film. It’s one of the reasons Torval is my favorite character to interact with Eric. The coldness in which Eric took him out Nancy Babich’d me. I know it was discussed before why Eric did this but feel free to explore the offing of Torval again.

The Nancy Babich scenes stuck with me immediately. I dedicated our Cosmopolis twitterbot to “her”. NB was an early tag I used and I told M Nancy would be the main image for our Zazzle store when we got it up and running. We all got a thing for Nancy Babich. 😉 If you’d like a shirt or mug, they’re 17.76% off for the holiday weekend. Click HERE to go the store and enter the code: LANDOFTHETEE.

Kevin Durand wrapped Cosmopolis the night of this scene and we wish him all the best. Can’t wait to see him in the role of Torval.

  • rpattzgirl

    This is one of the most fascinating scenes IMO…Eric has already begun his downfall, his cutting off everything…I love that this just came out of nowhere…

  • DebbieCDC (aka SeattleChik)

    I was floored too, on my first reading of Cosmopolis, that Eric would shoot Torval is such a matter-of-fact, offhand, no big deal way. I was WTF??? But then reading it again and thinking about it more, it’s just (to me) another example of Eric’s complete transformation from where he starts the day to where he ends the day — from having everything to lose to having nothing to lose. Having lost his company, his fortune, Elise’s money, his dignity (a pie in the face will do that) and now having crossed a line and killed someone — what is left for him to experience, or to complete his transformation? Well, we (who have read the book) know, but not gonna give any spoilers.

    BTW, I got my Nancy Babich T-shirt yesterday from Zazzle LOL. I can’t wait to wear it.

    Now if I can stop with the “serious literary comment” for a minute and switch to fangirl mode, Rob with a gun….well, Torval won’t be the only one ded, I guarantee it.

    • suziekew

      mine is coming this week, along with my NB mug, can’t wait!

    • rpattzgirl

      You said it Debbie…total fangirl moment inside the seriousness !

    • Robs_Jam

      Rob has a very BIG gun! 😉

      • KL

        I would like to hold it…=P

  • Susan

    I was also stunned when I read this part of the book. It was like that moment in The Sixth Sense when you realize what’s really been going on all along or that split second in Shutter Island when the truth dawns on you. There aren’t many movies, or books for that matter, that I haven’t figured out by that moment, the revelation in the end. This one took me by complete and utter surprise. I simply can’t wait to see Rob pull this off with upmost cool and eery calm.

  • This is one of my favorite parts of the book along with his last interaction with his wife. It was so sudden, heartless, and unexpected. It will be a powerful scene. I know Rob and Kevin will give amazing performances. Must remember to order my tee tonight or tomorrow. The gray was out of stock the last time I looked. 🙁

    Off topic, am I the only one who cringed a bit thinking of Rob climbing not one but 2 fences?! *shudders* Though he did pretty good running a top the train in WFE.

    • Red_Hed_Lust

      LMAO! No! My first thought upon reading this was – WTF? My second was – I can’t wait to see some wonky fence climbing!

    • rpattzgirl

      Oh Jesus the fence climbing…our boy can hardly walk with those wonky legs!

      • Susan

        Can we say ‘stunt double’?

        • Robs_Jam

          Nope! There wasn’t one!!

  • Completely!!!! I was shocked with this part of the book!

    Oh want that shirt!! :3

  • Kim

    This will be intense…wasn’t Torval pissing him off earlier in the day just cause he was like reluctant to go anywhere. Don’t remember the fences, do remember the basketball.
    Guess Torval didn’t really know his boss very well, huh?! He didn’t see the tearing away or Eric hides himself so well.
    Need an outline Tink. Ha ha

  • suziekew

    fantastic post Tink! From the pics we got of this scene I think Rob is really gonna rock the sudden nihilism that overcomes Eric. From a distance, his facial expressions are subtle, but I’m sure the steadicam will capture that descent into madness…cannot WAIT to see it on the big screen!

  • Beautifully done post, Tink. I’m being bellowed for but I have thoughts, a million of them, and will be back in the a.m. to talk about some stuff. Oh Eric. What have you done??

  • Melissa

    I just finished reading this section in the book last night for the second time. Even though I knew it was coming this time around, it was still shocking. The killing of Torval is Eric’s release from his former life and the starting pistol for what is left of his new life (a life free from all of society’s constraints on how he should act based on who they think he is).

  • Dalva

    “He didn’t wonder who Nancy Babich was and he didn’t think that Torval’s choice of code humanized the man or required delayed regret”….this sentence literally kept me up at night, wondering WHO Nancy was, WHY did Torval chose her name, WHY is it relevant???
    Torval’s killing seemed logical in the light of Eric’s day trip to freedom’s-when-you-got-nothing’-to lose place, but something about it was bugging me and now the Inception tag?!? I definitely need to talk about this Nancy Babich thing more……
    But, enough of the heavy, the post is great, thank you! :), Rob’s expression in the photos is so intense, to see him transform into Eric will be amazing, this movie will be so….everything!!!! 🙂
    p.s. I’m kind of a lit freak (ish) and really like this book. I also, obviously, like and admire Rob, so once again thank you for this site, it makes me feel kinda privileged to have a chance to express my love of the two.

  • This scene knocked me out. It took me a while to wrap my head around it. I tend to take things very literally. Yes, Mr Freud, it’s just a cigar lol. So my first reading left me feeling that Eric was just eliminating an obstacle to getting what he wanted. Layers, layers, layers, rereads and reading comments and explanations later… I’m back to Freud. Yes, on one level, Eric just wants to let the situation, the credible threat, “express itself”. I thought of this too. Let me know if I’m way off course. I’ve always thought that Eric acts in a very child-like way with a few people in his circle. Didi chides him, slaps his hand, all but calls him a spoiled brat. He’s like a toddler in a candy store. “I want it! Give it to me!” (pauses lit talk to let you all know I know you’re all making this sound dirty. ily) Then with Torval we see things like, “We don’t care, we want a haircut.” And Eric comments he likes eating at a particular restaurant because Torval doesn’t want him to go there. Seems like a rebellious child to me. Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the supposed (yeah, I’m one of those 😉 ) death of Jim Morrison. I was listening to The End. This is very crude but I think it charts. F*cks his “mother”, kills his “father”. Or I could be wrong and just need help. Whichever. LOL

    • Dalva

      I agree with you on ” fcuks his mother, kills his father” part, Didi/Torval representing mother/father figures.Oedipus thing worked for me too.Yes, killing Torval was a shocking move but at that point into the book it is in agreement with what the reader knows of Eric. He’s a power freak, master type, hates anybody having power over him, he’s letting the threat express itself removing the obstacle etc. So he’s just behaving as he’s supposed to, as is expected of him, right?
      (Possible SPOILERS below for those who haven’t read the book!!!)

      After completing the book it made no sense, it seemed too simplistic to label him as the one who always gets what he wants no matter the cost, what is the point then of this whole day, of this book? There were so many new hints about multi-dimensional Eric in the final part and I wondered about the following, though I could be reading too much into this whole Nancy Babich thing, blowing it out of proportion 🙂
      – could there be sth in his past that made him feel revengeful towards Torval and he suppressed it, making art out of living in the moment, theorizing about/ predicting/ mastering ONLY the future, but then all the situations of this day made him unable or unwilling to continue = decided to let it express itself then “trust the power of predetermined events”, crime and punishment style.
      – how his decision to face his death threat (and die) actually created a chance for him to act on that revenge, liberate himself of the burden or settle some score (“Violence needs a burden, a purpose”, he tells in the final part) before the end he thinks he deserves for everything he was/did/represents AND for killing Torval (this is also a kind of reply to your comment below, I think he does know he won’t get away and I think The End 🙂 monologue is revelatory of it too).
      Could talk loads more about “fcuks his mother” in particular ,but would have to continue discussing the final book part and don’t know whether that’s all right or should it be left for later…
      This is the end of my veeeeery long comment , sorry :(, hopefully not the end of the Nancy Babich thing discussion 🙂

      • Just read down a little more. Nancy Babich. Babichis probably a DeLillo joke on bitch rhyming with Babich. Babblebitch. Reminds me of Catherine Hardwicke. Nan-see? Maybe.

    • DeLillo has Eric say in the first pages that “Freud is finished”. Did you read that part? You need to take it seriously.

      DeLillo is following Baudrillard and for Baudrillard, Freud is finished, dead. Vija Kinski is theorizing with Baudrillard coming out of her mouth. (no pun intended) You can come to my blog to understand it better if you want to understand it better.

      • Um, yes. I read the whole book, twice. Reread certain passages as filming went on.

        DeLillo may have said “Freud is finished” but David Cronenberg digs Freud. This is a film adaptation of a novel. Thanks for the invitation to your blog but I like the discussions here.

        • eXistenZ is a repudiation of Freud and the entrance into non-linear time, the time of Events that come from elsewhere.

          I like Freud too BTW, especially since I practiced almost 25 years within the profession. But Lacan has had the last say.

          Cronenberg “digs” Freud. Sure. I guess he does “dig” Freud. Doesn’t everybody? “Dig” him, that is?

    • Yes you need help on this.

  • IM1LuckyWoman

    VERY surprised when this happened…but it “fits” with everything that’s happening to Eric. Not sure about the fences. I wonder if they’ll change that part (is it crucial to the story that he climb them rather than just enter through a gate, do you think?). Oh…and LuckyMeCandy…..Rob said in an interview that it WAS him climbing onto the train when it was moving, but he didn’t run on top of the train. That WAS his stunt double. He said he didn’t know how anyone could do that.

    • Good question. Made me think. Yes, it is crucial that he climbs the fences. Ad the fact that there are two? I forget but will check. And I have read Cosmopolis more times than I can count. Two or three won’t do it. Cronenberg may “dig” Freud but DeLillo follows another muse and doesn’t. And DeLillo isn’t going to sanction a misreading of his book. Neither will I.

  • I could have c/p the whole passage. It is so powerful. This made my hair stand on end.

    “He paused imperceptibly, thinking he ought to go back for the weapon. He’d tossed the weapon in the bushes because he wanted whatever would happen to happen. Guns were small practical things. He wanted to trust the power of predetermined events. The act was done, the gun should go.”

    And is there a smidgeon of regret here? Even if the credible threat doesn’t get him (and it seems like Eric wants that to happen, with all that implies) he wouldn’t get away with killing Torval.

    “He climbed the chain-link fence, tearing his pants at the pocket.
    He’d tossed the weapon rashly but how fantastic it had felt. Lose the man, shed the gun. Too late now to reconsider. He dropped to the ground and advanced to the iron fence.”

    I wanna talk about some stuff… *drags you all back into the limo*

    • No regrets. The world is willing him. He is NOT exerting any willing of his own. No second guessing. A twinge maybe.

      The limo represents the Order of Production. Outside of the limo repretsents the Order of Seduction:destiny, challenge, duel, life/death, surprise, reversibility.

      You all just climb back into that limo that Eric Packer keeps leaving to experience life instead of being a hostage.

  • quillpenz

    It is certainly ambiguous, the shooting. It may be one of the few murders in literature in which the shooter needed the victim’s help do the deed. Poor Torval with a loaded gun pointed in his face says the words that end his own life and a second later realizes it. I do think that Eric asked the code for that purpose, but I am not sure. Except that it is only then that we realize that Torval’s interests and Eric’s differ. Or that Torval has failede Eric. Or that Torval will interfere if left alive and Eric wants to confront his fate. Eric has this thing about control that is derived from the symmetry and orderliness of the universe. Yet, his prostate is asymmetrical.

    • The world is willing Eric Packer. He has offloaded his will. Torval has to go:

      1. He hates Eric as much as the assassin. Both hate him and want to kill him, but one is being paid to keep him alive. But he couldn’t stop the pastry chef, so what if the pastry chef had not been throwing pastry? Lousy bodyguard, eh?

      2. Eric cannot let himself express himself if he is being stopped by Torval, his bodyguard, now can he? Each step before the shooting is simply the next step Eric takes. He is not willing any of it, he is just taking the next step. And that leads to his shooting of Torval. It is just the next step. When it is over he understands the meaning of killing him. To lead to deeper confrontation.

      Symmetry and control is the essence of the dialectic. The yen going up and down is within the dialectic. The dialectic is the Hegelian operating as the structure of progress in linear, historical time. But we are no longer in linear, historical time. We are now in real time, where Events follow Events coming from elsewhere. All is orbiting globally. Everything is asymmetrical, radical, unpredictable, chaotic as Vija says. Maybe it will end today.

      Eric wakes up in linear time. He enters the limo and is in real time. He gets out and enters the Order of Symbolic Exchange and Death:Destiny, living,surprise,challenge, duel, pact. When he gets back in the limo he re-enters the Order of Production: Exchange;contract, order,survival. Only linear time is gone but he doesn’t fully understand that it is gone. Neither does Vija. But at the moment he grasps the insight, he implodes the yen, destroying the economic system. He is acting on what he knows for if he does not, then as Vija tells him, he really didn’t know. And he feels calm, powerful, as he sits smoking his cigar. (Freud smoked cigars.)

      This is the best and nearest to a sound bite I could come up with.

  • donna

    Here’s the thing……it can be analyzed, rewritten, and fantasized about but the end result is that no matter what you are, who you are, where you are doesn’t matter. You are a part of life and its powers. Life is not a part of you and you can’t control it. I think Cosmopolis is one extreme example. Should be terrific to see this movie and just be entertained. PS—love the Babich tee! Thank you……

  • guest

    what ever happened to jay baruchel. wasnt he supposed to play the part of eric’s conscience.

    • Well I hope I put an end to that misguided idea. The Double is the crucial understanding, not the outmmoded conscience. The conscience is Freudian superego. And as DeLillo has said, Freud is finished. Step out of the psychological interpretive swamp. It is quicksand.


  • Bettybmusing

    Scary … Rob seem so at home in these scenes. Got to have a NB shirt. 🙂

    • I have a Nancy shirt that I got online. I wear it to the grocery store, sort of a way of trolling for people of simiilar tastes.
      I do not feel a lot of Eric’s past affecting his one defining day. I think he attempted to reconnect with his past at the barbershop and failed and then went on out to meet his fate. Yet, a piece of his past is waiting; the assassin is like a seed that was planted in fertilizer (decay) and grew despite the planter’s indifference. Eric was indifferent to much in his past, but not his mother, father, barber. I love the book and read it twice. I will read it again just before going to see the movie. Seems somewhat Jungian to me but I think DeLillo goes beyond to break new ground. Eric’s character is fascinating to me