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Don DeLillo – Cosmopolis review

Controversial novel that falls wide of the mark.


Eric Packer is a 28-year-old multi-billionaire asset manager who decides to journey across New York with his driver to get a haircut. As he drives around the city he encounters traffic jams caused by a visit from the President and a series of unexpected events. As he engages in a variety of chance meetings with colleagues, his wife and sexual partners, Eric fears he’s being hunted by an assassin as he loses lots of his clients’ money by betting against the rise of the yen.

Cosmopolis was originally published in 2003 and earlier this year was released as a feature film starring Twilight heart-throb Robert Pattinson and directed by David Cronenberg. The film has been re-published as a film tie-in edition following the release of the film on DVD and Blu-ray.

Upon its original release the book was met with mixed reactions from the critics and we can see why. As a writer DeLillo recalls Bret Easton Ellis but unlike Ellis his prose isn’t as intelligent and emotive. He tries to shock with the events in the book but it falls a bit flat. One part of the book sees Eric having an rectal examination whilst talking business with one of his staff. It’s incidents like these that feel written for shock value rather than adding anything in particular to the story.

Despite being a relatively short read, Cosmopolis feels like a real slog. The book’s pace is sluggish at best and the off-the-wall encounters and story twists don’t ring as true. We don’t sympathise with Eric at any point during the book which poses a problem. When you feel nothing towards the main character it’s hard to care what actually happens in a book. Eric is such an unpleasant person that you don’t care one way or the other what happens to him. The fact that someone is trying to kill him makes you feel nothing and we felt no connection with the story that was unfolding.

Cosmopolis left us cold. The story is uninvolving and we actually found it quite a chore to read by the end. There’s a feeling that writer DeLillo is trying to be too clever and the prose is smug, self-congratulating and often tedious. We were really disappointed as we expected to enjoy the book and enjoy a challenging read but sadly this fell short in every aspect.


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