"He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful." is the opening sentence in the novella that was originally the prologue to DeLillo's 827 pager Underworld. It’s a striking line, a powerful one, and to me, someone who reads few books written by men, a masculine line. I wonder if a woman, or for that matter a person of color could have written it. That's not to say women and POC can't write stunning openers, it's to say that there's a confidence in DeLillo's sentiment, that others will relate to him, that his voice is "your voice." One of the main characters in the book is a 14-year-old African-American, but there are no women present in the whole 81 pages, except a mention toward the end of a photograph of Frank Sinatra (also a character in the novella)'s wife Ava Gardner's cleavage, and perhaps a few other reference to everymen's wives. I'm not pointing this out to criticize necessarily, but to say that in reading this book, I was not on my own turf.
I was also in enemy territory being a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, rather than the New York Giants, playing at the latter's stadium, the Polo Grounds at the end of the 1951 season. I think anyone who cares about NY baseball knows what happened that day, (THE GIANTS...), and even those born well after the Dodgers (and their foes) moved west find it painful to remember. (THE GIANTS WIN...)
Other than in Doris Kearns Goodwin's memoir Wait Till Next Year, I'd never been exposed to a NY Giants (baseball, people, not football!) fan, so it was freaky to meet the folks in the stands and the celebrities in the boxes. One of them is J. Edgar Hoover, btw, which I think vindicates my preference in extinct baseball teams. Another primary character is the Giants' voice, Russ Hodges, who apparently was running a fever which may explain his hysteria (THE GIANTS WIN THE...) at the end of the game. But then again, if you were a Giants fan, this was the greatest afternoon of your life, and a little madness was to be expected.
But back to the book, it was fine. I haven't been all that crazy about DeLillo in the past and suspect that in short doses is the best way for me to take him. I need more compelling characters in addition to admittedly stunning language, which is why Pafko, so highly recommended by my friend Chris Anderson, was something of a disappointment. (THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!)
When you see a thing like that, a think that becomes a newsreel, you begin to feel you are a carrier of some solemn scrap of history. p.17