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Wednesday, 12 July 2006


At 827 pages, it's a bit too vast (or "heavily brilliant", as Amis aptly describes it) to blog on in one post, so here's a couple of extracts from Don DeLillo's Underworld that hit home today.

This first section concerns a 16 year old grafitti artist called Moonman 157 who used to walk along the subway tracks as a child and saw the legend "Bird [i.e. Charlie Parker] Lives" scrawled in one of the tunnels. He now paints street art on subway carriages and trains:

Nobody could take him down. He kinged every artist in town....

...But you have to stand on a platform and see it coming or you can't know the feeling a writer gets, how the number 15 train comes roaring down the rat alleys and slams out of the tunnel, going whop-pop onto the high tracks, and suddenly there it is, Moonman riding the sky in the heart of the Bronx, over the whole burnt and rusted country, and this is the art of the backstreets talking, all the way from Bird, and you can't not see us anymore, you can't not know who we are, we got total notoriety now, Momzo Tops and Rimester and me, we're getting fame, we ain't ashame, and the train go rattling over the garbagy streets and past the dead-eye windows of all those empty tenements that have people living there even if you don't see them, but you have to see our tags and cartoon figures and bright and rhyming poems, this is the art that can't stand still, it climbs across your eyeballs night and day, flickery jumping art of the slums and dumpsters, flashing those colours in your face - like I'm your movie, motherfucker.

And isn't this precisely what's happened in the States over the last few years (remember, this was published in 1997):

The power of an event can flow from its unresolvable heart, all the cruel and elusive elements that don't add up, and it makes you do odd things, and tell stories to yourself, and build believable worlds.

Dialogue like this:

Over on the radio side the producer's saying "See that thing in the paper last week about Einstein?"

Engineer says, "What Einstein?"

"Albert, with the hair...."

I really can't recommend it highly enough.

© 2006 Swipe Enterprises

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