The Last Time I Buy a Copy of Cosmopolis
You ever have one of those books you just can’t seem to hold onto? For me, Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis is one of them. I’ve bought it several times over now–always in hardback, at the severely discounted price of $5, and always from The Strand–most recently yesterday. And I swear this is the last @#&$%-ing time. What happened to my other copies? I feel like one got left behind in a move. Maybe one is at my friend Amanda’s house in Portland, Ore, or else in storage in Nashville, TN where my parents put my shit when they got divorced and sold their house a couple years ago (unless the Nashville and Portland copies are *different* copies, which is also possible). Basically, by this point I’ve sunk enough money into cheap used Cosmopolises that I could have bought one at regular sticker price, which if I had done I probably would have actually taken care of. The funny thing is that it’s not like Cosmopolis is the greatest book ever, or anything. I’m a big DeLillo fan, to be sure, and I think it’s got a lot to be said for it, but it’s certainly not Underworld or The Names. It’s a short novel, and like all his work incredibly beautiful. It’s about a multi-multi-billionaire taking his limo across town to get a haircut. It’s a poem, really, a sort of elegy-in-advance for technologies that are obsolete before they’re even fully emergent (it’s set in the year 2000), and how money makes a man vast until he is no longer a man at all anymore, but something enormous and organic, powerful in ways the self cannot account for or comprehend. Imagine if the ocean tried to know itself, or a nebula did. I’ve always thought of the book as a sort of working-through of Marx’s proposition that “all that which is solid melts into air.” Maybe you’re getting a sense of why–even though it’s a relatively “minor” work–I keep finding myself drawn back to it. I wake up one day thinking, “Man I’d really like to take another look at Cosmopolis” and I reach for it and then it isn’t there. I’d say I’ve been feeling this way for about a month now, but especially since I read Nick Paumgarten’s “The Death of Kings” in The New Yorker a week or two ago. So, here I am, a humbled but determined owner–yet again–of Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo. I swear I’m going to take care of if this time, to hold it close.