on delillo’s ‘cosmopolis’

CosmopolisBen Jeffery at The Point:

The philosopher Georg Lukács once said that there was something nightmarish in the experience of an intellectual with no vision of the future. Underneath all of its obstructions and code, DeLillo’s writing seems to express the same thought. The future is a kind of narrative category, after all: the projected goal that gives the present its sense of order and purpose. It’s something we suffer without. For an individual, the inability to imagine life improving, or changing in any way other than badly, is a kind of death sentence. On the collective level, too, a society without any aspirations toward a better shared existence is condemned to the unchallenged perpetuation of injustice and misery, the ineradicable underside of all human history to date (and a horror that weighs “like a nightmare” on the living, as Marx so famously put it). DeLillo’s entire project has been based on a sense of disorientation that’s fundamentally political—the loss of a collective narrative, the transformation of a once-shared experience of America into something enigmatic and foreign. Part of Lukács’s point was that a society can’t suffer something like that without the damage making itself felt in everyday life, through all the sensations that DeLillo has spent his career so expertly evoking: confusion, anomie, anxiety, isolation, fear.

The obvious question is then: What would it be to overcome that? The most electrifying moments in Cosmopolis are gestures in the direction of an immense world order beyond the limits of ordinary perception.

more here.