Review contains strong language and sexual references.
At the risk of being one of Those People, I hadn’t heard of Cosmopolis until the movie, starring Robert Pattinson, was released on the 15th June. And yes, I did pick it up primarily for that reason. In my defence, I was planning to write a Book to Movie post about it, but it took much, much longer than expected to get through such a tiny book and so we’re now a week past the release date. Oopsy. Ah well, here’s the book review anyway.
Plot summary – It is an April day in the year 2000 and an era is about to end. The booming times of market optimism — when the culture boiled with money and corporations seemed more vital and influential than governments — are poised to crash. Eric Packer, a billionaire asset manager at age twenty-eight, emerges from his penthouse triplex and settles into his lavishly customized white stretch limousine. Today he is a man with two missions: to pursue a cataclysmic bet against the yen and to get a haircut across town. Stalled in traffic by a presidential motorcade, a music idol’s funeral, and a violent political demonstration, Eric receives a string of visitors — experts on security, technology, currency, finance, and a few sexual partners — as the limo sputters toward an increasingly uncertain future.
I can sum that up quite nicely, if you’d like – this is a book about a man stuck in traffic. No, really. This short novel follows the day of Eric Packer, a multi-billionaire who has been informed there’s a threat on his life. Regardless, he heads out in search of a haircut. As you do. Unfortunately, that day is also the day of the President’s visit to the city, a rapper’s funeral and a political protest and so Mr. Packer finds himself at the mercy of the streets.
The point of view occasionally switches from Eric to Benny, a disgruntled ex-employee hiding out in an abandoned warehouse. It’s a fairly seamless switch and one that helps to relieve the monotony that may otherwise occur from watching a rich man go about his daily business.
My opinion of this book seemed to go up and down depending on my mood, almost like there wasn’t enough meat for it to stand alone. If I was in a happy place, I could get to grips with the book as a complex but satisfying insight into the world of a psychopathic businessman. However, if I wasn’t i in such a good place, it was merely an irritatingly slow and pointless story of a man stuck in traffic.
The sentence structure is quite strange – it seems to be going for a stream-of-conscious type thing, but misses. Instead it’s just annoying. I didn’t mark down an example, but it’s pretty much constant throughout the whole book. Eric Packer contradicts himself two or three times in the same sentence, rambles and generally can’t decide what to do with himself and it can be quite difficult to follow.
There’s also a lot of graphic sex scenes, many of which seem slightly unnecessary. I don’t mind violence, sex, drugs or anything really, as long as it develops the story. And while I understand the author was probably trying to emphasise Eric Packer’s objectification of other people, it just seems like a distasteful attempt to shock. I marked down a lot of example quotes to demonstrate, but they’re all massive paragraphs of smut and I can’t be bothered to type it out. Just know that the word ‘bottle-fuck’ is used three times on one page 🙂
Oh, the ending is also supremely irritating. However, I admit that I’m not particularly a fan of ambiguous endings so perhaps it’s an appropriate and well-executed finish that I just didn’t appreciate. Regardless, I didn’t like it.
I’ve read a few reviews of Cosmopolis here and there, and they all seem to agree that this is one of Don DeLillo’s poorer works. Having never read anything else by the author, I can’t really comment but maybe one day I’ll give them a go as I didn’t hate this book. There were parts of this book that I disliked, and the rest were just ‘alright.’ What a strange choice of book to adapt into a movie though.