Quotes from Underworld

Don DeLillo ·  827 pages

Rating: (23.5K votes)


“Sometimes I see something so moving I know I’m not supposed to linger. See it and leave. If you stay too long, you wear out the wordless shock. Love it and trust it and leave.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“I long for the days of disorder. I want them back, the days when I was alive on the earth, rippling in the quick of my skin, heedless and real. I was dumb-muscled and angry and real. This is what I long for, the breach of peace, the days of disarray when I walked real streets and did things slap-bang and felt angry and ready all the time, a danger to others and a distant mystery to myself.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Longing on a large scale makes history.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Years after I'd seen him for the last time I found myself thinking of him unexpectedly and often. You know how certain places grow powerful in the mind with passing time. In those early morning dreams when I come back to bed after a sleepy pee and fall quickly into the narrow end of the night, there is one set of streets I keep returning to, one dim mist of railroad rooms and certain figures reappear, borderline ghosts.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“The cheesecake was smooth and lush, with the personality of a warm and well-to-do uncle who knows a hundred dirty jokes and will die of sexual exertions in the arms of his mistress.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld



“It is all falling indelibly into the past.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“My son used to believe that he could look at a plane in flight and make it explode in midair by simply thinking it. He believed, at thirteen, that the border between himself and the world was thin and porous enough to allow him to affect the course of events. An aircraft in flight was a provocation too strong to ignore. He’d watch a plane gaining altitude after taking off from Sky Harbor and he’d sense an element of catastrophe tacit in the very fact of a flying object filled with people. He was sensitive to the most incidental stimulus and he thought he could feel the object itself yearning to burst. All he had to do was wish the fiery image into his mind and the plane would ignite and shatter. His sister used to tell him, Go ahead, blow it up, let me see you take that plane out of the sky with all two hundred people aboard, and it scared him to hear someone talk this way and it scared her too because she wasn’t completely convinced he could not do it. It’s the special skill of an adolescent to imagine the end of the world as an adjunct to his own discontent. But Jeff got older and lost interest and conviction. He lost the paradoxical gift for being separate and alone and yet intimately connected, mind-wired to distant things.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“History was not a matter of missing minutes on the tape. I did not stand helpless before it. I hewed to the texture of collected knowledge, took faith from the solid and availing stuff of our experience. Even if we believe that history is a workwheel powered by human blood -- read the speeches of Mussolini -- at least we've known the thing together. A single narrative sweep, not ten thousand wisps of disinformation. (82)”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Sometimes I see something so moving I know I'm not supposed to linger. See it and leave. If you stay too long, you wear out the wordless shock. Love it and trust it and leave.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“You shout because it makes you brave or you want to announce your recklessness.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld



“Prayer is a practical strategy, the gaining of temporal advantage in the capital markets of Sin and Remission.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“A photograph is a universe of dots. The grain, the halide, the little silver things clumped in the emulsion. Once you get inside a dot, you gain access to hidden information, you slide into the smallest event. This is what technology does. It peels back the shadows and redeems the dazed and rumbling past. It makes reality come true.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Marian and I saw products as garbage even when they sat gleaming on store shelves, yet unbought. We didn't say, What kind of casserole will that make? We said, What kind of garbage will that make?”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“The grasp of objects that bind us to some betokening.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“slightly older men and women, they had professions and soft slacks with knife pleats and a certain ease of bearing and belonging, the package of attitudes and values known as lifestyle”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld



“I believed we could know what was happening to us. We were not excluded from our own lives. That is not my head on someone else's body in the photograph that's introduced as evidence. I didn't believe that nations play-act on a grand scale. I lived in the real.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“I'm completely aware of Matisse and what he said, that painters must begin by cutting out their tongues.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Civilization did not rise and flourish as men hammered out hunting scenes on bronze gates and whispered philosophy under the stars, with garbage as a noisome offshoot, swept away and forgotten. No, garbage rose first, inciting people to build a civilization in response, in self-defense. We had to find ways to discard our waste, to use what we couldn't discard, to reprocess what we couldn't use. Garbage pushed back.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“He is just a running boy, a half-seen figure from the streets, but the way running reveals some clue to being, the way a runner bares himself to consciousness, this is how the dark-skinned kid seems to open to the world, how the bloodrush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“That's why he was here, to surrender himself to longing, to listen to his host recite the anecdotal texts, all the passed-down stories of bonehead plays and swirling brawls, the pitching duels that carried into twilight, stories that Marvin had been collecting for half a century--the deep eros of memory that separates baseball from other sports.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld



“And I knew with total certainty that a protection factor of fifteen was the highest level of sunblock scientifically possible. Now they were selling me a thirty.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“He drove into the spewing smoke of acres of burning truck tires and the planes descended and the transit cranes stood in rows at the marine terminal and he saw billboards for Hertz and Avis and Chevy Blazer, for Marlboro, Continental and Goodyear, and he realized that all the things around him, the planes taking off and landing, the streaking cars, the tires on the cars, the cigarettes that the drivers of the cars were dousing in their ashtrays--all these were on the billboards around him, systematically linked in some self-referring relationship that had a kind of neurotic tightness, an inescapability, as if the billboards were generating reality...”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Non chiamai Marion. Provai un senso di solitudine, in mancanza di parole migliori, ma in effetti è la parola giusta, una cosa a cui ho sempre cercato di oppormi e da cui sapevo come uscire, ma talvolta anche questo non bastava, e non la chiamai perché non volevo arrendermi, guardando la notte che scendeva.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“you never consider but might find amazing if you did, how the details of contact, the eye movement and hand waves, the smiles of recognition, the catch-up lives that propel the early dialogue—how this becomes an energy that moves among the guests like a circulating angel, inspiring stories, rumors, flirtations and misconstrued remarks, basically the makings of human history, even”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“How memory conspires with objects of human craft, pressing time flat, inciting a tender reminiscence.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld



“It's not enough to hate your enemy. You have to understand how the two of you bring each other to deep completion.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Il libro si adatta alla mano, si adatta all'individuo. Il modo in cui tieni in mano un libro e giri le pagine, mani e occhi, i movimenti meccanici per rastrellare la ghiaia su una calda strada di campagna, i segni sulla pagina, e come una pagina è uguale alla successiva eppure completamente diversa, le vite nei libri, le colline che diventano verdi, vecchie colline ondulate che ti facevano sentire che stavi diventando un altro.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“It’s the kind of human junk that deepens the landscape, makes it sadder and lonelier and places a vague sad subjective regret at the edge of your response—not regret so much as a sense of time’s own esthetic, how strange and still and beautiful a chunk of concrete can be, lived in fleetingly and abandoned, the soul of wilderness signed by men and women passing through.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“People weren’t saying Oh wow anymore. They were saying No way instead and she wondered if there was something she might learn from this.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld


“Bemoan technology all you want. It expands your self-esteem and connects you in your well-pressed suit to the things that slip through the world otherwise unperceived.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from Underworld



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About the author

Don DeLillo
Born place: in Bronx, New York, The United States
Born date November 20, 1936
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