Issacs : Don DeLillo’s A Fraud

Posted in Baseball, Free Expression at 7:08 pm by

I could mention that Mike Lupica has a fiction career, too, but there’s enough suffering in this world already. The Columnists.com’s Stan Issacs has had enough of Don DeLillo’s great baseball jones (street). (thanks to Repoz for the link).

On the occasion of the recent opening of the new movie œGame 6 written by the acclaimed and defamed novelist, Don DeLillo, let me refer to a passage from the first chapter of DeLillo™s 1997 novel, œUnderworld. It revolves around the game that has come to be known as œThe Shot Heard ˜Round the World, Bobby Thomson™s home run in the 1951 Giants-Dodgers playoff classic.

FBI boss John Edgar Hoover was at the game, so DeLillo™s overly ripe imagination has Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and the boorish restauranteur Toots Shor sitting with him in the Polo Grounds.

Immediately after Thomson hits the climactic home run, DeLillo pens this description:

œJackie [Gleason] utters an aquatic bark, it is loud and crude, the hoarse call of some mammal in distress. Then the surge of flannel matter. He seems to be vomiting someone™s taupe pajamas. The waste is liquidy smooth in the lingo of adland and it is splashing freely on Frank™s stout oxford shoes and fine lisle hose and on the soft woven wool of his town-and-country trousers.

As if that isn™t enough, he goes on later: œFrank persists in looking down. He allows one foot to list to port so he can examine the side of his shoe for vomit marks. And, œSays Gleason, ˜Don™t™ think you™re the first friend I ever puked on. I puked on better men than you. Consider yourself honored.™ 

If it is possible to desecrate the memory of a great baseball game, DeLillo has done it. As one who was at that game, who treasures the sight of Thomson hitting that home run as one of the dearest moments in an adult lifetime of covering sports, I am appalled by the juxtaposition of the celebrities fouling the pages and my memory. I say DeLillo is a blackguard, a wretch, a disgrace, a good-for-nothing miscreant and more than anything else, a fraud.

I™ll note that one critic has called DeLillo œThe great American novelist. And that another has described him as, œAmerica™s greatest unread author.

I don™t care what the critics think of him. I just wish he™d attend to his artistry without having to rely on the built-in interest of great baseball games to whet people™s interest.

6 responses to “Issacs : Don DeLillo’s A Fraud”

  1. John says:

    people who hate DeLillo really get their panties in a twist about it, you’d think he’d delcared war on Xmas or something

  2. Repoz says:

    As I said about the disputed Gleason/Sinatra/Kerouac/Hoover/Shor incident…

    “I knew an old CBS camaraman that doubled as Gleason’s drinking buddy (he knew a secret door/staircase that led to the lobby bar at the studio…where he would constantly beat The Late One for the first guzzle, which, of course ticked Gleason off to no end as Jackie always took assholic pride in being the first to arrive/last to leave when it came to stoolie positioning)…and he told me that the Sinatra/Shor/Hoover story was true.”

  3. John Wimmer says:

    Yuck ! Yuck !
    The Great One hurls on `Ol Blue Eyes !

  4. Eric F says:

    What a great book, a masterpiece. That paragraph is simply great. What I dont really get is why the scene DeLillo paints necessarily detracts from the game. Are we too have the vision that at a monumental game like this Sinatra and his buddies were sitting quietly with glasses of water….please. And if you spent more than one second cutting and pasting the one paragraph that bothered you, and sat down to read the book, you’d realize that the moment in time that occurred in that game was for DeLillo a timeless moment in American cultural history, he spends the book linking these moments up in a very interesting fiction-factual plot.

  5. GC says:


    who are you addressing with this post? If you have a problem with Mr. Issacs, by all means, contact Columnist.com. Merely because I’ve quoted from his comments on “Underworld” doesn’t necessarily mean that I share his opinion. And if you took a second to consider that this forum exists for some purpose other than affirming opinions you already hold dear, you’d realize that.

    I’ve read the book, thank you. A long time ago. But I’m very comfortable letting Issacs’ passage stand without further commentary from my end. Whether he’s got something to say about DeLillo is for you to figure out.

  6. Donna P. says:

    I just finished the prologue to “Underworld” and found it to be possibly the most thrilling piece of literature I’ve ever read. I can’t believe that I haven’t even started the actual novel! I can’t wait. I love baseball and I found his rendition of the end of the Giants/ Dodgers game 3 to be as exciting as any actual baseball game I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely amazing! He captured the experience of baseball perfectly, only better. It was like being ‘inside’ baseball. I don’t mean being an ‘insider’. I mean being inside the essence of baseball.

    The celebrity spectators added wonderful comic relief that increased the excitement. I said a laughing “Ewwwww” out loud to the graphic vomit description with Gleason’s vomit going all over Sinatra’s fancy shoes, socks and trousers, and I laughed out loud when Gleason told Sinatra he stinks, and Sinatra told Gleason that it was Gleason’s stink, and Gleason told Sinatra that he wasn’t going to ride in the limousine with him if he’s gonna stink like that. What an experience this little read was!

    I was googling to see if this foursome was really at the game together, and it looks like they were- but nothing authoritative so far. But I did find this blog and I just had to comment.

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