Part 2 - Elegy for Left Hand Alone

Time period: Mid-1980s - Early 1990s

The title likely draws from Maurice Ravel's 1930 "Concerto for Left Hand Alone." The piece was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost an arm in the war. Note that Paul is brother of Ludwig, the philosopher, who DeLillo has previously mentioned in interviews and in End Zone. But the Texas Highway Killer comes into play as well.
The section begins with the previously published story "The Videotape."

And there is something about videotape, isn't there, and this particular kind of crime? This is a crime designed for random taping and immediate playing. You sit there and wonder if this kind of crime became more possible when the means of taping an event and playing it immediately, without a neutral interval, a balancing space and time, became widely available. (159)

Note that this is yet one more instance of the 'shot' of which there is just one recording: the tape of Russ Hodges radio broadcast, the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination, perhaps we can also add Nick Shay's obsessive replay of his own memories of certain shots.

Where's the ball?
Brian visits Marvin Lundy, the memorabilia man with the Polo Grounds scoreboard in his basement. Lundy got the ball eighteen months earlier from a woman named Genevieve Rauch, who's long-lost husband, Judson Rauch was shot dead while driving down the road (as captured on video?). The ball was in the car. Lundy says: "And I traced it all the way back to October fourth, the day after the game, nineteen hundred and fifty-one." (180)

Nick makes a call to Marvin to buy the ball.

Brian visits the massive waste dump:

He imagined he was watching the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza -- only this was twenty-five times bigger, with tanker trucks spraying perfumed water on the approach roads. He found the sight inspiring. (184)

Nick and Matt go home to the Bronx.
Matt: "How's the waste business?"
Nick: "Booming. The waste business. Bigger by the minute." (205)
Chapter 8 uses portions of the previously published story "The Angel Esmeralda." We learn some rather sinister things about Sister Edgar.

At the same time Edgar force-fitted the gloves onto her hands and felt the ambivalence, the conflict. Safe, yes, scientifically shielded from organic menace. But also sinfully complicit with some process she only half understood, the force in the world, the array of systems that displaces religious faith with paranoia. It was in the milky-slick feel of these synthetic gloves, fear and distrust and unreason. And she felt masculinized as well, condomed ten times over -- safe, yes, and maybe a little confused. (241)

That night she leaned over the washbasin in her room and cleaned a steel wool pad with disinfectant. Then she used the pad to scour a scrub brush, cleaning every bristle. But she hadn't cleaned the original disinfectant in something stronger than disinfectant. She hadn't done this because the regession was infinite. (251)

The left-hand issue comes up a couple times in the last chapter. Richard Henry Gilkey remembers something he had read, and tells Bud Walling, "Left-handers, which I am not one of, live typically shorter lives than right-handers. Right handed men live ten years longer than left-handed men." (265)

Then on page 272, "he put the glove on his left-hand." His shooting hand.

To Part 3.
Back to DeLillo's Underworld.

Last updated: 03-OCT-97