Americana

ISBN: 0140119485
ISBN 13: 9780140119480
By: Don DeLillo

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About this book

At twenty-eight, David Bell is the American Dream come true. He has fought his way to the top, surviving office purges and scandals tobecome a top television executive. David's world is made up of the images that flicker across America's screens, the fantasies that enthrall America's imagination. And the the dream--and the dream-making--become a nightmare. At the height of his success, David sets out to rediscover reality. Camera in hand, he journeys across the country in a mad and moving attempt to capture, to impose a pattern on his own, and America's past, present, and future.

Reader's Thoughts

Michael Alexander

Call me a bad person, but this is my favorite DeLillo. I get what he does with the hyper-flat parodically-inane dialogue in the White Noise period, and some of his jokes are genuinely funny, but I never really get into his mature work. This, however, has all the seams showing: him trying to write a kinda countercultural post-Beat novel with a dollop of his later style while parodying life in an advertising firm. Throw in some parodies of "real America" and a weird indie film and serve chilled. Lots of it doesn't work, but some of it does, and it's a messy, interesting peek behind the mask his prose later puts on.

Krok Zero

DeLillo's debut is clearly the work of a genius in chrysalis, before he found discipline or focus. It feels very much like a novel borne of the sixties intellectual zeigeist (as opposed to the sixties popular zeitgeist, which is far more familiar to us now). I recommend it to hardcore DD fans, but it's kind of a slog, and probably not worthwhile for anyone else.

Josh Luft

If Don Delillo didn't arrive fully-formed, he was pretty damn close. His debut novel, Americana, has many of the themes Delillo has tackled throughout his amazing oeuvre--like contemporary American life, death, film, war--in the narrative of David Bell, a network television programmer who abandons his job while traveling west to make his own, semi-autobiographical, experimental film. Whether or not it's true, Americana seems semi-autobiographical of Delillo--potentially mirroring Bell's film. At least in the first part of the book, which focuses on Bell's life at the network television office, which I imagine could have been quite similar to Delillo's early office life at an advertising agency. In addition to the themes, Delillo's signature stylized dialogue is also on display. While the book is ragged in places--Delillo himself edited the book in 1989 before its reprint--it has his singular prose and energy. I'm glad the novel was published in 1971, when authors like Delillo could have several books to develop. Had Americana been published today, I'd like to think it would still amass a following. But would a publishing house today allow him the time and money he received then to hone his craft, to write the six novels after Americana that led to his first masterpiece, White Noise? I doubt it. Times change. Americana captures that idea.

Jeff Jackson

DeLillo's debut contains the seeds of his better future novels and the remnants of typical American fiction that he would forever leave behind. The first section is an absurdist office comedy that's eerily close to "Mad Men." The second section reads like a remix of Updike or Cheever. The third is an examination of stasis and begins DeLillo's ongoing fascination with artists, representations of reality, and extreme works of art. The final section reads like "Two Lane Blacktop" scripted by Robert Stone - i.e., a last hard look at the '60s. The story doesn't really hold together, but the finely tuned sentences and observations are already here in abundance.

Vincent Louis

Exquisite. Prescient. An incredible debut from the best living American novelist. Like Mad Men's Don Draper, DeLillo's David Bell doesn't know who he is, and like Draper he is largely a fiction to himself and the world (though not as ostensibly as Draper). His journey of discovery tears him down while holding a mirror up to ourselves, our culture. The whole novel, for me, was a prequel to a single anecdotal story related by a secondary character (Sullivan) toward the end. What a writer DeLillo is. He is nothing shy of a genius. No detail escapes him. The story drags a bit in the second act, but I didn't care. I already know who I'm dealing with. DeLillo will reward me. I can't believe I save this for last. Read it. Read it. Read everything the man writes. And for the record, nobody writes about baseball like Don DeLillo.

Deb

My first experience with Don DeLillo was good. I'm not certain I'd be ready for anything else of his for a while-- that's a nice way of saying one of his books might be enough. But I'm usually very adamant about finishing what I start. And it was good, just not great. I'm moving on to short stories by Graham Greene, I think--- or at least until the new Richard Russo comes out, which is very soon and I can't wait. May go try to see him at the Harvard Book Store event in a few weeks- any takers? More info here: http://www.harvard.com/events/press_r....Oh, but back to Americana. In end, I felt like David didn't really have the great awakening he anticipated-- rather he fell as far as possible into his own delusions of grandeur and egoism and hedonism. And that would be okay if it weren't for the fact that I think that DeLillo was trying to deconstruct and unmaterialize (is that a word?) his world. Turns out you don't need to be living in Manhattan with your Abercrombie clothes to still alienate the people who know and love you best. Maybe I missed the point. More accurately: the main character was difficult to like, which is always tough when reading a book. Well, not always. Some characters are so despicable you just fall head over heels in love with their amoral selves. I found the supporting characters far more believable in their actions, thoughts, and deeds. They were the real ones, even if, in the end they all opted to return to the grime and lust and greed of New York City. I sometimes think that certainly I can "get" every book I read. Maybe I failed this one, somehow, given how magnificent it's supposed to be, but I don't think so. Not this time. So scratch what I said before about moving on to Greene. I think I need a good dose of non-fiction to cleanse my palate: Mayflower it is. I loved, loved, loved, "Into the Heart of the Sea," even more in retrospect b/c so much of it is to do with a New England that no longer exists. I'll expound more upon my devotion to pretty much anything Nathaniel Philbrick. More to come.

Titus Burley

Americana is a brilliant book - akin in its imagery rich rants to Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. It is experimental satire of high order; a book written in a more blessed time when a major publisher would risk printing a first novel that follows none of the predictable maxims of storytelling. It is a novel without villain unless that villain is at times the narrator, David Bell, himself. Bell in essence goes on a physical cross-country quest to remedy a growing disenchantment with his world and relationships. Using a film project as his medium, he approaches the riddle of his own life and broken marriage through third person usage of art. The meandering, often plotless seeming, portions of the novel are its greatest strength. The long imagery laden paragraphs that often stretch for pages and read more like free form poetry than action driven narrative are stunningly revelatory in capturing the changing moral landscape of America in the late 60's. It's an important novel, but unfortunately one unlikely to be read with any frequency in today's suspense/thriller James Patterson/Dan Brown world. It is one that I allowed myself time to read slowly and contemplate; and one I will likely read again.

Rayroy

Delillo writes about image and death and it seems that most of his characters are fascinated by war and terrorism, whether it’s David Bell from Americana or Gary Harkness of End Zone. At times it’s as if Delillo is writing thru a video camera and there’s a sense of excellent cinematography in all of Delillo’s work. Americana is Don Delillo’s first novel and I loved it but felt that the third part was lacking something, it didn’t do a lot for me and felt the other three parts were much better. I liked the nine mile race track in the end of Americana and when David Bell is in his NYC high rise office in the beginning looking out the window at the Mohawk skyscraper workers working on a skeleton of a high-rise building going up, it’s at this point, a scene only Delillo can write, that you feel David Bell's need to escape. Wonderful and ruff around the edges a brilliant first novel

Kaitlin

White Noise is one of my favorites. This didn't do it for me. It's dated and was almost painful to read; all the characters are self-absorbed and one-sided. It's written almost as stream of consciousness, but grates because it's trying too hard to prove something.I am planning to read Libra soon because the concept is just too interesting. I wish I'd passed on this one though.

Adam

DeLillo's debut novel is all about the real (hyperreal) stuff of America and Americana: its image(s). He still hadn't worked out the magnificent prose style of most of his later work but this book's got it's own mojo working. The major themes of this novel were revisited, in various different ways, in many (most?) of DeLillo's later work, but this novel really tears into Americana. It's like Two-Lane Blacktop and David Lynch collided head-on with, well, Don DeLillo. It's a nightmare, and nightmares, lest we forget, are dreams. Like most seriously notable lit, this is distinctly of its time but still relevant, and real perceptive and prescient. a quick note: parts of this really hammered home the parallels and similarities I'd already noticed between Don DeLillo's work and Mad Men. Perhaps a coincidence, but I wouldn't be surprised if Matthew Weiner has read many a DeLillo book. And Conor Oberst is a colossal prick, but he's the only writer I know of who's described the conditions for reading DeLillo with maximum aesthetic impact: "Don DeLillo, whiskey neat, and a blinking midnight clock." Yes. Too bad the whiskey gets me into trouble after I put the book down...

Christina

DeLillo's first book. True to its name in countless ways, including 1) the distinctly American description of the main character's office life (David Bell, a TV executive), with many amusing exchanges with the secretaries and his boss, mainly at the first part of the book; and 2)the way David Bell describes his life as "lived in the movies," imagining it in a idyllic Hollywood way. The book changes dramatically when Bell goes on a roadtrip with his friends in a camper to middle America, where he engages everyday midwestern folks in acting out his biography for his film. Interesting to see some of the beginnings of concepts for White Noise, which I love.

Paul

All of DeLillo's major themes are here: Fear of death, power of the image (image vs. reality), society vs. the individual. His signature style is here as well; pretty amazing that he nailed it in his first go-round. That said, it feels a bit like he was trying to get everything in, as if this might be his last chance to say it. Most sentences shine in typical DeLillo fashion, but more than a few fall slightly flat; if you're familiar enough with his work you'll catch 'em. Also, things tend to drag a bit when he goes off on his abstract, stylistic musings on philosophy and what have you. Parts one and two are fantastic, and the end is great. DeLillo is at his most (seemingly) personal and (possibly) autobiographical in Part II, which is a full-on flashback to the narrator's childhood. Most of the BS is disposed of, and we get, as mentioned, an uncharacteristically warm, sincere, personal, and emotional DeLillo. This would read as an excellent novella, in fact. The novel is at its worst when the characters are on the road, which is admittedly infrequent. It reads like Harrison's "A Good Day to Die," or a really bad "On the Road," but again this makes up maybe ten percent of the book, despite people calling this a "road novel." Anyway, a pretty good intro to DeLillo, though unfortunately far from flawless. Up front, it seems as if this might be his best novel, though it's not to be. Thankfully he kept at it, though.

Marc Nash

Delillo's debut novel from the early 1970s. You can see the rudiments of some of what he went on to develop in his more famous later novels. The astonishing word explosions are here a plenty " he was laughing in an exaggerated manner, overdoing it, creating the laugh as if with ceramics". There are some wonderful free-form streams of consciousness, part poetry, part jazz, particularly in the ravings of a radio disc jockey.But for all that, the book does not quite hold together. Unusually for Delillo, the protagonist is a fully-fledged character, in this case New Yorker TV Executive David Bell. His character arc of a successful man stripping himself back trying to find the authenticity of experience, reminded me very much of the protagonist of the later "Cosmopolis". But there the unburdening takes place over a much shorter time, during the course of one day, while here the quest for authenticity itself is as much without as within; the "Americana" of the book's title. Part 1 of the book is a wonderfully acerbic and accurate portrayal of office politics and paranoia and strictly defined gender roles, before the onset of the digital age and greater equality for women. Jockeying for positioning, fear of the sack, illicit sexual relationships with secretaries and yet the women holding all the true power within the office, because they hold information on everyone. The nature of the office prankster too is wonderfully imagined. Part 2 is Bell casting back into his childhood and is perhaps the part that didn't work for me. Not because it wasn't beautifully rendered within a wholly believable psychology, but because it stuck out from the flow of the rest of the book through being an extended flashback. yes it helps inform some of the later book, but not significantly enough to merit being here I felt.Part 3 sees the beginning of a purposeful road trip with 3 companions, that slides over into a vanity project for Bell as he stops off on route to shoot a personal film other than the one on the Navajo Indians he is supposed to be doing. This was an interesting extended metaphor, as the film is to stand for Bell's own interiority, but is utterly abstract where he is grappling to pin his own gnawing hollowness down. The aimlessness of the characters from the Mid-West town he employs to act out his words in the script only reinforces his agonising distance from nailing his own psyche down on celluloid.Part 4 is a truly aimless road trip towards Texas, as Bell has sacrificed everything now. His friends are returning to New England. He has foregone the navajo assignment and surrendered his job back East. This section seemed to be framing the state of the nation emerging from the 60s, with Hippy casualties still clinging to alternative lifestyles.So not entirely convincing, but serving notice of Delillo's huge talents that were fully realised in later novels.

Tricia

In turns brilliant and disgusting. It really felt like Delillo was stretching his legs to see what he could do. I'd recommend it to people who enjoy his other work, but not as a first read for this author.

Aprile

Mai più! Ho provato la stessa sensazione di insofferenza e claustrofobia di quando si è obbligati ad ascoltare qualcuno che vomita parole per te senza importanza

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