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Great Jones Street (Picador Books) [Paperback]

Don DeLillo
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Mar 1992 Picador Books
The narrator of this novel is Bucky Wunderlick, a Dylan-Jagger amalgam who finds he's gone as far as he knows how. Mid tour he leaves his rock band and holes up in a dingy East Village apartment, in Great Jones Street. The plot revolves around his retreat and a drug designed to silence dissidents.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (6 Mar 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330315455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330315456
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,371,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Brilliant...deeply shocking...looks at rock music, nihilism and urban decay." --Diane Johnson, The New York Review of Books "Luminous...finally, a novel that understands rock and roll!" --Jon Pareles, The Village Voice Literary Supplement --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Reading the fiction of Don DeLillo is an utterly original experience: powerful, prescient, perceptive. Writing in a prose that is both majestic and muscular, his unerringly accurate vision penetrates deep into the soul of America and consistently leaves readers with a fresh perspective on the world. Since the publication of his first novel, in 1971, he has been acknowledged across the globe as one of the greatest writers of his generation.

Bucky Wunderlick is a rock and roll star. Dissatisfied with a life that has brought fame and fortune, he suddenly decides he no longer wants to be a commodity. He leaves his band mid-tour and holes up in a dingy, unfurnished apartment in Great Jones Street. Unfortunately, his disappearing act only succeeds in inflaming interest . . .

DeLillo’s third novel is more than a musical satire: it probes the rights of the individual, foreshadows the struggle of the artist within a capitalist world and delivers a scathing portrait of our culture’s obsession with the lives of the few.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Off-beat and unusual 2 July 2011
By Arthur
Delillo is fairly new to me, so I don't to pretend to have any major insights into how this book compares with his other more lauded works. From reading a little about Delillo, I understand Great Jones Street is one of his earlier and more experimental novels. It shows. It has an interesting, if a little dated and clichéd, premise, concerning the retreat of a 70s rock star into existential seclusion. The obvious Dylan references are clumsy (Buddy Wunderlick, the book's protagonist, records a post-fame, lo-fi collection of songs called the Mountain Tapes, a clear reference to Dylan's The Basement Tapes) and the book certainly doesn't work as satire (it is deeply unfunny and earnest). However, Delillo does create an eerie and unnerving mood which can be very effective and while his prose is often pretentious and self consciously `experimental', he does sometimes hit a rich vein of apocalyptic gloom, particularly when describing the New York streets (a bit like Dylan's Desolation Row in fact).
Overall I was left with the impression of a writer trying hard to be experimental at the expanse of a more fluid and identifiable style. Nevertheless, it's an unusual and often original piece of work that should be read by fans of Delillo as well as those readers interested in off-beat American literature from the 70s.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Bucky Wunderlick is the lead singer and song writer of a successful hard rock band. On tour, the burned-out Bucky realizes the band has reached the scary limit of its loud and raw sound and he suddenly drops out. Bucky then becomes the subject of bizarre rumors and bogus sightings while he lives on Great Jones Street, which, before the boom in New York City real estate, was grim and seedy. This Bucky, who is wasted and drifting, has "no intentions." But then Opel, his girlfriend, appears and forces him to address these questions: What do you do when something ends? How will you evolve?

As a musician, Bucky finally decides he "needed a route back". But will his route back resemble that of his band mate Azarian, who evolves and affirms his own musicality in soul music? Or will Bucky's route back follow the vision of Globke, his agent, who has brilliant ideas about promoting Bucky's celebrity and is indifferent to his music. Or will Bucky follow the path of the musician Watney, who realized his own mediocrity and evolved through business? Or, will Bucky find a musical equivalent of Fenig, his upstairs neighbor, who is a writer seeking success through the exploitation of market niches?

In offering these alternatives to Bucky, DeLillo also begins in a very dark space. In particular, all these options for Bucky's personal evolution are opposed by the sinister Happy Valley Farm Commune. This sees Bucky's musical withdrawal as a principled stand for independence and privacy. Happy Valley, by the way, apparently has two factions, one of them nihilistic and violent as it enforces its beliefs.

As Bucky is exposed to these musical possibilities, he also becomes a passive participant in a dangerous drug deal.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars only to be read by delillo die-hards... 23 Feb 2012
easily the worst delillo novel i've read. a total waste of time. i would recommend avoiding this novel until you've read everything else this great (but inconsistent) writer has produced. there's a consensus that 'white noise', 'libra' and 'underworld' are great novels and these are a good place to start. after these, i would recommend 'the names', 'end zone', 'running man', and 'americana' as very good novels. please, do not read 'great jones street' as an introduction to delillo. save it til last. if you have to read it at all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Diversion for DeLillo's Faithful 25 April 2000
By Daniel M. Conley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read the first page of Great Jones Street and you might think you've stumbled across a new DeLillo novel about Kurt Cobain. "Perhaps the only natural law attaching to true fame is that the famous man is compelled, eventually, to commit suicide," DeLillo writes, with eerie foresight.
Unfortunately for contemporary readers, that Cobain imagery is likely to stick with you throughout this 1973 novel and become a distraction. Bucky Wunderlick, DeLillo's rock idol, is neither as tortured or talented as Cobain. As other critics have noted, his lyrics are awful. DeLillo doesn't have an ear for rock lyrics (or at least didn't in the early 70s.)
Like Running Dog, Great Jones Street is a great premise and an awkward delivery. DeLillo had yet to develop his signature style of putting subtext before story. He also hadn't developed his micro-detail style of painting an environment, which he used to such brilliant effect in describing the supermarket in "White Noise" and the Bronx of his youth in "Underworld." What we're left with is conventional dialogue-and-plot story telling -- which is what DeLillo has always done worst.
If you've read the masterworks of the DeLillo canon -- Ratner's Star, The Names, White Noise, Libra, Mao II and Underworld -- Great Jones Street is a worthwhile diversion. If you haven't read DeLillo's best, come back when you're done.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 70s Delillo forshadows his current visionary brilliance 14 Nov 2000
By metheb - Published on
GREAT JONES STREET is a novel set in the 70's that is as relevant now as when it was first published. The main character - an AWOL rock musician - with shades of Dylan or Lennon attempts to escape the life of celebrity only to find his disappearing act, in mid tour, has made him that much more an enigma, raising the torch of his celebrity. With the much publicized saga of the late Kurt Cobain, an artist drained by commerce and ultimately destroyed by it, GREAT JONES STREET forshadows the struggle of artists within the system of commerce and capitalism of the United States. It is a novel about fame, and commerce, and the rights of the individual in society whether they be famous or not. It doesn't have the taught language of UNDERWORLD or the magnificent LIBRA but it is worth the time. A definite precursor to the grand themes of LIBRA, Delillo's finest novel.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delillo's funniest 16 Dec 1996
By A Customer - Published on
I have read all of Don Delillo's novels and Great Jones Street stands among my favorites. Although many of his works are ultimately best described as "dark" (such as Mao II and Libra), Great Jones Street reveals Delillo's surreal comedic edge as he mocks the music industry (among other subjects). Like most of Delillo's works, this book is ultimately about a journey, but in Great Jones Street the path is laden with both subtle and not-so-subtle humor
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's only rock and roll 23 April 2007
By Michael Battaglia - Published on
General consensus has that this is one of Delillo's lesser novels and I really can't disagree. However, I don't think it's completely terrible either, it's short and has enough passages to recommend at least a quick reading of it. One of his early works from the 70s, it involves rock star Bucky who suddenly decides he doesn't want to be a rock star anymore and goes into seclusion, with all kind of rumors swirling about him. People constantly visit him and try to convince him to come back and he gives them evasive answers and flatout denials. Meanwhile, other stuff happens. And that's pretty much the plot. You can see why some people aren't exactly fond of this one. For a certified rock star, you don't really get much of a sense of Bucky as a musician, which may make sense since he's given all that up, but even when people describe what his band plays, you can't quite see how he would have become so ridiculously famous as he apparently is. It doesn't help that, as others have noted, Delillo cannot write rock lyrics to save his life at this point in time. Some chapters are comprised entirely of snippets from his songs, and it proves that Delillo was right to go into prose writing and not help out King Crimson or anything. But those don't bother me too much since I just skim the lyrics and move on to chapters with people talking. I'm not sure where Delillo was actually going with this story, he seems to be trying to do a cross-section of life in NYC, and then at other times he's attempting to satirize the culture and examine the rock and roll lifestyle. But in trying to do all of that, he really doesn't succeed in really dissecting any of them. The plot, for what it's worth, mostly consists of Bucky sitting in his apartment either talking to his neighbors, or to the people visiting him. Interesting but not terribly exciting, especially since Delillo's characters don't normally talk like real people. At his best, dialogue becomes almost a dance, as two people dart and stab at each other. In this book, it becomes one character giving a really long speech that seems almost stream of consciousness and doesn't really amount to anything. When the plot seems to pick up steam later on, you aren't exactly sure what's going on (it involves both a set of "mountain tapes" Bucky recorded and some new drug that people want) or why it's happening. About the biggest selling point is Delillo's prose, which was incisive even at this point, he's nowhere near his peak and the narration isn't consistent in that respect, but he does whip out a number of well worded paragraphs over the course of the novel. As I said, a quick read, but probably more for completists only, since he's done more memorable or interesting work elsewhere. Has anyone ever tried to set his lyrics to music, even just based on the descriptions of Bucky's band given in the novel (which was a lot of screaming, if I understand correctly?) . . . I'd be curious to hear what people come up with.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most ingeniously constructed novel 18 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
A most ingeniously constructed novel existing in a space defined by the coordinates of drugs, rock'n roll and Wittgenstienian metaphysics of language. Uncannily predictive with respect to the grunge scene, with characters reminiscent of William Burroughs and Kurdt Cobain. Both poetic and funny, rigorously structured and artistically detailed.
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