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A burned-out rock star faces hilarious, edgy, and true-ish dilemmas,
This review is from: Great Jones Street (Paperback)
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. In this case, Opel, Azarian, and Watney each seek to acquire a "package" that Bucky keeps in his living room and that contains the ultimate recreational drug. The drug, which is the property of the Happy Valley Farm Commune, is also a matter of interest to the drug legend Dr. Pepper, who makes several wildly entertaining appearances in GJS. My favorite occurs in Chapter 18, where Dr. Pepper explains that he wants the package since he, like everyone else in GREAT JONES STREET, is trying to evolve. In this case, Dr. Pepper wants to make the package his platform for a final creative and professional breakthrough.
GJS is my eleventh DeLillo novel. IMO, GJS is a superb effort that showcases the great Don's glittering and terse prose, hilarious and insightful associations, and his unmistakable and inimitable voice. But unlike many of DeLillo's later novels, GJS has a protagonist who, while on the fringe, has not fully dropped out. This is quite different from Falling Man, Point Omega, and The Body Artist, where much of the tension exists in a protagonist's familiar marginality and creepy normalcy. Don, BTW, solves the issue of the ultimately eloquent Bucky's marginality in a surprising and perfect last chapter.
This is an excellent and highly entertaining novel and is highly recommended.