9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Penguin Modern Classics reissue DeLillo's debut novel..,
This review is from: Americana (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Originally published in 1971, 'Americana' was the debut novel by Don DeLillo, kickstarting a career that has included such key novels as 'Running Dog', 'White Noise', 'Libra' (reissued alongside it), and the epic 'Underworld' (alongside more obscure, frequently brilliant works such as 'Mao II', 'The Names', 'Players', 'Ratner's Star', 'Great Jones Street' & 'End Zone.').
Penguin previously issued this in the late 1990s with similar cover artwork as 'Underworld', the reissue of 'End Zone' a few years ago and the more recent 'Cosmopolis' - does this book need to be issued as a Modern Classic so soon? I'd say 'Libra' fits the bill - Penguin Modern Classics should have selected 'White Noise' over this (or maybe 'Players' with its World Trade Center elements?). Also, like the Penguin Modern Classic version of Hunter S Thompson's 'Hells Angels', this appears to be without a nice introductory essay - surely Martin Amis or Salman Rushdie could have been asked to offer their thoughts?
I've only read 'Americana' once, I'll definitely need to read it again now it's been reissued - my general feeling was that it's a debut novel, so measuring it against 'Libra', 'White Noise' or 'Underworld' a decade (sometimes two) or so later is unfair. 'Americana' certainly fits the bill of the cliche/model of 'the Great American novel' - DeLillo's themes and style are apparent from the word go. Predicting the climes of yuppiedom, somewhere between 'Something Happened' and 'Bright Lights, Big City' the novel concerns David Bell - a TV-executive in New York who wastes his time in the workplace playing mind-games with his secretary and speculating on a proto blogger who writes memos under the name of Trotsky (!) DeLillo sends Bell onto a road trip into contemporary America afterwards where he begins to make films on his 16mm camera, coming across characters who are alchoholic, hippy or affected by their experiences of Vietnam...
'Americana' is an extremely cinematic novel and a potent debut - like a lot of Paul Auster's work it is highly readable but hard to summarise - little seems to happen, but the content kickstarts waves of thought. This is a book that resonated after and one I really ought to read a second time to absorb more - certainly warrants reading, though far from DeLillo's most important work.