Americana, a Don DeLillo gem that is too little talked about

Americana is a book by Don DeLillo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book ends in h, Americanah, and, honestly, it does not even reach the soles of this one. Don DeLillo, principal? influence of David Foster Wallace. Don DeLillo, chronicler of the underbelly of American society who, along with Philip Roth, Thomas pynchon y Cormac McCarthy, completes the squad of the four Great Novelists alive in the opinion of Harold bloom, the Great Literary Critic of our time (died in 2019) or Last Literary Critic.

Review of Americana by Don Delillo

If songs from "The Great American Novel" sounded with the Libertad by Jonathan FrankenAmericana  is another fair contender in this non-existent final race.

"How long have you been living here, Jennifer?"
In October it will be two years.
- Is it a limited rent building?
-David, before making love to me, promise me that you will call me again.

Don DeLillo, another of the essentials, one of those called to resist in memory when only the books remain of him. And there are so many writers that one should read so little time that we have left and so much and so quickly the one that has already left, that I have to confess and highlight, megaphone in hand, that with Americana I have felt, like a sixty-year-old nun initiating into the pleasures of meat that is not eaten, and like a repentant vegan who returns to the path of sanity, the unexpected and almost forgotten joy of discovering something new, a style, a quality orgy with the that I hoped to meet later with the Underworld, Mao II y Pound, and not in his first novel, reissued in 2013 by Seix Barral.

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Americana starts like any other chapter Mad Men (offices watered with alcohol, partying and free time) and ends at On the road de Kerouac, with his little bit of Easy Rider in the middle, not quite done and free of cocaine and LSD, but full of whiskey, highways to the America of the interior, exotic encounters with small towns and his good cloak of existentialist silent despair applied to the world of comfort and money towards which every American (and inhabitant of the free world) sprint in a straight line and with blinders; a kind of existence that, now that he has achieved it, David Bell denies.

Americana  American Psycho

Is it a rent-limited building? David Bell really repampinflates all that amalgam of labels, typologies and classifications with which the modern world has been cataloged (and with which the modern world harasses them/us from the cradle so well) for the practice of that constant audit of status and quality of material possessions with which we, oh infected humans, make time until the grave is ready.

American Psycho stinks of American. In this memory of what his youth days were like before and after the drastic turn that his professional life would take at the age of 28, David Bell really repampinflates the university where so-and-so studied, and also what Venenito thinks about the frog legs that they serve in that restaurant that he recommended so emphatically and, despite everything, he keeps asking questions, he keeps wanting to know how much he earns cetanito and pelenito, the age of felenito or perenito (he is obsessed with numbers and, in particular, with being the youngest of his co-workers). Americana was published in 1971, 20 years before American Psycho.

Bell is a curious and classic Don DeLillo character. He makes exhaustive parts about the class, color and brand of clothing he was wearing at all times, and stores details such as the fact that, during their long-distance courtship stage, he wrote to her now ex-wife with a Venus 4B drawing pencil. Like real matter something.

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

What differentiates him from the rest of the machine-men replicants and makes him suitable to star in a book as Americana is that David Bell knows perfectly well that the walls of his internal machinery are stained with filth and poison.. He is a self-aware and critical being of the mire of existential hollowness in which he has been stuck all these years and from which he will decide to cleanse himself in the second part of the book, the part road trip

“The impulses of the media were feeding the circuits of my dreams. One thinks of echoes. One thinks of an image built in the image and likeness of images. That's how complicated it was."

It is no coincidence that DeLillo assigns his protagonist a job as a creative on a television network. With mud of existential hollowness I come to refer to bread + circus; to that machinery, which at the height of the 70s in the United States is already in an optimal state of polished operation, formed by the binomial dreams + tv.

Marshall McLuhan's Technological Determinism

The novel delves into the impact and influence of celluloid and cathode rays on the aspirations and way of acting of people in the manner of Marshall McLuhan. Yeah man, the nice old man from the movie queue scene from Annie Hall (“Friends, if only life were like this!”). Three years before the publication of Americana , Marshall McLuhan theorized in his Understanding Media about the importance of technology in changing people's behavior patterns.

Technological determinism aka technological determinism aka “The medium is the message” aka you have to realize that that little phone that you swipe your index finger on in such a simian way, in addition to allowing you to retweet the shit of those who retweet yours, considerably increases the silence during family meals, your baboon face with apoplexy as you walk and the chances that you are going to slam into that other stooped lout who is also approaching you with the anguish and the pending and dependent gaze of his list of followers and mentions. The medium is the message.

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Technological determinism: how so-called advances condition our interaction with the environment. Delicious (and taken to the extreme) example on page 56 about his ex-wife:

“Meredith was heavily influenced by British movies of the time. She cultivated a kind of unpredictability of her own. Sometimes she would walk down the street with me and suddenly let go of my hand to plunge into a fantastic sequence. When we went shopping, she would steal things, one or two useless items, hiding them under her sweater and joking about how pregnant she looked."

There is a lot of Nabokov in Don DeLillo now that I think about it, in this detailed psychological cruelty.

On one occasion, we saw an old woman selling flowers in Central Park. Merry asked me to buy two dozen chrysanthemums, and then she led me to the little bridge at the southeast end of the compound. We stood on the bridge and tossed the flowers into the water one by one as the ducks circled the violet mist. Everything was there, except for the soundtrack, and I could imagine the series of cuts and slow fades that must happen in Merry's mind."

And in 58, to finish off: "Sometimes I came home late and found her sitting on the floor, wearing a hat and trying to write a haiku. It hurt me to learn that she did those things even when she was alone.”

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo, portrait painter of the psychology of a country

Whether in high-rise New York offices or on quiet dusty avenues, the prevailing atmosphere is that of a dying circus of horrors populated by miserable characters, distorted and disoriented, who dream of a model of existence that orbits as close as possible to the dollar and recognition, without realizing that the most authentic thing about their lives is the noise of the bleats they utter.

There are plenty of lies to your face (such as "your breath doesn't smell bad") and behind your back (this is gay, I'm writing a novel, I did it yesterday with this one), meeting room hypocrisies and unstructured sentimental relationships and resulting from another equation, the most dramatic of all: dreams + time = reality. Curiosity: the older the character, the crazier he is. Americana It is full of rereading.

Example: On page 98, David Bell chats with a co-worker who suddenly invites him to lunch because he says he has heard good things about him (about Bell). And then, digression:

  • "On the network, people spent their lives telling others that they had heard good things about them.
  • It was part of the informal program of incessant cordiality that prevailed in the company. And since our activity, by nature, depended on the very flexible logic of fashion, the day always came when the bearer of good news became the receiver.
  • Sooner or later, each of us became a fashion in itself; there was no one who did not enjoy his weekly cycle of glory. Richter Janes' observation suggested that we might be at the beginning of the David Bell craze.
  • Richter himself had been fashionable just a few months before; During his cycle, which lasted about a week, people would barge into my office or walk up to me in the hallways with some frequency to comment on how good a job Richter Jones was doing, what wonderful things they had heard about him, and how that same morning, some of them had been transmitted to him.”

Agile dialogues, intelligent humor and black-legged irony. DeLillo's short-sentence machine gun style and Bell's extremely cunning, irreverent and brash personality (blonde, tall and "Greek" faced, half Don Draper half Peter Campbell (the ambitious and cocky young man from Mad Men)) make there is not a single moment of rest in the first part of the book, before it becomes a road trip and acquires a more leisurely and reflective tone.

Cover of Americana, by Don DeLillo

David Bell enters the United States

On his tour of the interior of the country, this popular fascination with the screens is reflected in the manner of the "Godfather's bodyguards" who harass Alvy Singer ("This guy is on television!") through a parade of people who are They show amazement not because David Bell tells them he is making a movie, but because of the simple fact that he is carrying a small home camera, a fact that even makes on page 291 a couple of townspeople stop the car “with a screech of brakes ” to ask about the pot.

With the excuse of traveling west by car for a documentary about a Navajo Indian reservation, Bell enters an introspective phase in which the urgent need to shoot a something along the way, an audiovisual experiment that he only knows must be about his past, and for which he will use as actors the easily impressionable people he meets.

As the book progresses, the narrative progressively moves away from the present, it increases the digression and decreases that granite security with which Bell dazzled at the beginning: "Everything I was involved in was simply a literary adventure, an attempt to find themes and models, to turn something wild into a timid thesis about the essence of the soul of the nation."

And, by the way, from the essence of his own soul.

Americana It begins as a delirious joke full of scenes cooked to the point where one more line of surrealism would have ended up singeing them into implausibility. The prank lasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, spans the entire island of Manhattan, and is watched and performed by an appreciative and undemanding audience, including a serious and thoughtful David Bell who notices that he is beginning to tire of the Program.

Then the novel moves on to something else. The Bell at the end has little to do with the Bell at the start. The further away he is from New York, the less we recognize him, the more we know him, and the more he is known. Stripped of his comfort zone and common places, and subjected to the storm of melancholy that the recording of his autobiographical film arouses in him, Bell finds himself helpless. For the first time in his life, Bell reveals himself.

American (Library...
12 Reviews
American (Library...
  • DeLillo, Don (Author)

Don DeLillo, American
Translation of Gian Castelli
Seix Barral, Barcelona 2013 (Published in 1971)
502 pages | 23 euros

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