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Americana (Contemporary American fiction) Paperback – July 6, 1989

3.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In search of his roots, a successful but unhappy TV executive takes off for the heartland of America. "This first novel is peopled with characters alienated not only from one another, but from themselves. It has the smell of staleness and despair. It is also, with its deadly accurate observations, its veracious dialogue, and its consistency of view, brilliantly written," maintained PW.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Nearly every sentence of Americana rings true, an insistence upon the authenticity behind the stereotypes....DeLillo is a man of frightening perception." --Joyce Carol Oates, The Detroit Sunday News


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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American fiction
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 6, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140119485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140119480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Don DeLillo is the author of fourteen novels, including Falling Man, Libra and White Noise, and three plays. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Over the course of his career, Don DeLillo has grown into a force of literature. Several of his eleven novels, among them White Noise and Underworld, seem destined to become classics. I've read these books, as well as all of the others in his canon, and admire them greatly. But ultimately, Americana, his first book, is the one I keep coming back to. It is a brisk novel, brimming with tight, controlled prose, and on the surface, not a lot seems to happen -- some board meetings in the offices of an advertising agency, a road trip, several lengthy monologues read as dialogue from a movie script. Subsequent examinations, however, reveal its many complex layers. All of the classic DeLillo themes are present -- advertising, paranoia, American mythology versus reality -- and explode fully formed onto the page. The story chronicles the exploits of a young, self-involved advertising executive who retreats into the heart of America with his camera in an attempt to discover what, if anything, lies beneath the series of images that define who we are and the country we live in. DeLillo's command of the language is remarkable from the first page as he filters the chaos of Christmas in New York City through the ennui of the ironic narrator, David Bell. It has often been said that DeLillo writes "idea books," meaning that he is less concerned with characters (though the characters in his books are always memorable) than the large and complicated issues of modern life (fear of death, fear of life, the nature of terror). If this is true then Americana sets the gold standard for much of what has followed from him since its publication in 1971. Which leads me to my final point: Although this book is almost thirty years old, it reads as if it were written last month.Read more ›
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By A Customer on July 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
Though rambling and at times aimless, though missing the technical virtuosity of "Libra" and the sodden comic dread of "White Noise", Americana remains my favorite book by Don Delillo. The novel is a retelling of Huck Finn, in the persona of an all-around Golden Boy and very dead soul named David Bell. Bell, like Huck, lights out for the territory, but instead of a burlesque and edenic frontier, he finds a graveyard of flickering images, of a country at the end of its reel, spinning, flailing, disintegrating, full of phantoms. Twain's daguerotype of a giggling boy's swampy adventures is re-rendered by Delillo as a faithless young man's journey through an empty celluloid desert. Super-good.
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In Americana, Don Delillo's first novel, David Bell begins by claiming, "Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year." This is the emptiness he struggles with, his own personal emptiness. The office politics and sexual politics of his world are repetitive to the degree that he is forced to pump them full of strange insincerities. Strange memo's from an unknown source and shooting wads of crumpled paper into the waste basket become his primary professional concerns; while sexually, he beds women distantly, almost as a form of social masturbation. At one point, when discussing his mother, and her death, David confesses that it will be hard to not pump it up with smoke to hide the fire. This confession admits that even his own personal history is somewhat lost to him. When the opportunity presents itself, he sees a quest through Americana as one of personal rediscovery. But Americana overshadows the discovery of David Bell. David is swallowed by the idiosyncrasies of the U.S. He becomes more and more removed from himself, realizing, you can't really run away from the one thing you want to escape... yourself. In Americana, you can see the style and subjects that will become White Noise and Underworld with time. You also get a disturbing image of corporate America's spirtual life in the late 1990's. Delillo is able to predict that existential crisis and alienation of our youth's future.
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Format: Paperback
This was DeLillo's first novel, and it feels like a first novel. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The imperfections and inconsistencies found in a novelist's first attempts at long fiction often let the reader steal a peak into the writer's thought process before the writer has learned how to mask that process.
That said, this is a book where the seams show. DeLillo's prose is always fun to read--although intentionally disorienting at times--but this book doesn't hold together as well as his later masterpieces like the "Names" or "White Noise." Certain scenes are brilliant. Others just sort of linger in the narrative seemingly without a reason for being.
The meat of the novel, wherein David Bell constructs his anti-film about image-driven modern America, is pure DeLillo bravura. However the reader of this part may get lost in--among other distractions from which the novel suffers--DeLillo's obsession with Godard. (At one point he practically rips one scene right out of "Masculine/Feminine".) DeLillo seems to have thought he was writing this part of the novel with a camera in hand rather than with the novelist's traditional weapons (e.g. a pen or a typewriter). In this, it is misguided.
"Americana" is not a great book, but DeLillo is a great American author and I encourage anyone new to his fiction to start with "White Noise" which seems to be the easiest route into the DeLillo mindset. After that, I'd recommend "The Names" or "Great Jone Street" or "Underworld."
Even so, any true fan would be remiss to ignore "Americana."
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