Don DeLillo has influenced just about every contemporary novelist that I know of but this is the first time that I am getting around to reading him for myself. “Americana”, published in 1971, was DeLillo’s debut and it’s clear from reading this how he influenced a lot of novelists who would come after. A “Post-Modern” novel - a little experimental, non-linear in structure. If anything, this was one of the novels that would inspire the MFA crowd and “serious” novelists that would come later.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. DeLillo is a damn good writer and I can only imagine his later work only improves on what is here. An impressive debut. The story is essentially about an advertising executive who leaves behind his corporate life in late 1960s New York City in order to travel the country to make a film. The story is divided into four parts: New York City advertising world, with all its gossiping, woman chasing, and jockeying for favor and position; the narrators youth and college years; the film he is making while traveling across the country; and a Texas road trip. The novel almost reads like a film, where the reader is allowed in to an ongoing conversation which then “jump cuts” on to something else. The overall effect, though, is interesting, and my only real criticism of it is that it tends to meander a little now and again.
The novel is a critique of American culture, with all its fears, issues and dilemmas, but it also seems to show how film has a tendency to distort reality - much like advertising does in our culture. It is definitely a book of its time, although anyone reading it today would find many things in it very relevant. Recommended.