A novel by Don DeLillo

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 1971, 388 pages. Jacket photograph by Peter Jones.
Paperbacks issued by Pocket 1973 and by Penguin starting in 1989.
The 1989 Penguin reissue has the following notice: "In preparing this edition for publication, the author has made some cuts in the original text; there is no new material." I noticed about a page cut from the hardcover pages 5-6; I believe about ten pages were cut altogether.

Americana editions.

Dedication: "to Barbara Bennett" (his future wife)

What it's about:
The autobiography of David Bell, writing toward the end of the century from a "remote" island, looking back at his youth, his days as a young New York television executive, and his journey across America making a film.
Here's the original dust jacket copy.

First line:
"Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year."
Note that Joshua Ferris used the first six words for the title of his first novel published in 2007.
Compare perhaps with the first line of Maugham's Of Human Bondage - "The day broke grey and dull." Or E.A. Poe's opening of 'The Fall of the House of Usher': "During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher."

What it's really about:
DeLillo began this novel in 1966, working on it for four years, "hurling things at the page." He says, "It's not an autobiographical novel. But I did use many things I'd seen, heard, knew about." Apparently DeLillo had a real breakthrough about halfway through writing this book, and he suddenly felt that he had found writing skills that he had not possessed before.

DeLillo wrote a short piece for Epoch in 1972 called "Notes Toward a Definitive Meditation (By Someone Else) on the Novel 'Americana'".

In light of the later Libra, note that the David Bell retraces JFK's route through Dallas in the final paragraph.

Critical Response: See the Americana Media Watch page for reviews.

Next novel: End Zone.
Back to DeLillo's novels.

Last updated: 15-APR-2024