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Don DeLillo
293 pgs
Seix-Barral

Don DeLillo (New York, 1936) wrote Great Jones Street, his third novel, the same year as Carrero Blanco was flying through the air here. Maybe in 1973 Spain was not in the mood for stories about rock stars who ended up consumed by their own fame, and maybe that is the reason why this novel was not translated or published here. Essentially, Bucky Wunderlick, the main character, has just abandoned his tour across the country and has gone missing. The rumours grow and, ironically, so does his popularity. Some say he is dead. But no. Bucky is not dead. At least clinically. He is hidden in a flat on Great Jones Street in New York, where he exists in a ghostly state next to Opel, the groupie he has fallen in love with. However, the peace, his mere existence in the world, the anonymous life, all will be cut short when all types of people start visiting him: journalists, music producers and agents, old colleagues, friends and even different members from a group of junkies that want to get him involved in the sale of what will be, as they say, the craziest drug the man has ever tasted. An array of secondary characters will end up being a part of his life and threaten to destroy it (or revive it) for good, before the star’s transfixed stare.

DeLillo tries to reflect on the power society was starting to grant the idols of the masses in the seventies. A devastating power, according to him, for those who proclaimed themselves as such, and whose real-life correspondent could be Jim Morrison, deceased two years earlier, in 1971. The author describes a man full of phobias who yearns to disappear; a singer who faces his success by making himself small and doubting more and more about whether he is an artist or a motorcycle salesman, withdrawing into his shell. And as a background, a cold city where all kinds of agents operate, willing to do anything as long as the show goes on.

This is years before DeLillo delights the world with his Underworld, but here he already shows hints of that ambition, of the talent and intelligence that task requires. He immerses the reader with lyricism in the ghostly atmosphere his main character lives in, and shortly after breaks that limbo with the eccentric charlatanism of the characters who cross his path towards nowhere, among which stand out the voices of Fenig, his neighbour and antithesis, a writer who does understand the world and art – which he sees as a commodity -, and who cannot manage to find the formula for success; or the one for Doctor Pepper, the mobster leader of a mysterious organization, the Happy Valley. In all, an interesting and marvellous novel, written by an intelligent man who will turn out to be capable of great achievements. At times, Great Jones Street is already one of them.