Great Jones Street

Book online Great Jones Street by Don DeLillo

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Great Jones Street



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3 stars


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Comment 1:

I'm going to be dropping some Infinite Jest spoilers throughout this review. So don't read this review if you haven't read Infinite Jest. Seriously, don't read this review. Or read it until I say I'm going to drop a major DFW spoiler (not really I ended up not being nearly as spoiler-ific as I thought I would be, but there is till a major thing said that I believe knowing would make a first reading of Infinite Jest less interesting).I have a new theory about Infinite Jest and maybe others have had this theory too, or maybe I'm just full of shit, but I think a key to understanding parts of Infinite Jest might be the early works of Don Delillo. I haven't read all of the early Delillo novels yet so this is only a working theory, but my general thesis is that in at least some of the novels from White Noise and earlier there are themes that DFW is specifically dealing with. Delillo's second novel End Zone I would suggest is some of the inspiration for the Tennis Academy in DFW and may even suggest eschaton as a response to scene where one of the characters talks about football and war by saying football isn't a metaphor for war, war is war it needs no metaphors. Maybe one day I'll write my review for End Zone and go into the book a little more. Delillo's third novel, Great Jones Street is about a rock star who runs away from the tour he's on with his band, packs it all up and moves back to a small studio apartment in the East Village. A bunch of themes are going on in the book, stuff about the nature of celebrity and revolt and music and things like that, but also in the book is a mysterious drug that is mostly referred to as The Package. The Package is stolen from a government lab by some dirty hippies who give it to the main character to hold on to. The hippies are part of a commune called Happy Valley who believe that privacy is the most important freedom worth fighting for, and that privacy is being stripped away from the American (or Amerikan as they might write it) people. They have invaded on the privacy of the counter-culture rockstar hero who is in the process of trying to escape from the shine of the public (that is simplified but go with it) and it's the existence of The Package that drives much of the action in the book. No one knows what The Package will do if you take it but everyone knows that it's got to be heavy shit and everyone wants it. It's from the government so everyone figures that there has to be some kind of serious war / terrorist use that the drug could be used for, but that it must also be some kind of super-amazing new drug that will radically alter something. No one knows what, just that they want it. The competing groups who want The Package will go to any lengths to get it in their possession, but unfortunately for them the goods are no longer in the hands of the rockstar. Unfortunately for the people looking for the elusive Package and for the main character who can't even just hand over the goods and have everyone leave him alone. That is all a really idiotic book report version of the part of the book. Now here comes the DFW spoiler. Turn your head, or don't, but if you think you'll ever read Infinite Jest turn away now!The Package is similar to The Entertainment in Infinite Jest. It is just as elusive, just as sought after and just as cloaked in mythology and speculation. Also the characters who everyone thinks would have access to the grail of sorts in both books are just as clueless to it's whereabouts and ultimately become victims to the item in question. In Great Jones Street The Package is a drug. At the end of the book (this isn't a spoiler, or it should be but it's on the back of the fucking book, seriously) the drug is discovered to mess with the language part of the brain. Someone taking the drug has language literally removed from them, they no longer have access to being able to speak they are still aware of the world but they lack the ability to experience the world in language, or at least to express anything. The rockstar is given the drug and falls into this state, but ultimately to his own despair language returns and he eventually goes back to normal after a few weeks. One of the big mysteries in Infinite Jest is what happened to Hal. There are quite a few valid theories about what could have happened to Hal. DFW leaves clues all over the book pointing to a few different solutions to the question, and I don't think there is a definite answer, but the Hal of the books first chapter is in the same state as Bucky (the rockstar) is while he's being affected by The Package. With someone as meticulous and aware as DFW, and knowing that he had read Delillo I can't help but wonder at the similarities, even to the way that the two items, The Package and The Entertainment are referred to in their respective books. I would like to say that Hal ingested The Package, and that if that were the case he'd eventually regain his use of language and end up being ok (this is a whole other topic, was Hal ever ok? and then there is the Wittgenstein aspect of language and what would it mean in a Wittgenstein sense to lose the total use of language, what would that make us and the world around us? What does that mean for a concept of the self? And can we even be thought of as a self without the use of language? What would we be then? And since there is the difficulty of interiority and exteriority throughout Infinite Jest does the loss of the use of language not only trap one's self (and do we have a self without the other's gaze, and the language implicit in that gaze?) but also liberates the self in a crypto-Buddhist sort of way? But more importantly Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein because this points back to Broom and it's language that is at stake with The Package (but of course I'm drawing conclusions where there isn't even explicit relations)). Equating the two through their respective uses in the two books could it be said that Hal is a victim of the The Entertainment? Maybe The Entertainment isn't so entertaining as much as numbing that it shuts down the language part of the brain. The part of the brain that would say I'm hungry and drive a human to go eat, or that would say, stand up, and you'd stand up and leave. What is the ultimate in entertainment if it is not stupefying? This is all just conjecture, but I'm going to continue on reading through the early Delillo to see if I can find more ways to talk out of my ass.

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