Literary Techniques

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 140

While Endzone (1972) features a narrator who is essentially an innocent confronting a complex and malevolent world, like Candide, Great Jones Street offers an all-too-knowledgeable narrator who expects the worst in every context except his own life, and who is startled repeatedly by the ability of his "culture to produce familiar people in unfamiliar roles." (Of course, Bucky never loses his cool, and so never acknowledges overtly his amazement.) Some die unexpectedly, others betray without warning, and almost all demonstrate that their own lives are not nearly so invulnerable as they had thought. The satiric direction of Great Jones Street is, therefore, inward, rather than outward, since Bucky must necessarily correct his own misperceptions at every turn, whereas Gary Harkness's innocence provides a corrective vision of the world around him. In both, the pervasive irony engages and distances the reader simultaneously.

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Literary Precedents

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

The greatest account of an artist's effort to withdraw from his public role in order to live as he wishes is found in Rousseau's Confessions (1782), and his related autobiographical writings. This may seem to be an irrelevant or needlessly grandiose comparison, but the impossible complexity of the artist's role in society since the mid-eighteenth century is an important issue, and many autobiographies, biographies, and novels have explored it. (Works by Henry James, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and Thomas Mann come readily to mind.) DeLillo uses the framework of a rather tawdry effort at exploitation (Bucky is made the custodian of a putatively valuable wonder drug for which several underground groups are competing), but questions of the integrity of the artist, and the ability of the artist to communicate, consistently arise in this novel. From another perspective, the absurdity of claiming "artistic stature" for a mere pop singer (imagine if he were modeled on Billy Idol) might also be a significant factor in this narrative, and the pretentious quality of Bucky's self-image would underline the inanity of the lyrics of the "mountain tapes."

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