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White Noise by Don DeLillo

White Noise (original 1985; edition 1986)

by Don DeLillo

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7,56099455 (3.78)219
Title:White Noise
Authors:Don DeLillo
Info:Picador (1986), Edition: New Ed, Paperback
Collections:BEN - DIS
Tags:USA, read

Work details

White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985)

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    David_Cain: Everything good in White Noise is better in Underworld

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Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
DeLillo is one of the greatest writers of the modern era. White Noise is a polaroid of the 80s and the general malaise of modern life. At times surreal, terrifying, surprisingly suburban, darkly comic, and yes, even romantic (in his own DeLillo way). ( )
  VladVerano | Oct 20, 2015 |
Jack and Babette Gladney fear death. So much, in fact, that they have managed their entire lives to put it off as long as possible. Babette secretly takes Dylar, an experimental anti-anxiety drug with dangerous side effects, and Jack, as a professor in a small Midwestern liberal arts college, he has become an expert in Hitler Studies—an academic area of specialization he created for himself—so as to achieve a sort of immortality-through-association. One day, though, the tranquil life they lead with their four children from a variety of previous marriages is interrupted by a chemical spill near their house. Jack is exposed to the resulting lethal cloud—The Airborne Toxic Event, as it is called by government officials in one of the great euphemisms in recent literature—which creates a tangible thing for him and Babette to worry about. That they don’t handle the situation well is saying the least as things spin farther and farther out of their control.

Don DeLillo is one of our leading purveyors of post-modern literature and White Noise is considered to be the masterpiece of a career spent exploring how man survives in an ever-threatening cultural environment where technology appears to have gained the upper hand. The writing in the novel is crisp, but intentionally a little stilted; in real life, people simply do not talk to each other in the manner that DeLillo’s characters do, although it makes perfect sense in the context of the book. The plot, such as it is, basically revolves around two set pieces: The Airborne Toxic Event and its aftermath as well as the intrigue surrounding Babette’s acquisition and consumption of Dylar.

However, this is ultimately a novel about Big Ideas and while it would be going too far to say that the characters do not really matter, it is the broad themes the author explores—the fear of death, the impact of technology and consumerism in modern life, our confusion between illusion and reality—that matter more. White Noise was not always easy reading and, more than three decades beyond its original publication, the book felt somewhat dated in parts. Nevertheless, it remains an insightful, entertaining, and surprisingly prophetic look at modern society, all of which makes it still worth reading. ( )
  browner56 | Aug 26, 2015 |
I’m not sure where to begin with this review. White Noise is one of the most annoying books that I have ever read. I know it is supposed to be some literary masterpiece and a commentary on our times or something like that, but I must have missed all of that. The book pretty much consists of the characters going off on these monologues, or awkward dialogues with each other, about the profundity of the most mundane topics. I’m not sure if it these were supposed to be serious or satirical, but either way, they drove me crazy. How this book is supposed to be a commentary of our times and why it is supposed to be funny, I’m not sure. I know very few people who behave like any of the characters in this book (thankfully), and nothing in the book came even close to making me think, “wow, how insightful!” I most often thought, "Wow, another pointless statement that has absolutely no relevance!" The characters were all self-absorbed, and they were all so flat and replicas of each other that it was really hard to remember who was who. I actually had to stop reading several times because I was so annoyed and when I picked up the book to read again, I got the sick feeling of dread in my stomach, feeling like I was going to an event where I would be forced to interact with someone who drives me crazy.

( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
No ( )
  thebookmagpie | Jul 14, 2015 |
Jack Gladney is a professor for Hitler Studies at college.He is the expert in his field and as a big conference on the topic is approaching, he finally starts to take German lessons – something that he has never successfully managed to learn. Jack lives with his fourth wife in his fifth marriage, Babette, and together they raise several children from their respective previous relationships. Both Jack and Babette are afraid of death, even before there is a rail accident in their area which leads to a toxic spill and disrupts their lives and routines.

White Noise is pretty exhausting to read. Sometimes it’s exhausting in a good way, but more often the novel is faithful to its own title too much and dwindles down to white noise itself.

Read more on my blog: http://kalafudra.com/2015/06/23/white-noise-don-delillo/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jun 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
The book is so funny, so mysterious, so right, so disturbing … and yet so enjoyable it has somehow survived being cut open for twenty-five years by critics and post-grads. All of that theoretical poking and prodding, all of that po-mo-simulacra-ambiguity vivisection can’t touch the thrill of reading it
''White Noise,'' his eighth novel, is the story of a college professor and his family whose small Midwestern town is evacuated after an industrial accident. In light of the recent Union Carbide disaster in India that killed over 2,000 and injured thousands more, ''White Noise'' seems all the more timely and frightening - precisely because of its totally American concerns, its rendering of a particularly American numbness.
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The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus.
"The greater the scientific advance, the more primitive the fear". Jack to Babette when talking about genetically engineered micro-organisms that would digest the 'airborne toxic event'.
"The airborne toxic event is a horrifying thing. Our fear is enormous. Even if there hasn't been great loss of life, don't we deserve some attention for our suffering, our human worry, our terror? Isn't fear news?" Television carrying man's speech when the family is stranded in Iron City.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140077022, Paperback)

Better than any book I can think of, White Noise captures the particular strangeness of life in a time where humankind has finally learned enough to kill itself. Naturally, it's a terribly funny book, and the prose is as beautiful as a sunset through a particulate-filled sky. Nice-guy narrator Jack Gladney teaches Hitler Studies at a small college. His wife may be taking a drug that removes fear, and one day a nearby chemical plant accidentally releases a cloud of gas that may be poisonous. Writing before Bhopal and Prozac entered the popular lexicon, DeLillo produced a work so closely tuned into its time that it tells the future.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:07 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Jack Gladney, a professor of Nazi history at a Middle American liberal arts school, and his family comically try to handle normal family life as a black cloud of lethal gaseous fumes threatens their town.

(summary from another edition)

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