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White Noise by Don DeLillo
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White Noise (original 1985; edition 1985)

by Don DeLillo

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7,38992476 (3.79)205
Member:alanrupp
Title:White Noise
Authors:Don DeLillo
Info:New York, NY : Viking, 1985.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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 89 (next | show all)
just some jumbled thoughts, proper review later (though probably not lol)

I certainly liked the book more than my sister did. Yes, it's annoyingly postmodern and the dialogue is insufferable and often too clever for its own good. But it is weirdly prophetic; I can't believe that DeLillo wrote this in 1985. With its emphasis on fear, anxiety, and the media, it seems like a book for the post 9/11 world.


The events of the book are clearly inspired by Love Canal and the proliferation of superfund sites. Weirdly enough, the book was published a year before the events of Cherbonyl. What else? A reference to Colonel Qaddafi, mentions about how Japan seems to be especially prone to natural disasters (this was pre-1995 Kobe Earthquake and the 2011 tusnami/nuclear meltdown). Heinrich's friend is willing to risk death to make it into the Guinness World Records, and people, upon being caught in an environmental catastrophe, complain that they aren't being covered by the media --all before the age of youtube! The "white noise" in the background --TV, radio --has surely been eclipsed by the rise of the PC and internet. Can you imagine if DeLillo had written this book in 2011?

Scientists still aren't sure how continuous, background low-dose levels of radiation from things like microwaves and cell phones might affect the human body. Heinrich would make an excellent environmental risk analyst for the EPA.

Ending sucks; feels like a cheap attempt at drama.

Oh yeah, and I'm totally convinced that literary critics have the worst senses of humor ever. It's not funny --not even darkly funny. I might have smiled grimly once or twice, but honestly, critics need to get out more or something or watch Chappelle's Show or something goddamn)


overall: relevant, highly intelligent, well-written if often grating, not funny. Definitely a modern classic.

Unrelated: I would love to own a copy of the edition with the Michael Cho cover. The cartoonish art is beautifully rendered and really captures the spirit of the book (comic art! so commercial). ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
In questo caso forse nessuna delle 100 scimmie messe davanti ad una macchina da scrivere potrebbe, in 100 anni, comporre un romanzo simile a questo di DeL. Le scimmie non conoscono il consumismo scoppiettante e reaganiano nel quale si muove DeL. a metà degli anni 80, nè conoscono il pensiero sedimentato della "grande consolatrice" che, volenti o nolenti, ci accompagna nel nostro incespicare quotidiano. Grandissimo il dialogo con la suora tedesca. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Why do I – having just finished White Noise – feel like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle who’s just stumbled back into town only to discover a little thing called ‘post-modernist literature?’ It’s rather disconcerting, to say the least.

Am I a fan? No.

Will I ever be a fan? No.

Post-modernist has all the look of literature … written by very smart kids. But I could no more become a fan of post-modernist literature than I am, presently, of YA Fiction. Neither category interests me. Perhaps because I’m too old – or at least old enough to know better.

Post-modernist literature seems to me to be one very long exercise in snarkiness. I like snark as much as the next guy, but I like it in small doses – and not for the length of a novel. That Don Delillo was born 14 years before I was and has chosen this category – or genre, or whatever it’s called – remains to me a mystery.

I could cite thousands of examples. But perhaps one will suffice from this SIMULAC (simulated evacuation emergency) on p. 206: “All you rescue personnel, remember this is not a blast simulation. Your victims are overcome but not traumatized. Save your tender loving care for the nuclear fireball in June. We’re at four minutes and counting. Victims, go limp. And remember you’re not here to scream or thrash about. We like a low-profile victim. This isn’t New York or L. A. Soft moans will suffice.”

Smart? Yes. Amusing? Yes. Titillating? Certainly. But also soulless.

Because I have a soul, I can’t very take points (or stars) away from a work that is (1) flawlessly executed; but (2) not to my taste. If post-modernist is your taste, go for it. I’d be very surprised to learn that anyone can do it better. But if it isn’t your taste – or, like me, you’ve been wandering in other literary fields for a few decades – I’d suggest you steer clear. The game is simply not worth the candle or its flame.

RRB
06/26/13
Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
I found Don DeLillo's style quite different from other books that I've read. I may have ventured out of my comfort zone.
One thing I did like was the way he intertwined fragments of life into the plot, such as news clips on the radio that weren't really part of the plot but that were well crafted so that they added to the overall atmosphere of the story.
( )
  peterjameswest | Nov 21, 2014 |
Almost every review of this book mentions how funny it is. I don't think it was funny at all ... I thought a lot of it was dull - even an evacuation was tedious. Maybe I don't get it and maybe I would have liked this more when it first came out but ... ho hum. ( )
1 vote kwbridge | Sep 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (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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To Sue Buck and to Lois Wallace
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The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus.
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"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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:15 -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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