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White Noise (1985)

by Don DeLillo

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,072148599 (3.78)1 / 341
Jack Gladney, a professor of Nazi history at a Middle American liberal arts school, and his family try to handle normal family life as a black cloud of lethal gaseous fumes threatens their town.
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    David_Cain: Everything good in White Noise is better in Underworld
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» See also 341 mentions

English (142)  Finnish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
The writing is evocative, but the story is rambling without much of a point. Given that I was in a similar stage of my life as the main character when the book was published, I can see some of the sarcasm of the time. But the story just seems very haphazard. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 14, 2022 |
Good book. Perhaps even very good.
Somehow it reminds me of One Hundred Years of Solitude, oddly enough, and I don't think it's just because my copies of both were printed and bound by the same publisher. I almost gave it four stars, but when I tried to think of a reason why it was a struggle. I guess I would have liked more waffle, more "screen time" for the wide variety of fascinating minor characters, but perhaps that's just me. It says everything it came to say, I suppose.

I will probably seek out more of DeLillo's work at some point - this is the first book of his I've read - and that's a pretty sure sign of having enjoyed something, right? ( )
  Styok | Aug 25, 2022 |
"No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal know, that we must die."

The novel features a bizarre cast of characters from a minor American university town, and centres around Jack Gladney, the Chair of Hitler studies, who lives with his fourth wife and a brood of children from their various marriages.

The first and largest section of this book features an accident at the nearby railroad sidings which results in a toxic cloud floating over the town, but in truth I'm not totally convinced that this incident isn't little more than an sideshow as although it isn't out of place it also doesn't add too much either. In truth there isn't a plot as such. But rather a series of day to day conversations, many of which don't lead anywhere in particular, as the author tries to paint a picture of modern society as he sees it. This lack of plot makes it a difficult read, you have to really concentrate to get the most out of it, one conversation could be equally as important as the next.

Some of the themes that this novel explores are consumerism/ materialism and globalisation (the 'White Noise' of the title refers to the constant adverts and misinformation that we are bombarded with virtually every day that we barely notice it). But the most over-riding theme is our over-reliance on science to solve our everyday problems usually in the form of anti-depressants or tranquilizers. Both Jack and his wife Babette fear death but rather than look at the root causes of their fear they turn to an experimental drug, Dylar, to salve their anxiety.

"The greater the scientific advance, the more primitive the fear."

Given that death features fairly prominently in this novel I found myself reading numerous passages if not laughing out loud at least with a smile on my face, some of the conversations were so ridiculous that they are comical. However, it also felt rather self-indulgent and as I said earlier on in this review it also requires a certain amount of effort, its for that reason that I've marked it down. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 17, 2022 |
What a novel this would be to discuss in a class. The academic satire, the consumerism, the need for/expectation of a drug to fix things, the airborne toxic event. News, TV, weather reports. It's all very funny but also so frustratingly true. And so much of this is still true, though somehow this book feels innocent (naive might be a better word). Maybe because Jack Gladney is so convinced the airborne toxic event won't affect his town/neighborhood/family because they are the kind of people that "aren't" affected by such things. (Also, California is for disasters.) I'm not sure there are still largely white upper-class Americans that think that way. I may be completely wrong though. ( )
  Dreesie | Jan 13, 2022 |
i read a different edition
  Marietje.Halbertsma | Jan 9, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (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.
Quotations
"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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Jack Gladney, a professor of Nazi history at a Middle American liberal arts school, and his family try to handle normal family life as a black cloud of lethal gaseous fumes threatens their town.

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Average: (3.78)
0.5 8
1 62
1.5 16
2 160
2.5 44
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3.5 132
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