Then a chemical spill brings about The Airborne Toxic Event, in which an amorphous black cloud hovers over Gladney's complacent little town, ominously darkening the splashy colors and phosphorescent whites of the super market which gives solace to so many of the local denizens, not excluding Gladney's family. The spill may also serve as a metaphor for what DeLillo calls the "white noise" in America, that insidious current in the air resulting from too many radio signals (t.v, radio, e.g.), the infatuation we as Americans have with consumerism--(note: this was written during the Reagan era). The novel also boldly deals with fear, particularly fear of death, another beast within the machine that many must eventaully face. One of the best parts of the novel occurs toward the end, when Jack Gladney has an edifying Q and A over death and the afterlife with a German nun at a hospital, a stark and unflinching illumination which I found great and daring, if not a little sad.
This is a Don DeLillo book, and those not familiar with Don DeLillo and his sometimes abstruse connotations on American living might be chary upon entering his world.Read more ›
His sometimes interesting style is forced upon us at the sacrifice of real characters that through their interaction with one another actually make something happen as we look forward to in a plot-driven story. This book reads that way: way over-rated and tiresomely 'clever' after about one hundred pages. You will feel nothing for any of the characters because you will recognize that they are just sloppy cartoon sketches of contemptible middle-class American ninnies. Of course, we are supposed to identify with them because they are meant to mirror our silly and meaningless lives. (Are you tired of that angle, yet?)
In real life, (American) people may act silly, but to suggest that they are all distracted fools who don't ever pause in their stupid routines to contemplate how sad and pathetic their lives really are is truly an arrogantly sophomoric theme to carry through the length of a novel.
Honest-to-goodness laughs?: two.
New insights into life and human behavior: none
A re-tread of that other over-rated stinker "Crying of Lot 49?": Yes