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White Noise Paperback – Jan 7 1986


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (Jan. 7 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140077022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140077025
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #20,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. Read the first page
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Montese C. on July 16 2004
Format: Paperback
Jack Gladney is the chairman of Hitler Studies at a quaint liberal arts college somewhere in leafy-green, suburban America. His wife teaches posture classes, his son--an astonishingly precocious young man at the tender age of fourteen--ponders such cerebral questions as the validity of our consciousness--do we really want the things that we want, or are our neurons indiscriminately swimming about in our skulls and haphazardly giving us a false sense of yearning?
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 6 2011
Format: Paperback
Jack Gladney teaches at the College-on-the-Hill. He and his wife Babette live, with four of their children from previous marriage (Heinrich, Steffie, Denise, and Wilder) in the quiet college town of Blacksmith. Jack and Babette are both afraid of death and it is this fear that is central to the novel. Whose fear is the greater? "Sounds like a boring life." "I hope it lasts forever," she said.

Jack and Babette's fear of death, the world in which they live and participate is conveyed satirically through a series of events (some of more direct consequence than others) which are peppered with laugh out loud moments. There's a subtlety in the observation and the writing that makes this novel work.

`The family is the cradle of the world's misinformation.'

Jack serves as the department chair of Hitler studies, a discipline that he invented in 1968, despite the fact that he does not understand German. Hitler's importance as an historical figure gives Jack a degree of importance by association: `Some people are larger than life. Hitler is larger than death. You thought he would protect you.' His colleague, Murray Jay Siskind, has come to Blacksmith to immerse himself in what he calls `American magic and dread.' Murray is a lecturer in living icons who is trying to establish a discipline in Elvis studies. Murray finds deep significance in things that are ordinary - especially the supermarket: `This place recharges us spiritually, it prepares us, it's a gateway or pathway. Look how bright. It's full of psychic data.'

The major events in the novel concern an airborne toxic event and its consequences, and Jack Gladney's search for a mysterious psychopharmaceutical drug called Dylar once he discovers that Babette is participating in an experimental study (of sorts).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Jacobs on April 10 2004
Format: Paperback
This was a strange book. I was impressed with both the beginning and the end, but tired of the endless theme of mindless consumerism and personal despair. At first I was impressed by DeLillo's sardonic wit and ability to form a plausible tale about a professor of Hitler studies afraid of death. The ending effectively wrapped up the themes and the story and left me with a satisfying read. Maybe he intended this, but I found myself frequently questioning when it would end and feeling tired and frustrated with the world that composed the bulk of the novel. It was interesting that the main character did demonstrate human concerns and emotions, barely visible through the rubble of material and cultural garbage.
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Format: Paperback
Reading Don DeLillo, I couldn't keep from imagining the author sitting sequestered in his home tapping out his aren't-I-so-clever story without ever really going out into the world to find out how people act, talk, feel, or think.
His sometimes interesting style is forced upon us rapid-fire at the sacrifice of real characters that, through their interactions with one another, actually make something interesting happen. 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 nitwits. Of course, we are supposed to identify with them--wink, wink-- because they are meant to mirror our silly and meaningless lives. (Are you tired, yet, of that angle?)
In real life, (American) people may act silly at times, 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 throughout 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 'clever' stinker "Crying of Lot 49?": Yes
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