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White Noise: Text and Criticism Paperback – Dec 1 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 225 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (Dec 1 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140274987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140274981
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 225 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #377,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"One of the most ironic, intelligent, grimly funny voices to comment on life in present-day America . . . [White Noise] poses inescapable questions with consummate skill."
--Jayne Anne Phillips, The New York Times Book Review

"DeLillo's eighth novel should win him wide recognition as one of the best American noveslists. . . . the homey comedy of White Noise invites us into a world we're glad to enter. Then the sinister buzz of implication makes the book unforgettably disturbing."

"A stunning book . . . it is a novel of hairline prophecy, showing a desolate and all-too-believable future in the evidence of an all-too-recognizable present. . . . Through tenderness, wit, and a powerful irony, DeLillo has made every aspect of White Noise a moving picture of a disquiet we seem to share more and more."
--Los Angeles Times 

"It's brilliance is dark and sheathed. And probing. In White Noise, Don DeLillo takes a Geiger-counter reading of the American family, and comes up with ominous clicks."
--Vanity Fair

"A stunning performance from one of our most intelligent novelists . . . Tremendously funny."
--The New Republic  

About the Author

Don DeLillo published his first short story when he was twenty-three years old. He has since written twelve novels, including White Noise (1985) which won the National Book Award. It was followed by Libra (1988), his novel about the assassination of President Kennedy, and by Mao II, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

In 1997, he published the bestselling Underworld, and in 1999 he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, given to a writer whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society; he was the first American author to receive it. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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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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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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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
Firstly, this is the only book by Don DeLillo that I have ever read, so I am unable to compare it to his other works (re Libra, Mao, The Underworld.) That said, I found this book all at once, captivating, frustrating, intriguing and dull. DeLillo is able to spend some twohundred+ pages writing, without ever really saying anything: I found myself at the end, wondering "what was that?"
This novel centers around the head of a Hitler Studies' department in the mid-1970s. Of all of the characters, I found his son, Heinreich, to be the most interesting. With the exception of the narrator, no one is presented with much depth and there was no defineable "plot." Maybe to the artsy folks, that's just another way for any author to be "deep," but I just found it boring and useless.
White Noise is divided into two sections. The first section serves the primary purpose of introducing the reader to the family, the surroundings, the town. There is an all-encompassinmg anonymity to the town in which this takes place, which I interpreted as DeLillo's attempt to make the entire cirumcstnace of the novel to be believable whether it were in Maine, Montana, or California. The second section tells of the family's "escape" from a large, dark cloud looming, a supposed toxic waste reaction. Really.
Overall, this book is interesting, and DeLillo is funny - he manages to portray the quirks of family home life convincingly, and his offbeat general "oddness" makes for an interesting, if superficial, read. I don't precisely see this as a literary staple, but it is occasionally interesting nonetheless.
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