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White Noise: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Dec 29 2009
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Chairman of the department of Hitler studies at a Midwestern college, Jack Gladney is accidently exposed to a cloud of noxious chemicals, part of a world of the future that is doomed because of misused technology, artifical products and foods, and overpopulation. PW appreciated DeLillo's "bleak, ironic" vision, calling it "not so much a tragic view of history as a macabre one." January
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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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 ›
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).Read more ›
That said, there were some concepts that did make me pause and think for a moment. Greatest amongst these was the section on the German nuns who explained that they did not believe in god or heaven or angels, but felt the need to keep up the pretence for the sake of the non believers, for that was how non believers felt safe: as long as someone was keeping up the faith, the human race was okay.
I also really liked the character of Heinrich. His constant questioning and his stubborn refusal to accept such obvious facts as whether it was raining or not, opened up such a refreshing line of thought. At one point he asks, of what use is all our knowledge / how are we any better than cave man, when we can't even make fire or even recognize lint if we saw it / that when it comes down to it, all our knowledge just passes from computer to computer … Heinrich really made me think!
Most recent customer reviews
I dunno. It's fine. I didn't love it. But it's okay. I often don't love books like this.Published 16 months ago by Pete
The characters,along with the story, was sluggish,uninteresting, and dull. These people need to get out of the house and get some exercise, drink some vitamin C, take some... Read morePublished on July 4 2007 by Rob J
Delilo's books remind me of a listless stroll down a nondescript street on a cold winters day nursing a mind numbing headache. Read morePublished on June 28 2007 by Adam Stanton
With "White Noise," Don DeLillo has crafted the ultimate suburban nightmare. He collects the Gladney family - a highly intellectualized, somewhat socially awkward, ultra-modern... Read morePublished on June 28 2004 by Brennon A. Slattery
DeLillo's had such a wild imagination to write in 1984-85 about the reliance on pharmaceuticals to make oneself "happy", the deleterous power of mass communication on... Read morePublished on June 12 2004 by A. Burns
The protagonist is a professor who intellectualizes his family, his career, and his experiences into existential angst, like a college sophomore strung out on Sartre and Camus. Read morePublished on May 13 2004 by Day Williams