White Noise

( 69 )

Overview

Winner of the National Book Award in 1985, Don DeLillo's postmodern masterpiece is about Jack and Babette, a middle America couple with children from previous marriages. After a deadly toxic accident and Babette's addiction to an experimental drug, Jack is forced to question everything about his life.

Winner of the 1985 National Book Award

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White Noise

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Overview

Winner of the National Book Award in 1985, Don DeLillo's postmodern masterpiece is about Jack and Babette, a middle America couple with children from previous marriages. After a deadly toxic accident and Babette's addiction to an experimental drug, Jack is forced to question everything about his life.

Winner of the 1985 National Book Award

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140077025
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1986
  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 67,996
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.81 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Don DeLillo

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.

Biography

Growing up in his working class Bronx neighborhood in the 1940s and '50s, Don De Lillo was far more interested in sports than in books. A listless student, he did not develop an interest in reading until he was 18 and working a summer job as a parking attendant. Desperate to fill in the long, boring hours of downtime, he discovered the literature of Faulkner, Joyce, and Hemingway. He attended Fordham University and worked in advertising for several years before seriously pursuing a writing career.

When De Lillo's first novel, Americana, was published in 1971, it received modest reviews. Seven books followed over the next 14 years, steadily generating more critical praise but few sales. Then, in 1985, he hit pay dirt with White Noise, a brooding postmodern masterpiece about a Midwestern college professor and his family in the aftermath of an airborne toxic accident. It proved to be De Lillo's breakthrough, earning him both a National Book Award and an avid cult following.

Since then, De Lillo has gone on to produce a string of superb "literary" novels that fairly brim with big ideas yet also capture the essence of contemporary culture in all its infuriating banality. Cited by younger writers like Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace as a major influence, De Lillo remains a reserved and private, albeit gracious and genteel man who seems a bit uncomfortable with fame.

Among the many honors De Lillo has received are the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize for Libra (1989); the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for Mao II (1991); and the Jerusalem Prize, William Dean Howells Medal, and the Riccardo Bacchelli International Award for his magnum opus Underworld (1997). In addition, three of his novels received high marks on a 2006 survey sponsored by The New York Times to name the single best work of American fiction of the last 25 years.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Cleo Birdwell
    2. Hometown:
      Westchester County, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 20, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York City
    1. Education:
      Fordham University, 1958

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the jurik food still in shopping bags—onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.

    I've witnessed this spectacle every September for twenty-one years. It is a brilliant event, invariably. The students greet each other with comic cries and gestures of sodden collapse. Their summer has been bloated with criminal pleasures, as always. The parents stand sun-dazed near their automobiles, seeing images of themselves in every direction. The conscientious suntans. The well-made faces and wry looks. They feel a sense of renewal, of communal recognition. The women crisp and alert, in diet trim, knowing people's names. Their husbands content to measure out the time, distant but ungrudging, accomplished in parenthood, something about them suggesting massive insurance coverage. This assembly of station wagons, as much as anything they might do in the course of the year, more than formal liturgies or laws, tells the parents they are a collection of the like-minded and the spiritually akin, a people, a nation.

    I left my office and walked down the hill and into town. There are houses in town with turrets and two-story porches where people sit in the shade of ancient maples. There are Greek revival and Gothic churches. There is an insane asylum with an elongated portico, ornamented dormers and a steeply pitched roof topped by a pineapple finial. Babette and I and our children by previous marriages live at the end of a quiet street in what was once a wooded area with deep ravines. There is an expressway beyond the backyard now, well below us, and at night as we settle into our brass bed the sparse traffic washes past, a remote and steady murmur around our sleep, as of dead souls babbling at the edge of a dream.

    I am chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill. I invented Hitler studies in North America in March of 1968. It was a cold bright day with intermittent winds out of the east. When I suggested to the chancellor that we might build a whole department around Hitler's life and work, he was quick to see the possibilities. It was an immediate and electrifying success. The chancellor went on to serve as adviser to Nixon, Ford and Carter before his death on a ski lift in Austria.

    At Fourth and Elm, cars turn left for the supermarket. A policewoman crouched inside a boxlike vehicle patrols the area looking for cars parked illegally, for meter violations, lapsed inspection stickers. On telephone poles all over town there are homemade signs concerning lost dogs and cats, sometimes in the handwriting of a child.


Excerpted from White Noise by Don DeLillo. Copyright © 1985 by Don DeLillo. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(14)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 18, 2010

    Consumerism and Death

    White Noise / 978-1-440-67447-1 White Noise, arguably Delillo's best work, carefully explores a world where consumerism has, almost literally, consumed us all, to the point where we become empty shells of people. The extended family in the book have been reduced by consumerism to two-dimensional beings, dependent upon television and other cultural stimuli to tell them how to think and behave. Occasionally, they act out against this emptiness (or is it that a wire has been crossed in the brain?) with idiosyncrasies such as a pronounced preference for the smell of burnt toast, or a tendency to find frumpy jogging outfits attractive. On the weekends, they shop at the local supermarket, under the soporific thrall of the overhead neon lights. When their consumer culture literally threatens to kill them, via a toxic waste spill on the town railroad, they are ill-prepared to respond and look to their customary authorities (television and radio) on how to react to the emergency. When fire trucks storm through town, broadcasting an evacuation notice, the mother wonders absently whether the evacuation is a suggestion or a command. And in the aftermath of the toxic cloud, even when many have died and many more have had their lives shortened by exposure to the poison, the town feels no outrage, only numbness that what is normally confined to the television news stories nevertheless happened in their idyllic town. Actors themselves, they practice emergency evacuations, determined to perform better "next time". Despite the shallowness of their lives, they fear death. Some self-medicate with dangerous experimental drugs in an attempt to control that fear. Others take up death-defying hobbies in the hope that this will deaden their fear. They discuss which food preservatives will kill them, whether the phones lines will cause cancer, which yoga poses will prolong their lives, and how to squeeze every drop of life out of their lives. When a character points out how much energy is wasted in daily life (carrying things that don't need to be carried, making extra trips, etc.), another asks what would one do with all the saved energy. The answer: Live longer. In this way, Delillo paints a stunning and frightening portrait of a community that fears death yet has no love for life. ~ Ana Mardoll

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2004

    More like White Crap

    Along with The Catcher in the Rye, this is the worst book of all time. This book has a plot...sort of. it moves so slowly, that by the time it ends, you hate everyone in the family so much that you hope they all die. Boo to White Noise.

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    White Noise is a fantastic work of literature. Chances are you w

    White Noise is a fantastic work of literature. Chances are you will have a different view of society after reading this. In the novel Don DeLillo examines a society where people are emotionless, completely void of any human feelings. People have been effected by consumerism to extremes. Characters spend copious amounts of time discussing what will kill them, fearing death, trying their hardest to avoid it, yet have no appreciation for life. When a “Airborne Toxic Event” kills many of the citizens of the town and decreases the lives of countless others, the townspeople feel no anger whatsoever. They continue their average lives in a almost emotionally sedated state. This book does a fantastic job illustrating how on a grand scale how minor our everyday tasks are. And how we pay more attention to a minor event in our life like going to the grocery store, than a life changing one in another persons life, even someone as close as a child or close friend. Although there are many people who dislike this book, I would recommend it to anyone. It shows a interesting perspective of everyday life. Although we are not in a society centered around consumerism as shown in this novel, some of the characteristics could be applied to us, and might even change your views about certain everyday things.

    -Erik B

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2010

    Twice as Long as It Needed to Be

    I recognize that the bizarre and arbitrary plot twists are supposed to reflect the nature of modern society, but they made for an unsatisfying book. Certainly DeLillo's reflections on consumerism are interesting--a sort of verbal reflection of Warhol's Pop Art. But they get repeated over...and over...and over. The character of Murray is too obviously a foil for Jack, and their philisophical discussions feel contrived. And frankly, the book feels dated. I found myself quickly bored by the earnest critiques of deceptive advertising and corporate greed. Maybe it's a generational gap. Because we're already inured to the idea that huge corporations could take over the world.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2008

    black humor at its finest

    white noise surprised me greatly, not only as a perfect example of stylized postmodernism, but a great tale full of the darkest humor. delillo is not only a beautiful wordsmith but an intellegent writer who makes fear of death, mortality, and faithfulness seem digestible while making the entire experience a smart and humorous experience.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2006

    Postmodern Paradise

    This book is phenomenal. For those who enjoy a realistic trip through a novel which portrays the real world as something more absurd or fantastical, this book is for you. DeLillo writes in a heavily ironic style which criticizes multiple outlets of state or government authority, state sponsored events or violence, and more generally the situation of modern Americans or all people for that matter. The majority of this book is written in a beautiful fashion which cannot be passed over if you enjoy wholesome literature. To those who consider this book boring or tedious, one might only wonder how much of this work or their own world they have ignored. As a runner-up in the New York Times' recent writers, critics, and editors survey of the best work of American fiction in the last 25 years, this book deserves far more credit than I can possibly give to it here.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Stylistically mirrors our times

    White Noise captures the multi-tasked, ADD-infused overload of our time. Corporate content, centrally scrutinized Kardasian junk feed. Like our society, no clear resolution. Why read it? Because The Matrix says so! A great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2011

    Highly recommended - A Wild Ride

    I enjoyed Underworld immensely, then came back to White Noise. I was afraid it would suffer in comparison, but this book really holds its own.

    This is post modern fiction at its best. Things might be going on now, might have never happened, or might simply be untrue static. For me, I enjoyed the overall book, but bogged down here and there.

    Avoid if you don't like post modern books or if you prefer a linear plot with the writer filling in all the dots. If you like uncertainty and the idea that a book might have a number of meanings, go for this one and Underworld, too. Good book for discussion if your entire group can deal with uncertainty and the writer not telling you how to interpret what is happening (or has happened, or might happen).

    Could be it's all just static anyway!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    Laborious read but with Catch 22 glimpses.

    I am an avid reader. This is one of the few books that I finally just set aside, rather than finish. I was close to the end. Just didn't care about the story. Interesting characters but the plot was uninteresting and the writing style was not to my taste. I enjoyed the abundant irony, cleverly developed traits/quirks of the characters, and the social issues. Some very funny parts, almost Catch 22.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2009

    Beautifully written, intellectually stimulating book.

    I'll admit, it took me about 30 pages before I realized what I was reading and how good this book really is. It is indeed slow, and at times, you will find yourself re-reading paragraphs. But it is worth it. Don't read this book on a plane or on the train to work. Give it a peaceful setting and attack it with an open mind.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2006

    Suprisingly good

    Surprisingly good I have to say that this book is quite good . I am a student from Belgium and I am in the 6th grade of Secondary school . I have to read it for my final exam at the end of the year . This book is good, it gives me look at 'the American Way' . ( By the way : Belgium is not the capital of Brussels, it's the opposite) G reetz, M

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2006

    This book was delightful

    I love DeLillo and I loved this book. It paints a very realistic picture. The characters remind me of people I know. Calling it boring, well... I'll just say no.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    I love to read for pleasure. But...

    This book was not pleasurable at all! I was forced to read it for 11th grade Lit class, and if I never see another Don Dilillo book, I will die a happy girl. It was complete waste of time, and I DO NOT RECCOMEND this book to ANYONE!!!!

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2005

    It's ok for English classes, but not for your time

    I thought the book was ok, but is geared more towards middle aged white men. This book is very slow moving and is boring. I reccomed this only if you enjoy semi-suspense, but not in for a thriller.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2003

    English Writing Major Gives Props To Delillo

    I have to say that DeLillo's book not only captured my interests, but fascinated me at the same time. I think everyone should pick this book up and read it. Granted it can be depressing at times, but it captures the best of what this real world is coming to. Trust me...pick this up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2003

    A "Thinking" Novel

    Don DeLillo¿s White Noise is the story of Jack Gladney, a Professor at the local University, and his quest to save himself and his family. He lives with his wife and their children. The book is a complex, multi-staged novel with several intertwined plots. Small details quickly elevate into major points of the plot. Likewise, minor occurrences quickly spiral out of control. Jack is constantly moving around while trying to juggle his school responsibilities and keeping his family in equilibrium. The son is meeting friends who will try death defying stunts and a wife who is taking special medication. One aspect of this novel that I truly admire is Don DeLillo¿s ability to put the reader in positions where they begin to think about instances that aren¿t even in the book. This is rare in many novels because this is one novel that challenges conventional thinking. It tells more than just a story. The novel forces the reader to ponder questions that we take as common knowledge. In one instance, Heinrich, Jack¿s son, challenges his father with a proposal to define rain. Even as Jack decides on a reasonable answer, Heinrich has a veritable battalion of retorts to trump Jack¿s definition. This made me think about other situations we accept as the norm without fully understanding them. I also enjoyed the vivid descriptions DeLillo goes into when he describes situations. During periods of chaos, he explains not just the characters feelings, but their surrounding atmosphere as well. This really puts one into the novel. I felt like I knew Jack, and I knew his wife. There were times when I wanted to shout advice to the characters (a la horror films), but only to remember, ¿It is only a book.¿ It is really that well written. Don DeLillo is an amazing writer. I believe this novel to be one of the novels I have ever read. The book has elements of Science Fiction, a satirical novel, it can even get a bit risqué in places. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other books he has written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2012

    Exceptional. White Noise = black humor.

    Exceptional. White Noise = black humor.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2005

    Splendid, my friends.

    Well, this book was not meant to be an edge-of-your-seat thriller. However, its sheer psychological implications of truth and consciousness make it enlightening and compelling. It touches upon topics in modern society that receive little attention as Americans trudge through their routines. Delillo has a talent and an incisive intellect that makes him essential to deciphering the post-modern world. Jack Gladney is an unforgettable example of mid-life crisis at its absolute worst.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2004

    'Compelling to the second drop'

    Jack Galdney, a major in Hitler Studies at the local collage in a Middle American town, is introduced to a toxic spillage and must flee with his family of six including his wife, Babette, who is in a constant state of fear of death. Later, Jack discovers his deeply-loved wife, is concealing a horrendous secret from him, of taking a mystifying, unknown drug which supposedly cures her condition. Jack, along with his colleagues, are on a quest to find what and why, but ultimately, who, created this drug that serves an unknown purpose, along with the constant batter of massive consumerism and constant noise from TV¿s, to language of radiation. White Noise, it seems. ¿An awesome book. Contains real background structures of today¿s media. Lots of deep physiological drama.¿

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    Common Commotion

    This was one of the best novels that I have written in a long time. It made me feel that it was totally real, it painted a picture in my head. They seemed to be the modern american day family with a hint of Brandy Bunch touch to them. I would reccomend this novel to anyone who would be interested in reading it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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