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White Noise
     

White Noise

3.7 70
by Don DeLillo, Richard Powers (Introduction)
 

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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.

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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."
—Newsweek

"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  

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143105985
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/29/2009
Series:
Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition Series
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
157,513
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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.

Meet the Author

Don DeLillo has written sixteen novels, including White Noise, which won the National Book Award. It was followed by Libra, his bestselling novel about the assassination of President Kennedy; Mao II, which won the Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction; and the bestselling Underworld, which in 2000 won the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1999, DeLillo was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, given to a writer whose work expresses the theme of freedom of the individual in society. In 2010 DeLillo became the third author to receive the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. He was awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction in 2013, and the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2015.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Westchester County, New York
Date of Birth:
November 20, 1936
Place of Birth:
New York City
Education:
Fordham University, 1958

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White Noise (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
AnaMardoll More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
UgandaJim More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
DanikaMorningstar More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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