White Noise

( 69 )

Overview

Winner of the 1985 National Book Award

Winner of the National Book Award, White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, his fourth wife, Babette, and four ultra­modern offspring as they navigate the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism. When an industrial accident unleashes an "airborne toxic event," a lethal black chemical cloud floats over their lives. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the "white noise" ...

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Overview

Winner of the 1985 National Book Award

Winner of the National Book Award, White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, his fourth wife, Babette, and four ultra­modern offspring as they navigate the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism. When an industrial accident unleashes an "airborne toxic event," a lethal black chemical cloud floats over their lives. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the "white noise" engulfing the Gladneys-radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, ultrasonic appliances, and TV murmurings-pulsing with life, yet suggesting something ominous.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
 

Winner of the 1985 National Book Award

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143105985
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/29/2009
  • Series: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition Series
  • Edition number: 25
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 162,687
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (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

Introduction by Richard Powers ix

White Noise 1

Introduction

The Whiteness of the Noise

On a bright April morning thirty years ago, I stood on the balcony of my upper-story apartment in Somerville, Massachusetts, looking out on a plume full of ten thousand gallons of deadly phosphorus trichloride that rose hundreds of feet into the air, listening to the television spew a steady stream of dire speculation, and wondering whether to head in to work or call in sick. Five years later—just weeks after a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, released almost 100,000 pounds of methyl isocyanate into a densely populated area, killing many thousands of people—I picked up a just-published novel whose "airborne toxic event" triggered a broad spectrum of symptoms including heart palpitations and an intense feeling of déjà vu.

The publication of White Noise in 1985 placed Don DeLillo at the center of contemporary cultural imagination. I can think of few books written in my lifetime that have received such quick and wide acclaim while going on to exercise so deep an influence for decades thereafter. I can think of even fewer books more likely to remain essential guides to life in the Information Age, another quarter century on. As a result, like the book's "MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA," this relentlessly pored-over masterpiece of "American magic and dread" faces the risk of death by promotion to Classic. Yet even after twenty-five years, White Noise remains deeply disconcerting, prophetic, hilarious, volatile, enigmatic, and altogether resistant to containment or antidote. The world of Jack Gladney, his colleagues, and his family grows more estrangingly familiar, more recognizably alien with every subsequent cultural bewilderment.

The book's surface seductions are clear enough. Its dizzying kaleidoscope of genre parodies—domestic intrigue, Kmart realism, pulp disaster, psychological thriller, obsessive crime fiction, cycling nouveau roman—begins with a send-up of an academic novel and quickly plunges into dysfunctional family sitcom. From page one, DeLillo captures the drop-dead hysterical terror of the human cortex in full flight. Every thought, every traded commodity of tottering words passed between the members of this ad hoc family—Jack and Babette Gladney and their four "children by previous marriages," with walk-ons by half-sibs, wayward parents, and semi-ex spouses—teeters on the brink of dada. The makeshift Gladney clan raises its monument to unhinged information in a place somewhere between the Sunnis and the Moonies, Tennessee Ernie Williams and Sir Albert Einstein, a land where "forgetfulness has gotten into the air and water [and] entered the food chain."

No part of the Way We Think Now escapes skewering, and the Gladneys' demented family chatter—the torrent of "true, false, and other kinds of news"—threatens to pulp the mind of even the idle listener. Burlesque so merciless—the page-after-page pleasure of collective humiliation—could, all by itself, keep such a book thriving long after most of its coevals are on life support.

But DeLillo's mordant satire of the fissile and refused nuclear family serves only to launch his surprising care for these "fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts." In the overload of deranged Gladney babble, Jack marvels at the "colloquial density that makes family life the one medium of sense knowledge in which an astonishment of heart is routinely contained." And I marvel, too, on this late rereading, at a naked earnestness hiding inside a style that I years ago mistook for pure postmodern irony. Or rather, the marvel lies in that sound of human speech hungering for a time before irony and earnestness split into two strangers that deny their shared genes. What shocks me now is the book's terror-stricken tenderness. With whiplashing jump-cut between lampoon and compassion, DeLillo turns a hilarious domestic travesty into one of the great, unlikely family romances of the past hundred years. "Watching children sleep," Jack says, in a moment that peels contemporary cool back to its hottest core, "makes me feel devout, part of a spiritual system. It is the closest I can come to God."

Alongside that surprise warmth, the book's brutal accuracy has kept it current far beyond the moment when the best pure satire would have dated and staled. DeLillo's ear astounded me a quarter of a century ago; now it seems almost otherworldly in its resolution. On every other page, he's hearing the universe in all its subaudible frequencies. He retains everything; it's as if Borges's Funes, the man who forever remembers the slightest detail and minute change in angle, has taken a stroll around Anytown, USA, and retired to a cork-lined room to assemble the terabyte streams of waves and radiation into a panoramic survey. The inspired set-pieces of familial and academic babble read less like grotesque parodies than as exact replicas—the déjà vu symptoms of toxic residue, perfectly recorded simulations of waking dreams. We've all had those crazed conversations, all been bombarded by that exact static of shared inanity and never fully heard the soundtrack until DeLillo transcribed his high-gain recordings. Read the book, and you can't escape hearing all the old, overly familiar daily blare with new ears.

"I realized the place was awash in noise," Jack Gladney says of the supermarket, that pilgrim's chapel of the commodified world that cradles him like an innocent in the grip of a bipolar and raucous God.

The toneless systems, the jangle and skid of carts, the loudspeaker and coffee-making machines, the cries of children. And over it all, or under it all, a dull and unlocatable roar, as of some form of swarming life just outside the range of human apprehension.

But if the aisle is full of noise, it's also teeming with signals. Jack's colleague Murray serves up a paean to that same deafening supermarket:

This place recharges us spiritually, it prepares us, it's a gateway or pathway. Look how bright. It's full of psychic data…Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material…All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability.

That same tone of Gnostic wonder infuses the book, weaving a counterpoint around the Gladneys' unshakable fear of death. Wonder and fear: the two incommensurate human emotions strike and collide, throwing off sparks that might equally well burn or warm. Secret messages float everywhere through the town of Blacksmith, filling the air with disembodied product names and ad copy liturgies. Jack's sleeping child—that closest approach to God—chants the now-famous shibboleth, Toyota Celica, two words that strike her listening father "like the name of an ancient power in the sky…a moment of splendid transcendence." How are we to take this startling pronouncement? Is it bleak, defeated mockery or genuine spiritual prayer? White Noise pushes down into a primal place, toward the parent impulse beneath both awe and terror. As Jack puts it, after the Airborne Toxic Event drives his family away from every former safety, "Our fear was accompanied by a sense of awe that bordered on the religious."

These pages are littered with such spiritual impulses. Throughout the book's three arched parts, dread and dread's send-ups sink Jack Gladney deeper toward life's central mystery. I'm struck, in reading a work that has become synonymous with grim postmodernism, one that so perfectly nails the Zeitgeist of the past-stripped present, by how often the book employs the word "ancient." DeLillo has described this novel as an attempt "to find a kind of radiance in dailiness. Sometimes this radiance can be almost frightening. Other times it can be almost holy or sacred." Yes, the book is a condemnation of somnambulist, consumerist co-optation, a savage look at the epileptic brainstorm induced by broadcast culture. But its full achievement may lie in its connection, underneath the litanies to Waffelos and Kabooms, with the long past. Something in co-opted consciousness is still stabbing away, trying to find forever.

Even the "narcotic undertow and eerie diseased brain-sucking power" of television is, according to Murray, filled with

coded messages and endless repetitions, like chants, like mantras. "Coke is it, Coke is it, Coke is it." The medium practically overflows with secret formulas if we can remember how to respond innocently and get past our irritation, weariness and disgust.

Maybe this cabalistic rapture is just more of DeLillo's academic burlesque, a death-rattle chuckle in the back of his throat as the billowing gas cloud rolls over us. Or maybe he puts forward Murray's hymn with all the sincerity of Saint Augustine. As with all great narrative art, White Noise suggests polarly opposed readings that nevertheless do not negate each other. For me, the book's brilliance lies not just in its castigation of commodity culture but in its portrait of the magic, cult religiosity that drives that culture—the brain's sacramental impulse to create all this stuff and noise in the first place. Only a short, blocked loop stands between consumption and consummation, between a chanted product name and the world's re-enchantment. Our tidal wave of toxic informentation means something, if only in revealing us. The landfills of escalating material miracles that we industriously amass form, in themselves, the most significant monument to our sickness unto death.

At the book's heart is the naked question: what to do with a fear of death that leaves every human action doomed and pathetic? The story's "routinely panic-stricken" cast chase after cures and take their evasive actions. Jack surveys all possible responses and resolutions to his death terror, but is satisfied by none. "Death is in the air," his friend Murray reassures him. "It is liberating suppressed material. It is getting us closer to things we haven't learned about ourselves." Well, perhaps. Jack isn't buying that particular offering, not entirely. But he does, in his panicked orbit, work his way to what may be the most mature available conclusion on the matter: "Fear is self-awareness raised to a higher level." Just that: awful, awe-inspiring, real-releasing fear. Death, the thing that we work so long and ingeniously to avoid, may or may not be the mother of all this beauty. But fear of death is the engine that renders "every word and thing a beadwork of bright creation."

In her own frantic attempt to evade the reach of the toxic cloud, Babette reasons with Jack's son Heinrich:

Every day on the news there's another toxic spill. Cancerous solvents from storage tanks, arsenic from smokestacks, radioactive water from power plants. How serious can it be if it happens all the time? Isn't the definition of a serious event based on the fact that it's not an everyday occurrence?

Folded inside her question is something close to the definition of DeLillo's art: we must learn to retrieve from the banal and quotidian the singular and cataclysmic.

White Noise, DeLillo's eighth novel, appeared at a whirlpool moment in the permanent turbulence between those two broad streams of American literature—call them telescopic and microscopic, the whaling ship and the carved scrimshaw. The book straddles the fantastic, maximalist experiments of the '60s and '70s and the stringent, intimate miniatures of the '80s and '90s, exploring the terrain between the two. In doing so, it has spawned an academic industry while still reducing pleasure-seeking readers to laugh-out-loud tears of recognition. Very few novels are both so deep and yet so fordable. White Noise makes a mockery of both "realism" and "surrealism" as terms descriptive of anything but their own sets of conventions, conventions that the twists of human need will always exceed. In fusing together inimical styles into something sui generis, DeLillo confirms J.B.S. Haldane's famous maxim: the everyday world is not just stranger than we suppose; it's stranger than we can suppose.

It's hard to think of a late-twentieth-century big theme that White Noise doesn't sound: the time-shared family, broadcast-addled consciousness, mediated violence, psychopharmaceutics, nascent biotech, information overload, runaway simulacra, terminal consumerism, eco-collapse, and the technological sublime. But how has the portrait aged over a quarter of a century? How much has the American mystery deepened? Since the book's publication, Bayh-Dole has turned even the College-on-the-Hill into one more market engine and patent-hungry profit center. Reality TV renders SIMUVAC's attempts to "use the real event in order to rehearse the simulation" almost sweetly nostalgic. The Internet—my God; imagine Heinrich editing Wikipedia, Jack writing a death blog, or Babette perusing offshoredrugs.com—has left us all drowning in so much spectacular sound and light that even eyes and ears as acute as DeLillo's must despair of rendering it. If you thought the world was awash in noise then, half a decade before the first Web browser, just put your ear to today's Twitter.

But the book has long since affixed itself dead center at the collision of everyday nonsense and ancient signals. Take any one of the hundreds of aphorisms that populate every chapter, and Google it. Say: "We still lead the world in stimuli." You'll get at least a cloud full of hits, often enough to fill the horizon.

In its search for the daily radiance inside our standing terror, White Noise has survived long beyond any reasonable use-by date. You might substitute SUVs for station wagons, add nanotech gray goo to the list of looming toxicities, info-dump some tables of stats on digital information sickness, spend a few nanoseconds describing YouTube, briefly cite the final destruction of attention by multitasking, reference the Institute for Paris Hiltonomics, and swap Homeland Security for SIMUVAC, but no conceivable updating of the book could better catch the torrent of late capitalism's wall of death-defying noise or the signs and wonders still pooling just behind it. The book has exercised profound influence on two generations of world novelists. It now has great-grandchildren, babbling away in all kinds of codes.

To read the book is to be awash in signals, unsure of what's profound and what's banal, what's asserted and what's denied. It's harder still to say what all the signals signify. "All plots tend to move deathward": another of Jack Gladney's aphorisms that now proliferate across thousands of the world's exploding blogs.

This is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorist plots, lovers' plots, narrative plots, plots that are part of children's games. We edge nearer death every time we plot. It is like a contract that all must sign, the plotters as well as those who are the target of the plots.

In short, a family plot, from the Old English: a slice of ground. His friend, the monklike—or maybe Mephistophelean—Murray, insists on exactly the opposite: "To plot is to live." Plot as escape plan, from the Old French, for vital, secret schemes. Which will it be? Which plot has our name on it?

DeLillo's art, of course, hovers over the unresolvable divide. A good story, at its best, does much better than decide; it embodies. It contains in itself the very nub of being's contradictions. It catches us in the act of plotting, wherever plot might lead. White Noise mixes incommensurable modes of tenderness and burlesque, awe and despair that will neither cohere nor concede, modes as conflicted and concurrent as the simulating, dissimulating mind forever plotting to consume eternity and evade its own end.

Near the finish of this braided plot, astonished by a series of toxin-intensified, transcendental, postmodern sunsets, Jack is at a loss for exactly what he ought to feel:

[W]e don't know whether we are watching in wonder or dread, we don't know what we are watching or what it means, we don't know whether it is permanent, a level of experience to which we will gradually adjust, into which our uncertainty will eventually be absorbed, or just some atmospheric weirdness, soon to pass.

And at story's end, we, too, are left transfixed in the supermarket of Blacksmith, under the perpetual shadow of the Airborne Event, suspended between satire and sacred ritual, straddling the real and hyperreal, caught between dread and wonder, ill-equipped for knowing, dwarfed by the billowing cloud hanging perpetually on the horizon, but unwilling to give up even a day of our bewilderment.

The future always changes the past, and twenty-five years of constant upheaval should have sufficed to change both me and this book beyond recognition. But reading it again now, I feel much as I did as a young man first coming upon it—déjà vu all over again. I come out of the book feeling like the Gladneys' child Wilder, after his epic, superhuman, daylong crying jag:

it was as though he'd just returned from a period of wandering in some remote and holy place, in sand barrens or snowy ranges—a place where things are said, sights are seen, distances reached which we in our ordinary toil can only regard with the mingled reverence and wonder we hold in reserve for feats of the most sublime and difficult dimensions.

That place is as near and as foreign as speech. To get to that place—to reanimate words and free the dead souls inside them—DeLillo employs a brilliant palette of estrangement. The prose swells with weird, discontinuous wormholes of thought, chanted trademark trinities, exquisite abandoned corpses, sudden cut-ins, floating particles of voice, whatever comes after free indirect discourse, chains of causality and cross-purposed connection with random bits elided or dropped or injected suddenly from another train of thought. Every non sequitur and attention deficit articulates a little death. But through the narrative aporia and amnesiac gaps, words push forward, words as near-palpable things, and "things as facts and passions."

DeLillo's great theme is speech—its coded traces and intimations. In everything he writes, he's intent on laying bare what words enable and prevent. At every turn in White Noise, one or another of his characters mistakes the map for the place. Not surprisingly, the ultimate side-effect of Dylar—the drug designed to eliminate fear of death—is to turn words indistinguishable from the things they mention. His people scramble for words that might contain their fright; they seek out incantations and spells real enough to solidify their days and infuse their lives with sense. But life and death remain irreducibly strange, infolded processes that defy all the rationalizing of grammar. The force that words seek will not yield to meaning, yet it is still signal. It hides deep in the background hum, but never quite disperses into noise.

Another famous Haldane utterance: "I wish I had the voice of Homer to sing of rectal carcinoma." DeLillo, ventriloquizing through his terrified, rambling cast, comes close. "It's language," DeLillo has said, "the sheer pleasure of making it and bending it and seeing it form on the page and hearing it whistle in my head—this is the thing that makes my work go. And art can be exhilarating despite the darkness." Indeed, sometimes, in these pages, reader, writer, and characters alike make a mass jailbreak from the prison house of language and wind up in some beachside bungalow, where words turn almost better than comfort. "Is there something so innocent in the recitation of names," Jack wonders aloud, "that God is pleased?"

As prescient as the book was, twenty-five years ago, White Noise offers no particular prediction of life another quarter century in the future. We may stagger on, bathed in the waves and radiation of our splendid invention. We may extract from the noise some saving signal or transforming word. We may well cook ourselves, sitting paralyzed in the self-made, self-sealed pressure cooker, like the proverbial habituating frog until the atmosphere itself boils away. And on the pedestal of humanity's monument, these words may appear: "The bodies weren't in the places they would have been, in an actual simulation." Whatever our endlessly delayed real-life denouement, DeLillo's work remains that most cunning of planned mock-ups, the kind that, in representing, re-presents us, returns us to ourselves, to this moment, to our standing panasonic racket, only now without filters, briefly mindful again after long sleepwalking, and ears wide open to the sound that passes all understanding. As Jack discovers, even in the run-up to total nothingness, "There is just no end of surprise."

In one of their many urgent, noise-dulled, crosswise dialogues of dread, Jack and Babette compete to outbid each other in naming their fear of death. "What if death is nothing but sound?" she asks him, in her moment of maximum terror. Indeed: what then? "You hear it forever. Sound all around. How awful." And how full of awe. But until the day when we discover where the plot is dragging us, we're left here to listen to the awful hum, a grim and wildly funny and ancient and sometimes even sacred static at pitches beyond anyone's ability to shut out altogether: the radiance in dailiness, the language of waves and radiation, the sounds the dead use to speak to the living.

Richard Powers

Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from White Noise Copyright © Don Delillo, 2009.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 69 )
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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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