White Noise (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)


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His first decade as a professional writer in the s was highly successful, earning him a devout audience who followed his work closely. In , DeLillo was also the recipient of the highly acclaimed Guggenheim fellowship that would finance his work during the following years. In fact, the novel caught the attention of filmmaker David Cronenberg and was adapted for the screen in , starring Robert Pattinson. The writer has been loosely associated with literary virtuosos such as Phillip Roth , Paul Auster or Cormac McCarthy — and rightfully so.

White Noise: Thoughts & Review

Although it can be a bit fatalistic, it is a brutal satire about the modern life. All the characters are products of the desensitization of the information age. All tragedies are new clippings. The television flattens out the character's ability to properly distinguish between the horrible and the ordinary.


  1. Great Books of the 20th Century.
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Even the television screen becomes a symbol for this. The flatness of the screen represents the flatness of every character. Jack is an unemotional shell, until the end where it all blows up. The description of what happens at the end is haunting. Since so much of the book dwells on the fear of death, it is lost in the abstract.

Delillo purposely channels all the worries and fear into strange and oblique dialogue. But at the end, death is thrown in Jack's face. It is horrifying. When death becomes a real and tangible thing for the characters, so it does for the reader, it is written so realistically. That's how good Delillo is. But mostly what gets me about this book is Delillo's ability to blend hundreds of different philosophies into single moments in the book. It is the perfect distillation of the post-modern condition, to live under the weight of the thousands of different ideas and philosophies all crashing down into the present moment.

It is difficult to find any meaning out of the hodge-podge of modern life.

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Not only that, but the characters endure hundreds of meaningless facts and bits of tabloid information; studies show this, no studies show that. How can one possibly handle all these things coming in at once? Delillo's answer is brain fade.


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The brain fade causes everyone to dumb down everything. The only way to process so much of the information being thrown at us is to compartmentalize it all, sort it into manageable figures. It all desensitizes us to the emotional and moral attention that reality ought to have.

It is amazing that this was written in All these problems have only been amplified in light of the information age and the internet.

I would say that some of things he writes seems obvious or understood only because we are so seeped in such a culture. But like I said, this is the pessimistic way to look at it. View all 15 comments. I wonder about this. Did his mother consume some kind of gene-piercing substance when she was pregnant? Am I at fault somehow? Have I raised him, unwittingly, in the vicinity of a chemical dump site, in the path of air currents that carry industrial wastes capable of producing scalp degeneration, glorious sunsets?

People say the sunsets around here were not nearly so stunning thirty or forty years ago. View all 4 comments. I am having a very difficult time trying to decide if White Noise is actually an intelligent work which I completely failed to understand. Or is it just one of those novels which try to sound all smart and deep and profound, but do not actually make much sense. The characters are all strange, the dialogue and prose is weird. It is perhaps not rare for authors to create characters that are unsentimental, and totally incapable of having a normal conversation.

But I find it difficult to appreciate s I am having a very difficult time trying to decide if White Noise is actually an intelligent work which I completely failed to understand. But I find it difficult to appreciate such a use of artistic license if it doesn't make any point at all and serves no purpose. On top of being obscure, the prose lacks fluidity. There are abrupt scene changes and needless interruptions of scenes. In several places, DeLillo interrupts a dialogue to throw in a bunch of brand names, unrelated to the scene, and then carries on with the dialogue again. I think one of the things that I was very disappointed with was that DeLillo did not convincingly explain the transformation of an ordinary man well, ordinary in DeLillio's universe into a murderer, which is specially disappointing for a novel which revolves or pretends to quite a bit around human psychology.

I gave it three stars because for first pages or so, Don DeLillo did succeed in making me think that he was building up to something really good. However, by the time I finished the book, I was so numbed by the absurd dialogue that I had already forgotten what it was that I had liked initially. Few examples of meaninglessness: "He looks like a man who finds dead bodies erotic.

No one should go into a room unless he understands this. People behave one way in rooms, another way in streets, parks and airports. To enter a room is to agree on a certain kind of behavior that takes place in rooms. This is the standard, as opposed to parking lots and beaches. It is the point of the rooms. No one should enter a room not knowing the point View all 51 comments. This book should be read by everyone who is planning on dying. The teenage boy is the best character and he isn't given enough attention, but still, this book is well worth anyone's time. For that, I am thankful he and this book exist.

View 2 comments. I put this book on my Literary Resolutions List, which comprises 15 books culled from Time's List of the Greatest Novels since I thought it was a novelization of that movie where Michael Keaton hears dead people. I was wrong. I really didn't like this book. It annoyed, irritated, and grated on me. The book follows Jack Gladney, who is a professor of Hitler Studies a throwaway joke that is stretched throughout the entire book at an eastern college.

He's on his fourth marriage to I put this book on my Literary Resolutions List, which comprises 15 books culled from Time's List of the Greatest Novels since He's on his fourth marriage to Babette, and they have a mixed family with children from various marriages. The children are all precocious and utterly preposterous, and speak in television-gleaned soundbites. They come across as robots; think Haley Joel Osment in A. This might have been purporseful; I don't care. There is an "airborne toxic event" caused by a train accident that forces the Gladneys to evacuate their home for a short period.

White Noise

According to the book flap, this was supposed to be a central event in the novel, but this novel has no center. It just sort of meanders on, a supposdedly razor-sharp satire of our consumer-driven culture. I initially enjoyed the book, and indeed, the opening chapter describing the line of station wagons pulling up to college at the end of summer is timeless. Written in the 80s, it is still perceptive today.

However, the book gets more tiresome as it goes on.

White Noise

There are countless trips to the grocery store, where DeLillo's characters, including the insufferable Murray, can wonder zombie-like down the endless aisles, exchanging self-important banalities with each other. I guess the grocery store is some sort of symbol for our rampant consumerism? The dialogue is too cute, and at times, wretched. For instance, Murray - who I wish death upon - says crap like: "Your wife has important hair. There are some clever bits. For instance, the Gladney family engages in a conversation in which each member of the family parrots some information they've heard, but all the facts they reguritate are wrong in some fashion.

The second or third time DeLillo comes back to this same set-up, though, it wears thin. I really hated, hated , how Jack and Babette persisted in addressing each other in the third person. Jack: "This is not the purpose of Babette.

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It should be noted that I am predisposed to dislike satire. When it's done well, it can be funny and insightful; however, due to the nature of satire, it can never really be transformational. The characters aren't really people so much as mouthpieces for the author. The didacticism turns Jack and Babette and Murray damn him to hell into theme-spouting robots. I didn't care for them at all.

Well, that's not true; I sort of wanted them all to die, so the book would end, and I could read something else. My hesitation with reviewing this book comes from the inevitable fear that I've missed the entire point.


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