Posted by: Matt | April 25, 2007

Review of White Noise

White NoiseFinished yesterday. Weird, unique, interesting, at times thoughtful. Not creepy like my sister said. But she had the weird right. I’m not sure I get it, I understand it. I feel like I’m missing something, can’t quite put my finger on it.

The story in a nutshell. Jake Gladney, professor of Hitler Studies at the College-on-the-Hill, small town of Blacksmith, somewhere U.S.A. Gladney family, somewhat atypical, children from different marriages, lost in data, transmissions, streams of noise from the radio, television, magazines, grocery store. A black, toxic cloud billows up over town, which may or may not have lasting effects. And a fear of death.

The book is satire, visible in the strangeness and half believable conversations of the Gladney family and college faculty. A satire of what? Academia, the “culture” of America, family life, consumerism. Take your pick, it’s all there and more. The story moves along, not much happens, almost Seinfeldian “nothing”, then the story takes a turn. It sneaks up on you. I realized I’d actually connected with the characters, I felt betrayed, angry, sad. In the end, amused. I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying the book, or just wanting, hoping to enjoy it. But in the end, the finish, strangely satisfying.

This is my first experience with Don DeLillo, not my last. I have this thought, feeling, that I must read more, that maybe it will help me to understand White Noise.

Rating: 4.0 …I think, pretty sure, yes

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Responses

  1. This is definitely one of those books that needs to be held onto until the end in order to get the point. It’s been a long time, but I seem to remember the satire of each of the things you mention above (“Academia, the ‘culture’ of America, family life, consumerism.”) being related to the end of the Cold War. Without an evil empire to worry about, life became vacuous.

  2. I’ve got this book on my shelf but haven’t read it yet. I’ve been wanting to read Delilo for awhile now. Your review made me laugh, not the review itself, but your unsure response to the book. Good thing you aren’t trying to sell it to anyone 😉

  3. I remember relating to the satire in the book about American consumerism and media saturation. I also think DeLillo struck a chord with his examination of the fear of death, and the “airborne toxic event” made me laugh and shiver at the same time. I remember feeling similarly about the book–I liked it, and wasn’t sure about it at the same time 🙂

  4. I can’t wait to read this one! I have Libra at home, but again….another author I haven’t read!!

  5. This book has been recommended to me so many times, but the one time I started reading it, I couldn’t get past the fact that every character had the exact same voice. I know I need to give it another try, though, because so many people think so highly of it.

  6. marydell – Though I was not alive or yet old enough to be aware for most of the Cold War I can see this being the case.

    Stefanie – Libra is one of the DeLillo books I’m thinking of reading next.

    gentle reader – I can definitely relate to the consumerism satire, and I’ve never had a debilitating fear of death or even close to that so that was interesting to think about.

    Dewey – I can understand you’re feeling that all the characters had the same voice, it does seem like that a little bit, but I think it’s almost necessary and I did find that each character was unique enough.

  7. I had a real hard time with White Noise. I would like to be able to say that I enjoyed it, but I didn’t. Obviously a failure on my part, not Delillo’s. Underworld was a much more enjoyable novel for me. Lengthy, but enjoyable.

  8. Brad – I don’t think your not enjoying a book is necessarily a failure on your part. We all just have different tastes, and sometimes I find my tastes to be different than most. I’ve thought about reading Underworld but I’ve read some mixed reviews of it, maybe I’ll check it out after all.


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