White Noise by Don DeLillo

White NoiseI must confess to being a bit of a snob when it comes to ‘literature’.   Since much of my experience reading contemporary works has been somewhat disappointing while much of the works I’ve read from the early 20th century have been gratifying, I didn’t expect to enjoy a book published in 1985.

White Noise was just the pleasant surprise I was waiting for.  Classified as post-modern, I initially feared I was entering sci-fi terrain, but it seemed to be in a class all on its own.  DeLillo’s style is finely honed and his ability to capture everyday details without being obtrusive was very refreshing.

The very interesting narrator, Jack Gladney, is the Department Chair of Hitler studies at the College on the Hill.  He resides with his fifth wife and some of their respective children and their young son.  All seems normal as family members meet their days in their own unique ways and everyone seems to genuinely care for one another.  A train derailment and subsequent black toxic cloud, however, causes this already forthright family to become even more candid, with themselves and with each other.  Not seeming to take itself too seriously, the subtle ironic undertones allow the reader to smirk while the various characters face potential calamity.

Jack Gladney is still the marrying kind at age 51.  His four previous marriages (two to the same woman) were to women whose work involved various forms of Intelligence.  The ties that bind him to his current wife are their mutual fear of death.  He deals with his family and colleagues with patience and courtesy, more of a listener than a speaker, but this allows him to observe what others might not.  Not exactly a knight in shining armor, but an admirable man, the kind of guy you’d want as a father, brother, husband or friend.

Jack’s fourth wife is Babette who cares deeply for her husband and their extended family.  Unlike her husband’s previous wives, she spends a lot of time in the home and teaches Posture to the elderly and reads to a blind neighbor.  Her shared fear of death has reached a crescendo, unknown to her husband, and she is resorting to very questionable methods of dealing with her phobia.

Heinrich is Jack’s  14-year-old son.  An intelligent, but pedantic young man, he seems to use his knowledge to combat his impending puberty and premature receding hairline.  Fortunately, his family accepts him and allows him to forge his own road.  The type of person who could get pretty annoying until there is an emergency.

I’d have to ask Mr. DeLillo if he keeps a notebook to jot down all he observes.  Since much of what he has written can be considered commentary, I’d ask how he chooses among so many issues.  Perhaps we could meet at a rally, he incognito and just see where the day takes us.

My rating for White Noise is a 9 out of 10.

Please share your own reviews or  comments by using the link below.

Next up, Louis De Bernieres’ Corelli’s Mandolin…Corellis Mandolin

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7 Comments

Filed under White Noise

7 responses to “White Noise by Don DeLillo

  1. I read this two years ago. It was my first exposure to DeLillo. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And even though the book isn’t even 30 years old the world the characters inhabited was very different from our world today. However, his commentary on that city/family felt very applicable to our modern ones.

    • vsudia

      DeLillo is fantastic and I’m glad I finally had the chance to read his work. He is quite prolific and I hear he’s working on something new that I’m sure would be great commentary in his non preachy style.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I haven’t read any Don DeLillo, except possibly an excerpt of something for school, as the name is familiar. But I can totally relate to being a book snob. I can’t figure out what I find so annoying about a lot of contemporary literature, and I worry that I sometimes dislike a book solely because it was written recently.

    Have you read any Margaret Atwood? She’s my favorite contemporary author… book snob approved. 😉

    • vsudia

      Others have recommended Atwood, but I’ve yet to read her. What would you recommend?

      Thanks for visiting and I think if you check out DeLillo, you’ll be happy you did.

      • Well, it depends on what genre you’re most comfortable with. The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous; it’s dystopian fiction and focuses on social and political issues. Oryx and Crake is also sci-fi but less theoretical and more speculative. Cat’s Eye is realistic fiction. Alias Grace is historical fiction about a woman convicted of murder in the 19th century. One of her short story collections would be a good way to sample her writing (I’ve read Wilderness Tips) and she has books of poetry, too.

  3. amazing atmosphere, this wierd, modern anxiety that he captured here, some distant toxic cloud on the horizon, it’s hard to describe really as it’s so much about feeling, if you like that try Mao II, stil it’s a bit different, more serious

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