Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Don DeLillo”

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #27: White Noise by Don DeLillo

I did not like White Noise (1985). I thought it collapses under the weight of its own shallowness, that the gradual leeching of humanity from its main characters as they become constructs, empty soulless parodies of themselves and white middle-class America in the mid-nineteen-eighties, also removes anything remotely interesting from their problems and lives and that that is the point. I can also never remember what happens in the final third of the novel and neither can anyone else I know who has read it.

Jack Gladney is a college professor of “Hitler Studies” who has invented a middle initial to create a sense of gravitas, who doesn’t speak German and never mentions the Holocaust, preferring to focus on analysing the significance of Nazi SS uniforms and the mechanics of parades that induce mass hysteria. His wife Babette teaches people to walk properly and their blended family mostly eats processed food and watches TV. Jack and Babette fear death; this fear dominates their lives, until an event that threatens their family and neighbourhood forces them to engage with this fear on a visceral level and by then I cared so very very little about any of this.

White Noise could have been an enjoyable satire for me had it not seemed obsessed with taking itself beyond satire into a world of simulacra and multiple layers of metaness and then into a life-sucking vacuum, and were it not so very dreary and repetitive. It’s all quite clever and post-modern, obviously, and occasionally provokes a smirk of recognition, and a comment on consumer culture and modern psychotherapy and all sorts of incredibly relevant things-I can see why people admire, even like it, but I felt that it was more concerned with playing head games than being literature.

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Quorren #CBR4 Review #39 White Noise by Don DeLillo

This book was suggested to me since I love Vonnegut.  This book is not comparable to Vonnegut.  This book probably doesn’t even deserve to be in the same bookcase as Vonnegut, unless your bookcase is wobbly and you want to slide this under it.  Even then, you may have to wrap it in plastic just in case.

Jack Gladney teaches Hilter Studies at a college.  He has a wife named Babette, which is his fifth marriage.  He has several precocious children.  He and Babette worry a lot about who’s going to die first.  One day, a car at the railroad tracks tips over and releases a toxic pesticide into the air.  Gladney gets exposed and may or may not die from it, eventually.  That’s…it.  That’s all that goes on.

The themes are pretty simplistic.  America suffers from consumerism and people are afraid to die.  Quick, someone ask what color the sky is!  Everything is told string of consciousness style.  Which works for Vonnegut, but not so much for DeLillo.  The book just muddles through the plot, never making any sort of impression.  The anxiety and terror of the airborne toxic event is described with as much emotion as reading the list of ingredients off of a cereal box.  The lack of emotion plays into the theme of how evening news bombards us with natural disasters and horrible accidents, desensitizing us to death, while at the same time, media also sends us the message of consume, consume, consume and you can live forever.  This juxtaposition plays out in Jack and Babette’s marital troubles.  However interesting that may sound, let me assure you that it’s not.  Part of the issues stems of the fact that the book is old; in today’s world, everyone knows the media is trying to sell you something.  The world is pretty blase about the whole thing, so the themes of the book don’t have as much as an impact.

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