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.