43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His most outstanding work by far - a masterpiece
Reading this book staggered me: the phrasing is so spot on, the themes so unusual yet compelling, the dialogue so full of witty, off-the-wall observation that I was left marvelling at the author's magical ability to put words together in unusual yet telling combinations and searching bookshops for more of his books. But having read three others from different periods...
Published on 17 April 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars more impressionistic than realistic
What a strange book, not at all a conventional novel with clear characters and a plot. Much more like ambient music that a song ( notable that the original cover was designed by Brian Eno) , much more impressionistic that realistic, this is a satire of almost everything in modern life. The main theme is fear of death, particularly for those of us without any belief in an...
Published 1 month ago by markr
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His most outstanding work by far - a masterpiece,
By A Customer
This review is from: White Noise (Picador Books) (Paperback)Reading this book staggered me: the phrasing is so spot on, the themes so unusual yet compelling, the dialogue so full of witty, off-the-wall observation that I was left marvelling at the author's magical ability to put words together in unusual yet telling combinations and searching bookshops for more of his books. But having read three others from different periods of his career (the vastly overrated 'Underworld', the execrable 'Ratner's Star' and the mixed 'Great Jones Street') I am left in little doubt that this is his chef d'oeuvre. By some fortunate inspiration, DeLillo discovered his perfect theme for this book: fear of death. He takes this theme and looks at it from all possible angles; yet this is not at all a morbid book. It is instead the funniest black comedy around: the exchange between Jack and his wife when preparing to have sex made me explode with laughter. I found the latter so hilarious that I even shared it with one of my advanced English as a foreign language classes, whose eyes were standing on stalks by the end! Last but certainly not least, DeLillo's understanding of the impact of popular culture on our minds and lives is remarkable: he forced me to make connections about the insidious influence of technology and the media that I would certainly never otherwise have made, and continue to bear in mind every time I read a newspaper or switch on my computer. If you only ever read one contemporary novel, read this one: this is the book that encapsulates our time, not 'Underworld'.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Who will die first?',
This review is from: White Noise (Picador Books) (Paperback)Jack Gladney teaches at the College-on-the-Hill. He and his wife Babette live, with four of their children from previous marriage (Heinrich, Steffie, Denise, and Wilder) in the quiet college town of Blacksmith. Jack and Babette are both afraid of death and it is this fear that is central to the novel. Whose fear is the greater? "Sounds like a boring life." "I hope it lasts forever," she said.
Jack and Babette's fear of death, the world in which they live and participate is conveyed satirically through a series of events (some of more direct consequence than others) which are peppered with laugh out loud moments. There's a subtlety in the observation and the writing that makes this novel work.
`The family is the cradle of the world's misinformation.'
Jack serves as the department chair of Hitler studies, a discipline that he invented in 1968, despite the fact that he does not understand German. Hitler's importance as an historical figure gives Jack a degree of importance by association: `Some people are larger than life. Hitler is larger than death. You thought he would protect you.' His colleague, Murray Jay Siskind, has come to Blacksmith to immerse himself in what he calls `American magic and dread.' Murray is a lecturer in living icons who is trying to establish a discipline in Elvis studies. Murray finds deep significance in things that are ordinary - especially the supermarket: `This place recharges us spiritually, it prepares us, it's a gateway or pathway. Look how bright. It's full of psychic data.'
The major events in the novel concern an airborne toxic event and its consequences, and Jack Gladney's search for a mysterious psychopharmaceutical drug called Dylar once he discovers that Babette is participating in an experimental study (of sorts). All this fear of death becomes an inability to really live, especially in a world full of white noise, rampant consumerism and simulations, or does it?
`In a crisis the true facts are what other people say they are.'
This novel was published in the mid-1980s, and while I read it then, I enjoyed it a whole lot more this time around. Disturbingly, it made more sense.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars White Noise,
This review is from: White Noise (Picador Books) (Paperback)This is a brilliant novel, which satirizes so many things: disjointed families, the way families communicate, marriage, academia, consumerism, intellectualism, fear of death, and conspiracy theories.
Then there's the 'airborne toxic event' - both literal and also a sort of metaphor for the information-overload 'white noise' of modern life that buzzes around us all the time. If anything, White Noise has become even more relevant since it was published.
It's very funny, too. Listen to the perfectly judged rhythms of DeLillo's dialogue. People looking for a 'straight' novel might be disappointed, especially since large chunks of it deliberately have very little 'plot'. But if you want an inspired slice of blacker-than-black comedy, which pretty much sums up where things were heading in the 1980s, look no further.
(Note: if you like the character Murray Jay Siskind, he also shows up in this novel DeLillo wrote under a pseudynom: Amazons: An Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League.)
5.0 out of 5 stars Blistering,
This review is from: White Noise (Paperback)A devastating and hilarious book. a solid deconstruction of how to cope with post-modern america and the salvation in submission.
3.0 out of 5 stars more impressionistic than realistic,
This review is from: White Noise (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn) (Paperback)What a strange book, not at all a conventional novel with clear characters and a plot. Much more like ambient music that a song ( notable that the original cover was designed by Brian Eno) , much more impressionistic that realistic, this is a satire of almost everything in modern life. The main theme is fear of death, particularly for those of us without any belief in an after life of any kind, and there are some penetrating and interesting thoughts and phrases around that, usually build into conversations bwetween academics. It is also a satire on consumerism, academic life, marraige, fidelity, sense of identity, and our quest for answers to everything.
It is not an easy read though, and frequently I almost gave up - although that is something i rarely do when reading. There is a strange beauty to the writing which kept me going, despite how disturbing the themes. I didn't find the book funny - dark, sometimes compelling, always strange - but not amusing.
Strange - but somehow worth reading
2.0 out of 5 stars Abstract novel,
This review is from: White Noise (Kindle Edition)Difficult to read did not flow
did not identify with or warm to the characters/themes throughout the novel.
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but ultimately goes nowhere,
This review is from: White Noise (Paperback)`White Noise' is a rather apt title for this book, which could cruelly be described as 300 pages of static. Various things are described, but it doesn't actually get anywhere different from where it started. The actual writing style isn't bad, and there are often passages that are particularly perceptive or enjoyable for their humour. There are numerous set pieces that work well. But it doesn't really come together to form a cohesive whole.
I can tell this book is deep and meaningful and full of pointed comment on the human condition, and the American condition in particular. Which is great if you like that sort of thing. For me, I felt it sacrificed entertainment for intellectualism a bit too much. It is narrated in the first person by an academic living in small town America with his wife and an assortment of children. The bulk of the book describes small incidents in their lives, with a vague theme about fear of death which got tedious very fast. The middle of the book is devoted to an episode where the family is forced to evacuate due to a nearby chemical spill. The third part resumes much as the first left off, only with more angsting about life and death.
If you wanted to sit and analyse the book and its meanings, you would find plenty to discuss. It would be a reasonable book club choice. And it's not tortuous to read. But if you want to really enjoy a story, get wrapped up in it and find it hard to put down, `White Noise' will disappoint. It's not that sort of book. As I say, it's not a bad read as such, I didn't hate it, but I could quite happily put it down and forget all about it until my desire to read something else made me pick it up again in order to finish.
Part of the problem is that I felt very little empathy for any of the characters, including the narrator, who if anything I found rather annoying. I couldn't relate to him and his life at all. This may be partly because he is a different age, gender and nationality to me - although that hasn't stopped me empathising with other characters in the past. Because of this, I didn't really care much what happened. I felt no real fear or tension when the characters were fleeing the toxic cloud, and even more bizarrely, neither did they. The writing conveyed no tension, and in fact made the whole thing seem rather ridiculous. I also found the way some events were portrayed to be unbelievable - this is probably done deliberately for comic effect, but I never found it funny and it didn't seem to sit well with the style of the rest of the book.
For readers who like intelligent, philosophical and slightly satirical books with many layers of meaning, this would be a good reading choice. For those who like a plot driven novel or one where the characters are very likeable and the reader can feel involved, it is less worth a read. I fall into the latter category, and whilst I was happy enough reading it, I wouldn't rush out to buy another. If you are a reader of the first type though, chances are you'll enjoy this.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard hitting and witty social commentary from the 1980s - only to be attempted if plotless novels do not turn you off,
This review is from: White Noise (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn) (Kindle Edition)The first disclaimer I believe the review needs is - the book has no plot as such. If this is a problem, you are fairly unlikely to enjoy it - as demonstrated by a myriad of one and two star reviews. On the other hand, if you are willing to devote the necessary concentration to reading the book, you will find a very poignant and beautifully executed social commentary on 1980s US, which is often quite funny, too.
The book follows a somewhat bizzare cast of characters from a minor university town, with the protagonist being the Chair of Hitler studies (which must have been much more shocking a concept 30 or so years ago than now), surrounded by his fourth wife, their brood of children (from a raft of marriages), other university staff with similarly charicatured chairs and imbued with an intense fear of death.
The majority of the book is just a recreation of their day to day conversations and most if it does not particularly lead anywhere; what it does is paint a picture of the society we are increasingly finding ourselves part of, in the meantime equally applicable in a random European country, too.
The one chapter - the longest - where there is a specific event going on, namely a toxic outbreak in the town, is in my opinion a sideline, rather than the distinguishing feature but still fits adequately into the rest of the book.
As there is no plot to follow, the book requires a much more intense concentration to get the most out of, as each small element of conversation can be said to be equally important to all the rest - so no diagonal reading here.
In essence, I feel the book to definitely be one of the more accomplished pieces of writing coming from the 1980s, even if it will not appeal to many. It adds a context to such non-fiction works as Liar's Poker: Playing the Money Markets and if you liked it, something like The Mezzanine is likely to be a good next step. Just make sure you do not read the two in parallel - that may really leave you utterly confused.
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book from an important time,
This review is from: White Noise (Picador 40th Anniversary Edition) (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn) (Kindle Edition)This is a great book. Set in the early mid 80s when technology and consumerism was starting to take over daily life. The main character fights through life in a way very similar today, so much so it's hard to believe this book is 30 years old. Similar in feel to the nihilistic Less Than Zero by Bret Ellis it is both terrifying and hilarious. Not too be ignored.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars white noise,
This review is from: White Noise (Picador Books) (Paperback)this is the first Delillo book i have read and it will not be the last.i found this book quite enjoyable. there was not much of a story, but it was something different. i found the writing managed to shape clearly difind characters in my mind. this book was very funny in parts, but i found some aspects of the story hard to swallow. i liked the way that the chapter dealt with the disaster. instead of getting bogged down he swiftly dealt with it by glossing over what could become tedious and then moving on with the story. i have heard that he has written superior books to this and i hope to read them but this was a nice introduction to his work.
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White Noise (Picador Books) by Don DeLillo (Paperback - 10 Oct 1986)
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