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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Who will die first?'
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...
Published on 7 Oct 2011 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but ultimately goes nowhere
`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...
Published 12 months ago by BookWorm


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but ultimately goes nowhere, 25 Aug 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Who will die first?', 7 Oct 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His most outstanding work by far - a masterpiece, 17 April 1999
By A Customer
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'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who will die first?, 20 Jan 2014
By 
I read "White Noise" by Don DeLillo for my book group. I tried to read "Underworld", around the time it came out, and chose to abandon it. I know five other readers who had the same experience with "Underworld". I was therefore relieved to discover that "White Noise" is a more accessible, amusing and readable book. That said, there isn't much of a plot and most of the book details numerous inconsequential, every day occurrences and conversations.

There's much to enjoy, however my initial relief gave way to slight boredom with the meandering nature of the book. The book's characters are an interesting bunch that all centre around an extended small town family. As the "story" unfolds several themes emerge - death and mortality, consumerism, technology, and authenticity - which are playfully explored. It is only in final third of the book there is any semblance of a conventional plot and the death theme, that runs throughout the book, becomes more explicit.

Recommended if you enjoy clever and digressive satirical novels with various levels of meaning to ponder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more impressionistic than realistic, 31 Oct 2013
By 
markr - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book from an important time, 21 Mar 2013
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely prose as always but not up there with his best, 28 Aug 2014
This review is from: White Noise (Paperback)
Don DeLillo is a fine writer and no reader will be disappointed by his wonderfully fluent and introspective prose which is evident once again in this book. An ambitious literary work, this novel succeeds in many areas, creating several engaging characters beyond the lead and it's peppered with quality social satire. The storyline (a chemical spill causes a local toxic event) forces the main character, Jack, to explore and confront his longstanding fear of mortality, but as the book reaches its final third the energy of the narrative fades somewhat, and the final act just isn't strong enough for my liking. White Noise has very little of the drive and tension of Libra, his finest book for me, and although this was never intended to be a plot-driven work, a bit more vigour in the story wouldn't have gone amiss.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars White Noise, 22 Feb 2010
By 
Dave Gilmour's cat (on Dave Gilmour's boat) - See all my reviews
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.)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern Classic? what it means to be alive!, 10 Sep 2008
By 
Mr. P. Rigby "sharkgun" (wigan, england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I've come to this book from reading the ideas studied in Post-modernism and the novel came recommended along the lines of Paul Auster and Thomas Pynchon.

My experiences with both of these other authors have been negative, for very different reasons. (Auster's inability to write without his vomit inducing smugness and Pynchon purely and simply because of the density of the prose...yes alright...I promise to return to Pynchon in the future...). So that being said, thankfully, I enjoyed this book immensely.

Delillo's phrasing is skilled and astute; he's a writer who constructs prose with economy and flair, with well observed situations and a sharp critique for common everyman foibles.

The flow of the book is always engaging and the characters are constantly funny, quirky and human. The narrative is straight but with the constant use of stream of consciousness thoughts and dialogue it feels like it should be more challenging to read. It isn't.

The plot on retrospect is a touch convoluted but whilst reading it doesn't detract from wanting to know what happens next.

Ideas play a big part of the book (the simulated taking prevalence over the real, the inability to get reliable information in a communication age, the meaning of death...) but it is far from academic, dry or preachy.

This is a beautiful and tender story, well told, imaginative and literary in the truest sense i.e. that it leaves you thinking about what it means to be alive.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Conversations With Himself, 23 May 2014
This review is from: White Noise (Paperback)
DDL has written something clever and funny here but it stretches definition to call it a novel, even more so than Finnegans Wake or Beckett's The Unnameable. It sure looks like the real deal - paper covers, pages, and apparently packed with characters in the conventional sense - Jack Gladney, wife Babette, son Heinrich (apt; you'll see why), an assortment of daughters, ex-sports hack Murray Jay Siskind, Dr Chakravarty, various academics at Jack's college, etc. - but in fact the only person here is DDL himself, relentlessly debating the big issues with himself, death the biggest. Does that matter? No, not when the writing is so excellent - "His bright smile hung there like a peach on a tree" - the philosophising so potent, and the jokes so good. Want to meet the disaster simulation team that uses a real emergency as a practice run for their big simulation? Or the college professor who tutors Hitler studies only to be taught German by the Fuhrer himself? It's all here, including a tacked-on bit at the very end which was obviously a leftover from the planning stage and refused to fit anywhere else. Like I said, not a novel, but a splendid, intelligent and hilarious soliloquy on life, matter, energy and death. The whole damned shooting match, as "Jack Gladney" comes to realise.
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White Noise
White Noise by Don DeLillo
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