White Noise by Don DeLillo

White Noise


A brilliant satire of mass culture and the numbing effects of technology,White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, a teacher of Hitler studies at a liberal arts college in Middle America. Jack and his fourth wife, Babette, bound by their love, fear of death, and four ultramodern offspring, navigate the rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism. Then a lethal black chemical cloud, unleashed by an industrial accident, floats over their lives, an "airborne toxic event" that is a more urgent and visible version of the white noise engulfing the Gladneys—the radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, and TV murmurings that constitute the music of American magic and dread.


I originally read White Noise in college for an english class I took. I remembered enjoying it so when it was the pick for book club this month I was excited to re-read it. I didn't remember the story (it has been about 13 years since I last read it) so it was pretty much like reading it for the first time. Thankfully I still loved it all these years later.

White Noise is absolutely ridiculous, but not all at the same time. I was reading it with this stupid smile on my face as it was just so funny to me. It is just so fun, but at the same time not really that crazy. Maybe back when it was written it was, and if it would have been written now I can just imagine how much crazier it would have been with all the advancements in technology.

Jack is a teacher of Hitler studies. He made up the course at the college he works at and he doesn't even speak German! It is just ridiculous! He has always been afraid of death and dying, but not in an out of control way. After he is exposed to the toxic airborne event he now has a timeline on his life. He now knows he is going to die, though the toxins will live in him for thirty years (so until he is eighty), but he has a time limit. It is just so well written that you see how crazy it is. I mean sure he now knows he will die at some point, but so will everyone. The whole second half of the book is this fear of death and how you can stop it or change it or try and do something about it.

Babette, Jack's wife, also has an extreme fear of death. She has been taking drugs which are supposed to help with her fear, but they haven't been working. It really was just really well done. Yes, most people are afraid of death, but as the one character says you either suppress that or you turn to religion. The ending, how crazy Jack gets and how everything kind of turns around for him, was just hilarious. The whole book is easy to read, easy to pick up and put down if you only have a few moments, but just so well written. I loved the style, the voice, the way everything was. The conversations with the kids and their normal daily lives that make up the first half of the book were just perfect. I loved reading this. So funny yet critical and just a really great read.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★1/2

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