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White Noise

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  90,979 ratings  ·  5,383 reviews
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-nam ...more
Paperback, Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century, 320 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1985)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: for people who take pills for a reason
My first Don DeLillo. Not for people who use the word postulate. My experience was almost entirely ruined by the used copy I received which had notes in the margins. It says "Help" when Jack Gladney talks about Hitler on multiple pages (Has this person never heard of Hitler?), it says "sheesh" when his son, Heinrich, goes into a long-winded ramble about brain chemistry and how he couldn't know what he really wants. The best of all the marginal note stupidity from anonymous though, is the discuss ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elyse  Walters
So......I finally read this.....enjoyed it. I found myself comparing this book to a new family TV series with Eugene Levy called 'Schitt's Creek'. The most entertaining-FUNNY show, I've seen in years.
The dialogue is hilarious in both 'White Noise' and 'Schitt's Creek' between the parents and kids.
Jack Gladney's friend, Murray cracked me up! He reminded me of one of the characters on 'Schitt's Creek'.
Most of this book was comical to me.
From the beginning--I was shaking my head....
"What? REAL
Feb 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
Ooh look! It's a can. Looks like it might have worms inside. Let's open it up again.

Updated (i.e. "final") review: March 30th, 2008

So. I had read three quarters of this and decided to chuck it, but last night my compulsive side won over, and I went ahead and finished it. I still can't wrap my mind around the notion that I should somehow regard it as a "great book of the 20th century", and none of the 19 comments in this thread to date really addresses why I should. So, I am asking for enlighte
May 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: hipster nihilists
Recommended to Dorothea by: My Dad!
Reading White Noise by Don DeLillo is the literary equivalent of 18 paranoid hours of non-stop channel surfing while chain-smoking and nursing a migraine in a smoggy, over-crowded city. On meth.

Do you want to know why this is one of the most important books of the 20th century? Because it's a good example of the postmodern simulacra, absurdist philosophy that plagued the latter half of the 20th century and still plagues us today. I felt bleak and empty for several days after reading this book, a
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's like how my mom still calls me if there is bad weather nearby, or if I'm out driving on a holiday where the roads could be filled with people who had too much to drink.

It's like when the grocery store parking lots stay full when snow is on the way because people think they may be stuck inside their house forever.

It's like how the news can report on how Coke can kill you so you start drinking Diet Coke, but then the artificial sweetener can give you cancer so you try to just drink water, bu
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“The world is full of abandoned meanings.”
White Noise takes place in a realm one small step removed from an easily recognisable reality – or “just outside the range of human apprehension”, as DeLillo puts it. On face value none of its characters or events are quite credible – the characters are too eloquent, the scenes too stage managed. Why, for example, would people choose to go out in the open on foot to escape from a toxic cloud? Why not get in their cars or simply stay barricaded in their
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: believers
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: the sentry to the island of misfit toys

If I had it my way, as soon as you clicked on my review this song would blare from your speakers: (and the video is amazing; I would rather you watch it than read my nonsensical ramblings)


This book smells like napalm. It sounds like air being slowly released from a balloon. It tastes like ashes of the American dream.

I wander the city, invisible earmuffs blocking out the sounds, eyes glued to pages, smile glued to my face. People look at me as
Ahmad Sharabiani
White Noise, (1985), Don DeLillo

White Noise is the eighth novel by Don DeLillo, published by Viking Press in 1985. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. White Noise is an example of postmodern literature.

White Noise follows a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor who has made his name by pioneering the field of Hitler studies (though he hasn't taken German lessons until this year). He has been married five times to four women and rears a brood of children and stepchildren (H
Kevin Kelsey
March, 2018:
On a second read, I think I got another 2-3% of it than last time. I adore this book.

January, 2016:
I really enjoyed this, but I don't completely understand it yet. I've got about 95% of it, but that last 5% I think may only come after some rereading, and maybe 20 additional years of life experience. It feels like a book you could read several times over a life and always find a different meaning. Heavily metaphorical, very philosophical, clever. Death, consumerism, fear, modern life,
Paul Bryant
Oct 12, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I saw to my consternation that I'd given two stars to this smirkfest yet stuck it on my Finally Threw it At the Wall shelf. This is a contradiction. So : One Star For You, Mr DeLillo. Fuck off. ...more
Tom Quinn
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Think of how much information, in the form of radio energy, there is flying through the air, all around us, all over the world, right now and all the time...Trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of separate little bits of electronic information flying around the world through the air at all times. Think of that. Think of how busy the air is. Now realize this: A hundred years ago there was none. Nothing. Silence.
–George Carlin

"Is this true? Why did I say it? What does it mean?" (26
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is nice to live in the land of plenty – food is merchandise, technology is merchandise, health is merchandise, education is merchandise, culture is merchandise… And everything is mass-produced and second-rate… And you can’t consume it all.
Heinrich’s hairline is beginning to recede. I wonder about this. Did his mother consume some kind of gene-piercing substance when she was pregnant? Am I at fault somehow? Have I raised him, unwittingly, in the vicinity of a chemical dump site, in the path of
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews
I am having a very difficult time trying to decide if White Noise is actually an intelligent work which I completely failed to understand. Or is it just one of those novels which try to sound all smart and deep and profound, but do not actually make much sense.

The characters are all strange, the dialogue and prose is weird. It is perhaps not rare for authors to create characters that are unsentimental, and totally incapable of having a normal conversation. But I find it difficult to appreciate s
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 100, famous-books
A few years back, shortly after Katrina had her way with New Orleans, Time magazine did a cover story about how Americans prepare and cope with disasters. And we don’t do well with them. The story pointed out that while Americans love to obsess about all the potentially horrible things that can happen, we refuse to take actions to prevent or minimize their impact because we don’t want to admit that they’re really possible.

That’s why Americans will freak out if you try to spend a few hundred mill
Ian "Marvin" Graye
100 Words in Search of a Precis (For Those of Us Who Prefer the Short Form of Stimulation)

At its heart, “White Noise” is a comic dramatization of the fear of death.

In modern consumer society, we are only fulfilled if our shopping bags are filled full.

We do it in crowds. It must be right, if we’re all doing it. It’s part of the natural order. It’s “ordernary”.

It’s a collective delusion, “a convenient fantasy, the worst kind of self-delusion,” designed to distract us from our incapacitation in t
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classic-novels
I put this book on my 2009 Literary Resolutions List, which comprises 15 books culled from Time's List of the 100 Greatest Novels since 1920. I thought it was a novelization of that movie where Michael Keaton hears dead people. I was wrong.

I really didn't like this book. It annoyed, irritated, and grated on me.

The book follows Jack Gladney, who is a professor of Hitler Studies (a throwaway joke that is stretched throughout the entire book) at an eastern college. He's on his fourth marriage to
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“What if death is nothing but sound....electrical noise….you hear it forever…sound all around…uniform, white.”
white noise
Think about that. Death: white noise. A metaphor for the substance of nothingness.

However you wish to describe it, death casts a large black shadow on us. It covers human beings but not animals - because animals are not afraid of death. Get rid of that shadow, problem solved…

What if there were a pill that that fixes the fear-of-death part of the brain and cures you of this "con
Stephen M
Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: obras-maestras
After getting through this book for a third time, I'm still blown away by it. Although the social satire becomes more obvious on multiple readings, there are more than enough mind-blowing moments to make it worthwhile. I still have a few questions.

What does Wilder crying at the end mean? Is that him finally speaking? Or is it some semblance of hope?

Is Dylar real? Is it a placebo?

What happens to Mr. Gray at the end? At one moment he is about to die, then the next it cuts away to an argument about
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Two waves of strangeness collide in this ultra-wacky, Edward Albeeesque yarn of radiation via ultraconsumerism. There's the Gladney clan: a bunch of misfits straight out of Wes Anderson. Then there is the undertow of dread carried like a fog through wires and the air itself... something that interests the likes of filmmaker Cronenberg.

There is an obvious wit in the minutiae over-explained by the Gladneys. These Americans are as eccentric as they get, which is why the plot doesn't get old. The fa
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book should be read by everyone who is planning on dying. The teenage boy is the best character and he isn't given enough attention, but still, this book is well worth anyone's time. Don DeLillo helped inspire the likes of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk. For that, I am thankful he and this book exist. ...more
Diane Barnes
It is my practice to review a book immediately after reading it, if I can. That way it's fresh in my mind and I'm also writing while I'm still under the influence of the book and my feelings about it. Right now, I am so awed and affected by this book that if I tried to compress its meaning into a few paragraphs, it would just come out as gibberish. So I will tell you instead why it's 5 stars and why it will go onto my favorites list.
This novel was written 35 years ago, and is even more relevant
Feb 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Teenagers being raised in suburbia who totally hate it/their parents
Recommended to Christy by: Someone who thought confronting consumerism was shocking.
I noticed there is a "Don Delillo's White Noise: A Reader's Guide" out there. I find that funny, but also somewhat offensive.

I'll come right out a say that I don't like Delillo, and am shocked by people who claim that he is a "good writer." Is being a good author the same as being a good writer? Shouldn't an author have something worthwhile to say, and shouldn't he be able to keep us interested while doing so? His characters are terribly one-note, his dialogue painfully contrived. I've decided t
Steven Godin

Brilliant! A top-notch social satire about the fear of death and how it effects ones life - a life being consumed by the modern world, becoming paranoid about everything we hear and are told through radio/TV. And the airborne toxic event that's thrown into the mix only adds to the darkly comical and paranoid behaviour of the Gladney family involved. And this is where the heart of the story lies - a family going through a crisis, that leads to some pretty over-the-top behaviour, as during their c
Roy Lotz
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a clever novel. Brilliant while restrained, meaningful while understated. Delillo is one of the few genius writers who doesn't get carried away with his own genius. He is patient, he doesn't give up the game too soon, he lets the reader guess, sometimes squirm. He is neither cryptic nor obvious.

This novel has many themes, and I don't think it would be profitable to try to go through them all. But let's start with the title. What does he mean by that?

For me, the key is something that happens
Lee Klein
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
First read this in 1997 while temping in the copy center of an architectural firm near the Princeton Junction train station. I remember loving it, giddy at J. A. K. Gladney's extraneous initial, Hitler Studies, the most photographed barn in America, the Airborne Toxic Event, the regular high-falutin dialogues in the supermarket aisles, less impressed from what I remember with the second half's emphasis on death. I remember reading at lunch outside in October, eating a sandwich I'd made with good ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very conflicted about this book. On one level, it's exactly the kind of book I would usually love; it's not primarily plot-driven, it's somewhat pretentious, and it makes you think. delillo writes beautifully about the banalities of everyday life, mystifying modern existence. The boring routines surrounding us become religious. It is about us. Normal people. It is about our ultraconsumerist schizophrenic existence, our anxieties, our truths and our life and our death.

On another level, this b
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Rae
Rounded up from 2.5 stars, though this is being generous in the extreme.

Don DeLillo presents this off the wall piece that takes the reader on an adventure they may wish they’d never joined. Told in an oddly lilting manner, a family comes to terms with the pressures of the outside world in a way only they can surmises is rational. Jack Gladney is the Chair of the Hitler Department at a small college in Middle America. He thrives on the uniqueness of his work and yet has never learned to speak Ger
MJ Nicholls
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: merkins, novels
So White Noise seems to divide people entirely on matters of literary style, which is understandable. Once you accept the skewed reality of Delillo’s world, which isn’t particularly hard to do, you can take pleasure from the “unrealistic” dialogue and the surrealistic happenings as they happen, surrealistically. Otherwise, this is a straightforward book “about death”—theme-wise, this about as simple as they come. Delillo’s style for me was incredibly original, utterly engrossing and extremely fu ...more
Rakhi Dalal
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: compelling
Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed.

-----------R.W.Emerson, Nature

White noise compellingly carries with it an inexorable clamour which seems to characterize the kind of lives that are lived today: a fear, panic or anxiety; of death, things terrible or
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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American

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“How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn't they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a little while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise?” 444 likes
“No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die.” 299 likes
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