Dorothea's Reviews > White Noise

White Noise by Don DeLillo
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it was ok
Recommended to Dorothea by: My Dad!
Recommended for: hipster nihilists

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, and I'm still recovering.

It had a lot of potential. It could have been a great commentary on life in a media-saturated society that worships safety and bright colors in the temples of grocery stores, a society that will suffocate in the toxic by-products of its own vain materialistic pleasures, conveniences and distractions.

But a great commentary would have been too meaningful and after all, this is the age of negation and disorder wherein everything is turned inside out, and to live fully without fear is to kill freely without hesitation. This is the age of futility wherein the best artists have to be indifferent or even hostile to supreme coherence and only depictions of anti-heroism will be praised and given National Book Awards.

DeLillo is a talented writer, but he wasted his talent in this work and missed an important opportunity to demand change. Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset with his depiction of a dystopic American setting. The Toxic Airborne Event was brilliant, timely and necessary, but he never asks his readers to take even a cursory look at the causes and consequences of our toxin-producing lifestyle. And it was right there! I also take issue with his demonic proposal that there is liberation to be found in murder, that there is no immortality, that important "psychic data" can be gleamed from commercials and television programs.

Yeah, I know, it's only fiction, yeah I know, he meant something else entirely, turn it inside out and upside down and this is what he really meant, have a Coke and a Dylar and put a bullet in my head, it's opposite era!
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
May 3, 2008 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Ted (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ted Burke "Negative hipster assholes". Note to self: remove from Christmas card list.




message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

thanks for writing a well-thought out critique.


Colin McKay Miller Look at all these peeps who like your review.

Agreed that the middle (The Toxic Airborne Event) was the best part. This is the best DeLillo I've read -- I've found he's usually good, not great -- but I've heard good things on Mao II. Be sure to avoid his shorter works -- they're plotless little things (still charged at full novel price, mind you).

I think part of it is a generational gap, too. DeLillo writes the generation we came from.


Simón González I'am agreed with you, Colin: "I think part of it is a generational gap, too. DeLillo writes the generation we came from".


message 5: by Joe (new) - added it

Joe Stamber Thoughtful reviews like these are very helpful to those such as myself who are considering reading this book. Thanks for taking the time.


Sentimental Surrealist "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."

Wait, this is a bad thing?

But seriously, I see where you're coming from. It's just that I happen to be an enormous fan of the postmodern simulacra.


message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom Allen all you are seeing is the mud here. Look up. Look up.


message 8: by Mike (new)

Mike T Just finished it, and was left with a similar feeling. Maybe this why DFW got to the point where he swore off irony, and went in search of sincerity, instead. Then again, look where he ended up. Seems he wasn't able to resolve the tension, either.

And the style started to bug me after a while, too. I took it in stride at first, but it turned from "cute" to "tedious" about halfway through.

And yes, we get it, the artifice *is* the substance, and we're supposed to read the overly academic dialogs as parody, which is fine, as far as it goes. But Lord, it didn't need to go nearly as far as it did.

Maybe I'm just reading it 30 years too late. Maybe in 1985 this all seemed revalatory. Now it just seems a bit labored.


message 9: by Madi (new)

Madi Ruoff "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."

Damn, that's a good sell. I think I'll read it


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