B0nnie's Reviews > White Noise

White Noise by Don DeLillo
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“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 "condition"? Would you take it?

If you need help in deciding, read White Noise. It is about death, the fear of dying, the meaningless white noise in our lives. And Hitler.
“There’s something about German names, the German language, German things. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s just there. In the middle of it all is Hitler, of course.”
“He was on again last night.”
“He’s always on. We couldn’t have television without him.”

And it is very, very funny.

The giddiness just builds and builds, interrupted now and then by the sound of your own laughter. Each time, startled, you look up from the book and remember you are alone. That you were reading. And the black shadow that follows you around all the time is still there.

Here's a hint about that pill: “Fear is self-awareness raised to a higher level.” Every solution has consequences.

The main character Jack Gladney would be at home in a Saul Bellow novel. In fact Saul Bellow seemed ever present - his wit and 20th century angst, his way of tossing in philosophic discourse and intellectual musings, his deeply flawed characters that you love anyway. The very raw inner musings give them a sense of vulnerability that you identify with.
“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 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.”

White Noise, written in 1984 (published in 1985), brings Orwell to mind. But the real Orwellian streak is that Delillo was so in tune with where contemporary society was going, he all but predicts events of the 21st century - with his references to plane crashes, manmade disasters, our artificial high-tech, miracle drug society.

Even if none of the above interests you, just read this novel because DeLillo can build a haunting image of something very simple:

"the sparse traffic washes past, a remote and steady murmur around our sleep, as of dead souls babbling at the edge of a dream."
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Quotes B0nnie Liked

Don DeLillo
“Every advance in knowledge and technique is matched by a new kind of death, a new strain. Death adapts, like a viral agent.”
Don DeLillo, White Noise

Don DeLillo
“It was the time of year, the time of day, for a small insistent sadness to pass into the texture of things. Dusk, silence, iron chill. Something lonely in the bone.”
Don DeLillo, White Noise

Don DeLillo
“Was she naked?" Lasher said.
"To the waist," Cotsakis said.
"From which direction?" Lasher said.”
Don DeLillo, White Noise
tags: humor


Reading Progress

January 6, 2012 – Shelved
April 7, 2012 – Started Reading
April 9, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)

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message 1: by Melki (new)

Melki I just did the math. I've had this book on my shelf for 26 years! If you say it's good, I'll consider reading it one of these days (years).


Drew I like that comparison with Bellow. Wouldn't have noticed that in White Noise, probably partially because White Noise is so weird and partially because I read it before I ever read any Saul Bellow. Did notice some pretty Bellovian stuff in Underworld, though.


B0nnie Drew wrote: "I like that comparison with Bellow. Wouldn't have noticed that in White Noise, probably partially because White Noise is so weird and partially because I read it before I ever read any Saul Bellow..."
whew, I'm not crazy. WN is more weird in events than anything in Bellow, but there is much about the characters themselves that seem to have his voice. Wait, I am crazy. WN just didn't seem all that weird to me.
I'll put Underworld on my to-read list (or do you have a better recommendation?).


B0nnie Melki wrote: "I just did the math. I've had this book on my shelf for 26 years! If you say it's good, I'll consider reading it one of these days (years)."

I hope you dusted it once in a while, lol - though they say that after the first couple of years it doesn't get any worse....


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

"I guess there’s a lesson in all this. Get to know your chemicals."


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

DeLillo revisits the same themes of paranoia; doom; the death of skepticism; toxic waste; and coincidence in Libra, Underworld, and Mao II.


message 7: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr Nice review Bonnie and nice flashback for me! I remember reading this book years back and it had quite the profiund effect one me too:)


B0nnie Shirley wrote: "Nice review Bonnie and nice flashback for me! I remember reading this book years back and it had quite the profiund effect one me too:)"
thanks Shirley, it's great to know that other readers are affected in the same way. And it's one of those books that you want to re-read right after you're done.


B0nnie Steve wrote: "DeLillo revisits the same themes of paranoia; doom; the death of skepticism; toxic waste; and coincidence in Libra, Underworld, and Mao II."

you'd think these themes could only be heavy and depressing but he's so ironic and funny - it's all very jolly :-O


B0nnie Steve wrote: ""I guess there’s a lesson in all this. Get to know your chemicals.""


Nyodene Derivative, sponge cake and canned peaches...


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

B0nnie wrote: "Steve wrote: "DeLillo revisits the same themes of paranoia; doom; the death of skepticism; toxic waste; and coincidence in Libra, Underworld, and Mao II."

you'd think these themes could only be he..."


Take Hitler– normally, not a suitable or rich vein for humor– but a department of Hitler studies and a chairman, who does not even speak German; who stays up all night reading Mein Kampf for relaxation; who names his son, Heinrich,– that’s pretty funny.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 09, 2012 09:11PM) (new)

B0nnie wrote: "Steve wrote: ""I guess there’s a lesson in all this. Get to know your chemicals.""


Nyodene Derivative, sponge cake and canned peaches..."


Right. And that thing that they’re not calling “a feathery bloom” or “black billowing cloud” anymore– “the airborne toxic event”– packed with chlorides, benzines, phenols and hydrocarbons.


Stephen M Great review. I've read this book three times and I could read it again right now.


B0nnie the Hitler *leitmotiv* is very funny, full of dry wit and irony - it's handled well because you could see this sort of thing falling on its face if the writer tried to milk it for laughs. And the airborne toxic event is just perfect. Ominous yet sounding vaguely like a celebration.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

and all the doomed glee of Dr. Strangleove-- "Ja vol, Mein Fuhrer!"


B0nnie Stephen M wrote: "Great review. I've read this book three times and I could read it again right now."

Me too, lol


message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant The main character Jack Gladney would be at home in a Saul Bellow novel

that's not a good thing.


message 18: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday nicely done Bonnie!


B0nnie Paul wrote: "The main character Jack Gladney would be at home in a Saul Bellow novel that's not a good thing."

is too


B0nnie mark wrote: "nicely done Bonnie!"

thanks Mark


B0nnie oops I mean 'mark'


message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday Mark and mark are two different people!


B0nnie mark wrote: "Mark and mark are two different people!"

I know. And I'm sorry, bitterly sorry, but I know that... no apologies I make can alter the fact that you have been given a dirty, filthy, smelly capital M...


message 24: by mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday now you are saying terrible, terrible things about the warm-hearted and wonderful Mark-with-a-capital-M! Bonnie, you are digging yourself a dangerous, white noise-sized hole! i fear for you! you are straying too far into the white-noise light!


B0nnie yes... I'm a bastard - a vicious, heartless bastard - look what I've done to him. He's worked his fingers to the bone to make capital M what it is, and I come in with my petty feeble quibbling and I grind him into the dirt, this fine, honourable man, whose boots I am not worthy to kiss... :'-(


message 26: by Laima (new) - added it

Laima Hey Bonnie - I picked up a copy from Value Village for $3 yesterday - saw it and remembered your review.


B0nnie Laima wrote: "Hey Bonnie - I picked up a copy from Value Village for $3 yesterday - saw it and remembered your review."

oh that is a lucky find Laima (most of my books are from Goodwill). I'm glad this review alerted you to it. That happens to me too, where a book catches my eye just because of something I read on goodreads. Not that I can afford to bring any more books into my house - I'll soon have to have those little goat trails between piles like you see with hoarders.


message 28: by Laima (last edited Apr 16, 2012 07:30PM) (new) - added it

Laima hahahaha! Hoarders - I need more bookshelves too- I have piles all over the house. You won't believe the little gems I've found for just a few dollars. Can't help myself! Especially when there's a great review behind the book. :)


message 29: by Katy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy I had to read this for a literature class in college, and actually quite enjoyed it. I'll have to see if I can find it again - I'm sure I still have it, somewhere.


William2 "Love what you've done with Hitler."
What a line. Oh how I did laugh!


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