- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (June 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140283307
- ISBN-13: 978-0140283303
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (502 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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White Noise (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) Paperback – June 1, 1999
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Something is amiss in a small college town in Middle America. Something subliminal, something omnipresent, something hard to put your finger on. For example, teachers and students at the grade school are falling mysteriously ill:
Investigators said it could be the ventilating system, the paint or varnish, the foam insulation, the electrical insulation, the cafeteria food, the rays emitted by microcomputers, the asbestos fireproofing, the adhesive on shipping containers, the fumes from the chlorinated pool, or perhaps something deeper, finer-grained, more closely woven into the fabric of things.J.A.K. Gladney, world-renowned as the living center, the absolute font, of Hitler Studies in North America in the mid-1980s, describes the malaise affecting his town in a superbly ironic and detached manner. But even he fails to mask his disquiet. There is menace in the air, and ultimately it is made manifest: a poisonous cloud--an "airborne toxic event"--unleashed by an industrial accident floats over the town, requiring evacuation. In the aftermath, as the residents adjust to new and blazingly brilliant sunsets, Gladney and his family must confront their own poses, night terrors, self-deceptions, and secrets.
DeLillo is at his dark, hilarious best in this 1985 National Book Award winner, a novel that preceded but anticipated the explosion of the Internet, tabloid television, and the dialed-in, wired-up, endlessly accelerated tenor of the culture we live in. He doesn't just describe life in a hypermediated society, he re-creates it. His characters repeat phrases, information, and rumor gleaned from television, radio, and other media sources like people speaking in code. And DeLillo has seeded the book with short gemlike episodes that demand to be read aloud, and that haunt the imagination years after their first reading: a visit to the Most Photographed Barn in America. A plane that nearly falls out of the sky. An hour in a classroom, canonizing Elvis. These vignettes are vivid and unique, yet, like the phrases from television shows that interject themselves, out of context, into Gladney's consciousness, they are strangely unconnected to one another--reflections of the lives DeLillo is showing us we lead. --Jan Bultmann
From Publishers Weekly
Chairman of the department of Hitler studies at a Midwestern college, Jack Gladney is accidently exposed to a cloud of noxious chemicals, part of a world of the future that is doomed because of misused technology, artifical products and foods, and overpopulation. PW appreciated DeLillo's "bleak, ironic" vision, calling it "not so much a tragic view of history as a macabre one." January
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Now, this all recalls the dry writings of Heidegger or Baudrillard, but instead DeLillo will have you laughing til you cry with certain passages. We have a Professor who is head of the "Hitler Studies" department (one thing about information overload is that people specialize in minutiae). His colleague, Murray, who philosophizes over food labels, wants to start an "Elvis Studies" department.
The concept of the "hyperreal" is evoked. For example, there is a tourist site near the college. It has no other appeal than the fact that it is the "most photographed barn" in America. Throughout the book we see the characters, just like many of us, concentrate on image rather than substance.
I have noticed that there is a review below by a man that claims that neither he nor his "brilliant" wife the engineer found anything of interest in "White Noise". I, too, am an engineer and know, by the way, that most engineers find themselves (often victims of self-deception) "brilliant". I speculate that the reason they could not understand this book is that they are too submerged in the "white noise" world of consumerism and information. In addition to that many engineers are afraid to address the issue of the dark side of technology.
"White Noise" is a book about death -- more specifically, our fear of death -- and how we have created a consumer infotainment paradise to distract us from our inevitable demise. But that description hardly does the book justice. There's more brilliance on any page of "White Noise" than I could hope to write in a lifetime.
DeLillo has a knack for finding deep meaning in common things -- like a supermarket. Characters are described as much by their postures and gestures as they are by words. Most of the important meanings of the book are left for readers to think on their own.
If you need a plot and lots of A-B-C action, please don't read White Noise. It's a book for people open to seeing the world in a different light. "White Noise" proves that there is nothing more reassuring than a disaster, and nothing more terrifying than the banal.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This postmodern view of the world really will get you thinking. Each character represents something. Each character is very different in their own ways. Such a good read. Read morePublished 3 days ago by SoullessGinger
I first read a snippet of this book ( the most photographed barn) in one of David Foster Wallace's essays and was intrigued. Intrigued enough to try DeLillo for myself. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Lee Mueller
I found this book both pretentious in its' writing style and unlikeable in just about every aspect. There is nothing redeeming in the story or the characters. Read morePublished 20 days ago by avid reader in Chicago
DdL hovers just above most of the novelists and sees only a Pynchon above. White Noise... almost...Published 1 month ago by Slawomir Magala
This is a great novel that examines a lot of the low-level anxieties that permeate modern American life. Delillo is funny and thoughtful throughout. Good, quick read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Blakeman
I repeatedly returned to this novel determined to find out why it was reviewed so favorably. I did manage to finish it and now consider that a poor use of my time. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Erin
Love this book. He writes in such great detail using all his senses and makes me feel like I'm there beside him. Reading for English class. Highly recommended.Published 2 months ago by Toya
What is there to add? This book has been reviewed, re-reviewed, studied, and discussed 90 billion times. I thought it was great, amazing and, in parts, near-perfect. Read morePublished 2 months ago by soyuz