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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.

This is a literary lunch of styrofoam, the very by-products of which seep into our drinking water and inform our cells to mutate and form cancerous tumors. This carcinogenic "art" permeates the spirit of this age. We consume it and breath it into our souls and the light that is within us grows darker, life becomes more absurd and meaningless.

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!

x-posted to hipsterbookclub


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 14th, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
It definately had a grasping/searching feeling going on. Part of it had the same elemental power as Orwell's 1984, but DeLillo wasn't sounding a siren to awaken us to what is going on in the world as Orwell was. I was really excited and into White Noise until I saw that he wasn't going to do anything with this airborne toxic event he had created. And then he pissed me off even further by going into this whole "the more we kill other people thing, the more we live." DeLillo was indifferent.
Jan. 15th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
thanks for the review
I can't say I heard of it, but it doesn't sound like my cup of tea. SO at least if it gets mentioned, I can say "oh I heard of that"
Who am I kidding? Unless it's on "American Idol" or "People" Magazine, the people I spend most of my time with (my co-workers) will not have heard of it...*sheesh* what was I thinking? *slap*
Jan. 15th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed 'Underworld', but it was so complicated I can remember almost none of it. You've made me curious about this one.
Jan. 16th, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
I loved this book. It is Don delillo's best in my opinion. Underworld is too drawn out, Mao II doesn't quite cut it, and Cosmopolis, while better than the critics say, is still no white noise.
Jan. 17th, 2007 02:51 am (UTC)
I suppose an atheist would love it. As a deist, I don't.
Jan. 17th, 2007 06:12 am (UTC)
I don't think atheism has any kind of influence on why I would like or not like something. I don't like that I even have to use the term atheist. I'm just a person; doesn't have anything to do with what I like to read.
Jan. 18th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
I think that most people tend to like great literature that supports their world view. When I read something that does not support my world view (even though it may be great writing) I tend not to like it. I have a few personal exceptions. If your world view has no bearing on you loving or not loving a book, then that's really something. If, at the end of DeLillo's book, Jack Gladney had some kind of positive revelation of God that relieved him of his fear of death, would you still love this book?
Jan. 18th, 2007 07:02 am (UTC)
Atheism isn't like a political outlook or anything that you'd feel very strong about. It isn't an active view point in my opinion; I am one by default of not happening to believe in other things. I love Life of Pi and that book's author claims it is a "story that will make you believe in God." I love John Updike and many other books and authors that are even slanted toward religiosity...if it makes for good reading it is what it is. I can see liking something that would normally lack in other areas just because it speaks to your views, but I this book speaks more to the nihilist type, which has nothing to do with atheism really. I am a humanist.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )