Friday, 28 January 2011

White Noise

Title: White Noise

Author: Don Delillo

Number of pages: 326

Started: 23 January 2011

Finished: 28 January 2011

Opening words:

The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the jurik food still in shopping bags—onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.

Read a longer excerpt here.

Plot summary:

Jack Gladney, head of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill, is afraid of death, as is his wife Babette and his colleague Murray who runs a seminar on car crashes. The author exposes our common obsession with mortality, and Jack and Babette's biggest fear - who will die first?

What I thought:

This was a strange book. At times it was very readable and witty and at others, just a touch odd. This is the second Delillo book I have read and I much prefer it to the previous one, but the jury is still out on whether I like him as an author.

Delillo was good at writing abut family life and picking up on all of the bizarre and pointless arguments we often have with our families, but the book was also meant to be a take on modern life and whilst I kind of got it, I think some of the nuances passed me by. That might tell you more about how immersed I am in modern life than it does about the book though.


Sarah said...

Enjoyed your review: I rather like the image of you baffled by modernity! Sounds like me juggling my newly acquired mobile phone and having it go off in my ear becasue I pressed the wrong button, dropping it, missing the call.... Is that the kind of thing you mean?

More generally, I agree that how we react to novels is often (worryingly) a more telling reflection on ourselves.

Indulge my curiousity: was your other Delillo 'Falling Man?' That was the one I had in mind to read, although it worries me that reading it this year, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, might be untimely and insensitive.

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I think you have rather summed up my life. I am probably constantly baffled by it!

The other book was indeed Falling Man. I wasn't really a fan. I can see that reading it on this particular anniversary might feel like bad timing, but possibly whether it is a good or bad time to read it will depend if you get something out of the book or think that it is a bit opportunistic. But of course you won't know that unless you read it...