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Monday, July 30, 2018

White Noise (1985) by Don DeLillo


Book Review
White Noise (1985)
by Don DeLillo

  This novel has not aged well. White Noise was a critical sensation and best seller when it was published in 1985 and it when on to win the National Book Award and cement DeLillo's status as a "serious" literary author who could also draw popular interest.  White Noise is probably the worst Audiobook I've listened to- I seriously regretted the choice as soon as I heard the voice of Professor Jack Gladney- Professor of Hitler Studies at a made-up liberal arts college somewhere in the industrial mid-west.  If I'm not mistaken, Gladney always wears full robes and dark glasses when he is on campus, a solid indication of the satirical intent of almost every aspect of White Noise.  Satirical yes, funny no, or at least not so much nearly 35 years down the road.

  The various bits that have made it from White Noise into our larger popular culture: Professor of Hitler Stories, the Airborne Toxic Event (which is now a band), detailed descriptive passages about shopping in a super market as a carefully considered aesthetic event are more like the literary equivalent of Simpsons-esque site gags then milestones in late 20th century American literature.  DeLillo is clearly writing in the high era of white-suburban privilege, where a novel about unhappy academic-intellectuals could capture the second highest prize in American literature with nary a nod to "different view points" or "diversity."  DeLillo, alongside Auster and Franzen are the last generation of this half-smugly satisfied half-perpetually anxiety riven literature of white, male privilege. 

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