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White Noise by Don Delillo

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This book seems like the Catch 22 for the 80s. Not everyone in my book club agrees with me about this, but I stand by it.

Catch 22 seemed very rooted in a sense of the ridiculousness of what was happening in the world of the 60s. It centered on a single man in the military, dealing with commercial transactions and the fear that he was going to die, that people were trying to kill him. Of course, people were trying to kill him. This was war after all. But the catch was that he could not be taken out of the army for being crazy because he was sane enough to realize how crazy the war was.


White Noise is about a man, a college professor on his 3rd? 4th? wife and the huge mish-mash of half-related children that his family has become. He is also afraid of death, but in a far more abstract way than Yossarian in Catch 22.

He is bombarded, constantly and incomprehensively with messages, the White Noise of the media. He encounters tabloids and TV news and the theories of his professorial colleagues with the same attitude of incomprehending acceptance.

The book is not so much a story as an attempt to capture a snapshot of life. I consider the snapshot to be extremely rooted in the mid-80s. THere are a number of cultural artifacts that come from that time and have passed by.

It was an interesting book. Not so much pleasant, but interesting. Worthwhile.

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  • mike

    This is one of the most screamingly funny books I ever read, albeit funny in a very black way (no pun intended). I liked the idea of the Hitler Studies professors who didn’t speak German, the notion that the rest of the country cheers when catastrophe strikes California (“Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom”), and the “airborne toxic event” (“Will it kill me?” “Not in so many words.” “Well, how many words does it take?”) And these are just the things I remember off the top of my head; I haven’t even looked at the book since 1988. One of the very best, better than anything else I read by the D Man.

  • I read White Noise this past spring. It was okay. Definietly not pleasant, but interesting. Some passages read like a poem (ie, very fragmented writing, but loaded with imagery), which was both good and bad.

  • Eric Olsen

    Murphy, my curly-haired pixie, it perhpas should be pointed out that Catch-22 was published in ’61, but was about WWll, for those who haven’t read it.