Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler
studies—Hitler studies! Hilarious!—at a small college. The town suffers an
industrial accident. Jack flakes out. The end.
Almost everything about this novel is worthless. The ironies are not the hilarious ironies of Seinfeld.
They are bland, forced, predictable David Lynch ironies, though with less shock
value. The characters are stiff and not compelling. The philosophizing looks
profound if you are 11-years-old and have not been exposed to philosophy. The dialogue is horrid, albeit better than the descriptions and imagery.
Among the better narrative lines we get: “I fired the gun, the weapon, the
pistol, the firearm, the automatic.” But even this stinks. Characters who turn
into a machine-gun thesaurus should use slang. Sit-com songwriters know this: “Oil,
that is. Black gold, Texas tea,” is better than Delillo’s gun bit. Of course,
the defenders of this junk can come up with any number of preposterous reasons
to defend it: “The ordinary words illustrate what a bland guy Jack is.”
White Noise features a vague
sense of foreboding, or rather, a dull sense of foreboding. This “ominousness” is pathetic. Libertarians disparage criticism of consumeristic
lifestyles and loathe counterarguments even more, yet Reason
magazine pronounced DeLillo at least the equal of Faulkner and Hemingway. That
should tell you something. If DeLillo were a dangerous social critic, a Reason
love-fest would be about as probable as neoconservatives promoting childcare
vouchers. Those who think White Noise constitutes scathing social
criticism probably think the Truman Show is incisive criticism.
There is nothing in here that should
make the reader feel anxiety, except the “Why am I reading this?” variety. The
reader is safe in his sense of superiority over these characters and that she
is not in any way like them.
We could all day about the
symbolism in this book. Big deal. Symbolism is overrated. We could
talk about the symbolism in Dumb and Dumber all day, too. In one moment
The bird with his head duct taped back on represents
the main character’s estrangement from society and their clumsy attempts to
make things better.
The blind boy symbolizes things the other
characters cannot see.
What prevented me from falling asleep is turning this book into a game of how can fast can I read this. The joke of this book is not on the feeble modern man. The joke is on vacuous critics and readers who are satisfied with mere pretension. Insane characters are more coherent than the stream of incoherence technique found in White Noise. Not recommended.
Book review by J.T. Fournier, last updated 26, 2009.