White Noise by Don DeLillo

I’m just getting into the moderns, so you’ll have to bear with me. And by moderns, I mean anything after 1901. Yes, I am the product of a classical education, where modern writers were all thought to be on drugs and destroying the English language. But seeing how no one really wants to read Dickens or Madame Bovary on the beach, I’ve been trying to adjust. Moderns, it is. I like ‘em. Quite honestly, because you can say things like that: I like ‘em. No need to get bogged down with those pesky, old school grammar issues.

So, Don DeLillo’s, White Noise. A little odd but on the whole fascinating and thoroughly modern. I know, I know, everyone else read this 15 years ago when it first came out, but like I said I’m just getting into the modern age and 15 years ago I was still on Socrates and uh, Hardy Boy mysteries.

Our hero, Jack, is a professor of Hitler studies at some generic Midwestern American college. He, his wife Babette, of the “powerful hair,” and their various offspring live in an idyllic little college town amid geniuses of American popular culture, consumerism and paranoia. There are some totally unforgettable characters in this book; there’re just freaks. Loveable, endearing and colorful freaks, but freaks nonetheless. A clever study of the paranoia inducing perils of modern life. Complete with supermarket worship, toxic waste spills, mass media barrages, obsessive fears of death and fast food. Yup, I guess that pretty much sums up the American condition. Oh yeah, and jogging, there’s a bit about jogging as well. And shopping… And family dynamics… yeah, some great stretches about family dynamics. Some fabulous dialogues, too.

Ok, so I’m not really qualified to review a book that won the National Book Award and was on the Boston Globe’s Best Books of the Decade List, but I liked it. It really sucks you in. Its hilarious and entertaining and odd, but in this smirking, all too familiar kind of way. A real fun read about crazy intelligent folks and all the obsessive thinking that goes on among the perpetually over stimulated. Perfect to read on a quiet tranquil beach, far away from all that white noise.

-December 1999