JUNE 2006

> A REVIEW OF DELILLO'S WHITE NOISE (1985) | jason jordan

White Noise (Viking Penguin Inc, 1985) bears no relation to the flick with the same name, but DeLillo did pen the bulk of Game 6. Oddly enough, both films appeared last year and starred Michael Keaton. At any rate, DeLillo has won just about every major writing award in existence – this novel having claimed the National Book Award, which has undoubtedly been resting on the author’s mantle for the past 20 years.

Specifically, though, White Noise centers on Jack Gladney, a professor who heads up Hitler Studies at an everyday, American college. And to quote the back of the book, “Jack and his fourth wife, Babette, bound by their love, fear of death, and four ultramodern offspring, navigate the usual rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism. Then a lethal black chemical cloud floats over their lives, an ‘airborne toxic event’ unleashed by an industrial accident.” Like Murakami, DeLillo has the ability to transform mundane activities into relevant, interesting situations. Even trips to the supermarket become the stage for philosophical back-and-forths, as do routine walks on the college campus, enticing the reader who values a cerebral approach rather than a mindless action-based concept. However, White Noise is certainly not a minimalist affair – plenty of stuff happens – but the dialogue easily overshadows the big events.

Unlike the occurrences, I do have trouble accepting that the couple’s 14-year-old son, Heinrich, is both as intelligent and deep-thinking as DeLillo wants us to believe. I also don’t buy all the far-fetched sayings that spew from some of the younger family members, nor am I able to suspend my disbelief when characters ramble on about hefty topics without ever struggling to find the right words, as if reading from cue cards. Nevertheless, White Noise is a well-written book. Gladney is a likeable bloke, just as all the other characters are, and you won’t be separated from any of them by the time the 326-page novel comes to a close.

Considering the focus of WN is the ever-present fear of death, the book is awash in dialogue exchange in which the aforementioned is the subject of conversation. Complications definitely arise from the encroaching threats that continuously present themselves, but DeLillo seems more concerned with the knowledge and fear us humans have in relation to death – at a certain age, we realize that we will die. So, for those who aren’t averse to constant death-centered barrages, this winner of the National Book Award is a pretty good read. Still, the subject is unsettling, and dwelling upon it isn’t exactly my idea of fun. I’m glad I read it, but I won’t be visiting it again.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He was the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He was an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in THE EDWARD SOCIETY and THE2NDHAND. He teaches college writing to college students. He will be going on tour this summer to promote his forthcoming novel, Powering the Devil's Circus, tentatively scheduled for release on 06/06/06. He is a writer.