Tuesday, November 28, 2006

White Noise, by Don DeLillo

White Noise
Don DeLillo

I've heard a lot about White Noise. It won the National Book Award in 1985, but I've been hearing a lot about it over the past few months. Seeing as it's such an "important" book full of "postmodern" ideas about "media saturation in the modern age" I thought I might give it a try.

As you might have guessed by my numerous amount of air quotes (ok, air quotes only exist in conversation, but I feel that the above qualify because I say so), White Noise annoyed the shit out of me. "Waaahh," says DeLillo. "Media's everywhere. True silence doesn't exist anymore because of the ubiquity of technology. We are ruining the environment. Did I mention technology is everywhere? What about advertising? That's everywhere, too."
Why, thanks, Don. I hadn't noticed.

It didn't help that my interest in the book was sparked by viewing the movie White Noise, which you might have seen. Probably not -- it wasn't that good. It was quasi-scary, and involved dead people communicating through -- you guessed it -- THE MEDIA. Well, specifically, television. Oh, that damned, evil technology. Gets you every time. Well, that's about the only connection between the book and the movie. Not that I was bothered by a loose adaptation -- I fully expect a movie to royally mangle a novel; thus, I felt fairly assured of a good read, based on the movie being somewhat bearable and based on the fact that so many critics rave about it.

I was snookered.

First, it's so LONG. Why? There's no need. Jack Gladney is on his fourth? fifth? (somehow, it's never quite clear) wife. He and his wife Babette (which is uncomfortably close to Baboon) have a Brady-Bunch-esque combined family of, oh I don't know I'll take a guess here, five kids? It might be more. Near the end of the book ANOTHER child was introduced. I mean, really, Don? Must we go that route?

Anyway, Jack is a professor of Hitler studies at his college, and

No. You know what? I don't even care enough to finish the plot. He's afraid to die. Technology is everywhere. Nature is getting the shaft.

Bibliolatry Scale: 1 out of 6 stars

12 comments:

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Slash! Burn! KILL KILL KILL!

Yep Biblio, I enjoyed this book review. I have to agree that I can't get my teeth in to DeLillio (I took a crack at Underworld some years back) and would most definitely never choose to read a book with the luddite themes you describe here - thank you for reading it so I dont have to.

However - Please read more books you hate... They make far more entertaining review. This reminded me of the feeling I got when I finished my third consecutive Milan Kundera book and realised that not only would I never get "it" but that "it" seemed to be a rather self indulgent set of patronising philosophising by a quite bitter misogynist. A Misogynist with some real issues about sex.

Tear into those fuckers! Read more books you hate!

Bibliolatrist said...

Hahaha, ok - thanks for the encouragement. I have to admit it was rather fun to write the review. Wish I could say the same for reading the mess.

Shepcat said...

As one who thoroughly enjoyed White Noise when I read it some years back (I am also a fan of DeLillo's Mao II), I feel compelled to point out that, while a film adaptation of the book is reportedly in the works, the White Noise you watched, starring Michael Keaton, is not even "a loose adaptation" of DeLillo's book. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

Bibliolatrist said...

Yeah, shepcat, I figured that out about halfway through. ;-)

However, I still maintain that there are some similarities between the two, and it is my theory that the filmmakers were inspired by the film.

For example: there is the obvious focus on technology that the two movies share.

Secondly, there is a scene in the novel where Jack and the kids, at home, are able to view Babette (through the white snow of the television) while she is at work. Even though Babette isn't dead when this occurs, it is possible for one to be inspired by the scene and come up with the movie's premise from there. What bothered me about the novel is that this scene occurs about a third in and seems fairly important, but is never mentioned again.

Of course, it's impossible to say whether the writers of the film were inspired by the book, but that is a pretty strong connection. At any rate, that is the only similarity between the two, which may or may not be intended.

I'm glad to hear a *real* movie is in the works, although the filmmakers will be hard pressed to convey some of those scenes without the benefit of a narrator. We'll see how they do.

Thanks for stopping by!

Colleen Gleason said...

Hey Biblio...found you by way of fanchitchat...

Amusing review (it's not often unliked books are reviewed), and nice blog.

Sara said...

Haha I love that Valley of the Dolls got two more stars than Delilo. I've never read Delilo, partially because I'm scared that if I do I will discover that I'm not as smart as I thought I was.

John said...

"Gets you every time. Well, that's about the only connection between the book and the movie. Not that I was bothered by a loose adaptation -- I fully expect a movie to royally mangle a novel; thus, I felt fairly assured of a good read, based on the movie being somewhat bearable and based on the fact that so many critics rave about it."

This is almost a fourth of the review and literally five seconds on Google would tell you it's false.

Nevermind 320 pages being "too long."

Bibliolatrist said...

First of all, honey, 320 pages for a good book would by no means be "too long." But when a universally praised book is so tedious and unbearable, then, yes, 320 pages is too long.

Second of all, what is the "it" to which you refer as being false? The fourth of the review you quoted? My false assumption that the movie was based on the novel? Watch those ambiguous pronoun references!

But, yes, I was wrong about the movie being an adaptation of the novel, but they both had the same name, so why would I bother to google it first? In fact, to this day that shitty movie is more bearable to me than this novel.

Different strokes, you know?

Anonymous said...

LOL. The fact that you watched that crappy Michael Keaton movie, then read the entire Delillo book, and somehow managed to walkaway thinking they were even remotely related, completely compromises the validity of your review. What a joke.

Bibliolatrist said...

Anonymous, I love you.

I love that you don't have the balls to leave your name, I love that you comment without reading all of this "joke" of a review.

Yes, "my interest in the book was sparked by viewing the movie" but I realized my mistake "midway through" the book. Still, I tried to connect the two anyway, seeing as how

a. they had the same title
b. the movie clearly stole from the novel
c. I felt like justifying the two as being loosely connected so I didn't feel as though I had wasted my time on this shitty movie and shittier novel.

But, still, keep coming back! You're a real gem, even if your jerky anonymity has compromised the validity of your comment.

Smooches!

Anonymous said...

"Of course, it's impossible to say whether the writers of the film were inspired by the book, but that is a pretty strong connection. At any rate, that is the only similarity between the two, which may or may not be intended."

" b. the movie clearly stole from the novel."

Hmmm...I had thirty seconds to spare, so Here. http://www.ghostfinders.co.uk/evp.html. This has dates and specific discoveries of evp's and white noise that date back to the 1920's. It might help you make up your mind.

Bibliolatrist said...

Anonymous, you silly goose! If you had taken the time to read point C, you'd have realized point B was probably a little tongue-in-cheek. Thanks for stopping by, though!