Review: ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLillo

 The new term has started and I am back to university reading. The list is pretty different this time around and I’m excited to jump in. My ‘first book’ experience each term has been surprisingly similar.

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White Noise follows Jack Gladney, a college professor and department head of Hitler studies who is terrified of death, through the experience of an Airborne Toxic Event near his town. The book explores environmental issues, the fear of death, consumerism and media influences.

In fairness, I perhaps didn’t get as frustrated with this book as I did with All That Man Is. but while reading it I was aware that it was incredibly well written, intelligent and funny. But there’s a difference between just observing how good a book is and the feeling of getting inside it – of feeling invited to care about the characters.

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There were lots of moments in this book that I really enjoyed, as evidenced by my tabbing of it. But I struggled to get into the story or to connect with the characters very much – as with All That Man Is, when I put it down I didn’t feel a huge drive to pick it up again, and I generally reread a little bit just to situate myself again. This may be because it is so different to the things I usually read – postmodernist fiction, satire and dark humour aren’t common among the things I usually pick up.

For that reason, I am glad to have read it. At the end of the day I can’t claim to really know what I like if I haven’t read outside my comfort zone, and I definitely admire this novel. But my response to it was an academic one, and it was missing the feeling in my gut I get when I’m enjoying something on my own account. I only felt a critical response to this book – I didn’t have a personal one. Essentially, it comes down to taste, and this not being mine.

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For that reason, I’m going to hold off on my usual habit of who I might recommend this to, because I am just not the person to be recommending it – and there are many people who can expound on it’s virtues better and with more passion than I can.

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