Thursday, May 26, 2005

White Noise (by Don DeLillo)

I first read White Noise back in college, when I had the habit of going to the campus bookstore and buying books for classes I wasn't taking. And at the time it blew me away totally; I had never read anything like it. It's an interesting experience to come back to this book ten years later; as you get older and more aware of mortality, you can relate to the ideas in the book more strongly than you could when you were younger--even if the writing itself seems less fresh and impressive once you've read, for instance, the Douglas Coupland ouvre. (Not that Coupland doesn't owe a debt to DeLillo, obviously, but DeLillo feels less unique now than he did in 1995.)

I say you can relate to the ideas because this is a novel of ideas; the characters are never persuasive characters, but spouters of ideologies (which could easily be annoying, and I know many people who are annoyed by the book). The plot, such as it is, is left somewhat unresolved, because that's not the point. The point is, what is the best way to deal with the inescapable fact of death? And you can't wrap up those kinds of ideas in a nice tidy plot. Or at least it feels like you shouldn't.

"How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn't they paralyze us? How is it we can suvive them, at least for a while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise?" (Page 198)


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