Tuesday, September 11, 2007

White Noise

Don DeLillo is considered one of the greatest living American authors. I'd read portions of his work in college and I thought it about time to properly tackle one of his novels. White Noise was published in 1985 and won the National Book Award. The main character, Jack Gladney, teaches "Hitler Studies" at a midwestern arts college, but is shamed by his dirty little secret - that he can't speak German. There is plenty of satire in this book, especially on educational institutions. There are three main themes that I was able to see, death, technology, and belief vs. unbelief.

The term "white noise" is applied in the book to these concepts and you see them dominating the thoughts of the Gladney parents. "The deepest regret is death," says Jack, "The only thing to face is death. This is all I think about. There is only one issue here. I want to live." An advisor says to him, "You could put your faith in technology. It got you here, it can get you out. This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature."

This is a masterfully thought out work. The plot is amazing, and despite the heavy themes it is actually quite amusing. Like most great books it asks more great questions than it answers. Since finishing it I've thought a lot about the fear of death and how it not only effects me as an individual, but as a nation at war in a world at war. I've though about my beleif system and why I beleive it is beautiful and real and necessary and not just an illusion pretended for the sake of those around me. I like to think about these things.

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