Blogger Banter- White Noise

We did it again! Julie and I both read Don DeLillo's White Noise and ended up being split on our opinions of the text. I love that! I feel like a lot of time when I go to book club everyone loves what we read. Not that this is bad, but sometimes a little controversy can be good. Here's our conversation (beware of spoilers!):

Julz: Whelp, I didn't like it. I felt totally let down by the conclusion and I felt there wasn't any sense of resolution. I mean, what were the repercussions of Jack shooting the pharmabiologist dude?

Christine: I actually really liked it, minus a few complaints. I think I was ready for DeLillo’s style and sort of sensibility, though. He’s definitely unique (I went to one of his readings once, too, he’s an interesting man...). There’s definitely an air of pretentiousness, but I think it’s at least self-referential, which ties back to what you were saying about Murray (see below).

Julz: I thought it kind of ironic that Jack and Babette both had know-it-all kid. Heinrich seemed to know everything about everything and Denise was super perceptive.

Christine: They were all so, so flawed, even the kids (Wilder... man... they adored him, but the crying episode would have driven me crazy). I loved the contrast set up between the siblings, Babette and his other wives (so many of them!), and even Jack and Orest.

Julz: How did you feel about Murray? Personally, I wanted to stab a fork in my ear every time he soliloquized (if that's even a word).

Christine: Murray was a strange dude! He was a bit annoying, but I think it was intentional on DeLillo’s part, to sort of create the archetype of an eccentric, self-important professor. The one scene where he was talking to the prostitutes cracked me up- at first I thought he was calling oral sex the Heinrich, and then I thought he really did want to perform the maneuver... ha. I think?

Other things I really liked:

The setting- such an eccentric little college town with it’s insane asylum, mysteriously toxic elementary school, and eventual disaster simulations. The classes the two men taught? Oh man....

The dialogue- I loved the verbal gymnastics that DeLillo crafts, clearly often unrealistic, but so supportive of the thematic concepts he was pushing. It meant itself to that sort of existential crisis that Jack, and even Babette and Heinrich to some degrees, were grappling with.

Death/Dylar- Jack’s insane preoccupation with death was fascinating to me, since it’s not something I really spend a lot of time worrying about (yet, I guess). If he was someone in real life I’d tell him to shut up, but the way his character is written so fully let me suspend my annoyance. The fact that he and Babette become so obsessed with Dylar is so... sad, I guess, especially for her. Clearly she’s depressed and needs real help, not just someone trying to scam her in a hotel room. Her need feels genuine, while his a bit egocentric.

Black Cloud/White Noise- another contrast! Basically this idea that anything that takes over your senses there’s foreign can have negative effects, whether it’s something toxic in the air or invisible coming from consuming media. The idea of what you can and cannot control is important too, and how it effects people in different ways. Who is seemingly immune, who is susceptible, etc... (it feels like I’m talking about the pandemic, haha).

Julz: Speaking of the pandemic, I had to site this Heinrich quote: "If you came awake tomorrow in the Middle Ages and there was an epidemic raging, what could you do to stop it, knowing what you know about the progress of medicine and disease?" That hit a little too close to home. However, I doubt Richard III would have understood Social Distancing. Although Henry VIII was more enlightened and new to avoid populace places when plague broke out.

Obviously the white noise is a commentary on consumerism, since there's so much mentioned about product labels, television ads, and radio programs. Do you think it would have been a totally different novel if it had been written today (35 years later) what with all our prescription commercials and being constantly bombarded with ads on our smart devices?

Christine: I totally think this would be different now; I kept wanting to scream at them to just Google Dylar, but then I remembered they couldn’t! We’re so immersed in the noise... there’s no escape.
The few issues I had:
The dialogue- while I did like it, occasionally I Would lose track of who was saying what, which is annoying. I read a Chuck Palahniuk memoir/writing guide recently and he takes about how much he hates that style.
The end- I am fine with the way it ended in the sense that he was so self-congratulatory about not killing the guy and then helping him to the hospital. He wasn’t a killer (except I actually thought he might kill himself after he talked to Murray). I even found the scene at the German clinic kind of hilarious. More than anything it bugged me that he drove the car back, covered in blood! It was his neighbor’s! Rude.

Julz: It’s so interesting how two people can have such vastly different perceptions of the same book!

No comments:

Post a Comment