Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reading: White Noise by Don DeLillo

Here it is, yet again, another book that I was assigned to read for school.  I sort of looked forward to reading because it was said in 11th grade that we would read it in 12th grade but then it was replaced by another book.  To my surprise, I really enjoyed the book.  White Noise by Don DeLillo is a book with little plot but a lot to say about our modern world and technologies.  The static from our radios, TV stations, headphones, etc. trap us between two worlds - the real world and the world of the media.  Soon, because we immerse ourselves in both, they become one in the same and we can't tell the difference between life and the media.  Our lives are the media.  You can't tell me that this isn't true.  Everyday small bits of media enter my brain.  Songs get stuck in my head, quotes from film and TV enter my brain such as David Beckham saying "It's so hard to be pretty" from a prank on the Ellen show or Robin Williams yelling "Help is on the way dear!" from Mrs. Doubtfire.  Needless to say, I know I am not the only one this happens too.  The book also points out that because there is so much media clouding our reality, we don't see things as clearly.  This points to the idea that has grown in recent years with smart phones and the internet - that we are so connected, we are disconnected.  One example in the book is a barn the main character Jack visits which is known as the most photographed barn in the world.  Jack's friend says to him that while a lot of people come to visit the barn, no one actually is seeing it.  All they see is the most photographed barn but not the barn itself. 
While the idea of no plot structure seems a bit frightening, the truth is that this key feature is what made the book unique and enjoyable to read.  Instead of plot the book included everyday occurrences such as Jack having conversations with his children or thinking about the structure of the household in which he resides.  Jack is a professor who teaches Hitler studies at a local college.  His intellect is what pushes the story forward as he points out subtle things such as having people come and stay at your house and feeling self conscious about things you do everyday because you know it is strange to your guest. 
While the book focuses much on the rise of technology, it also includes criticism on our consumer culture.  DeLillo suggests, and in my opinion is right on the money (as he is with many ideas in this novel), that we find our identity in what we buy.  We create this idea in our heads that these things will make us feel better and...well, they do!  But only temporarily.  His biggest example in the novel is drugs that are prescribed to people with mental disorders such as anxiety of ADHD. 
Overall, this book was outstanding to me.  The characters are all very three dimensional and the implications in which the book suggests are very real and should be made aware in the general public.  The book really asks the question, what is sacred anymore?  Life is watered down, materialistic, and fun worshipping.  We express ourselves through what we buy and have trouble making decisions because of everything shouted at us on a daily basis.  My only complaints about the novel would be the ending and the unrealistic dialogue.  I thought the dialogue was great in terms of pushing the story forward but the use of dialogue was so obvious that it sort of annoyed me.  I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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