Raph Recommends: White Noise

Raph al Guul   If it was possible to pin-point a sole reason for why I study English, it would be one specific piece of English literature that had a huge impact on me when we had to read it in high school. If you went to high school with me, you will know that what I am talking about is Don DeLillo’s Mao II. I did not know what a skilled author was capable of until I came across this amazing book. It comes as no surprise, then, that when I read the description of the course “(Post-)Modern Apocalypses: Fictions of Last Things”, I almost immediately booked it. Because not only do I like examining how religious, and particularly biblical topics are dealt with in an increasingly secular society, but also, DeLillo’s White Noise was listed as one of the texts that would be discussed.

Now, I couldn’t dare to write a review of this book. What this is supposed to be is a brief recommendation to those it may concern. White Noise describes a scary world, filled with postmodern characters that seem to have gone completely bonkers at times. Furthermore, many students have complained that there wasn’t much happening in the novel – particularly in the first of its three main parts – and I remember hearing the same complaints about Mao II back in high school as well. The good news? Apart from the amazing language that DeLillo seemingly pulls out of his hat, the absurdity of the scenarios, behavior, and dialogue that are displayed in the novel makes for both a stimulating and a damn entertaining read.

Since I have to take on a considerable commute every day, I ended up reading much of White Noise on the train. And whether DeLillo describes the protagonists as consciously unsure about how to react to an apocalyptic cloud of poisonous chemicals covering the sky above their head, or people who think they are going to die in a plane crash, reflecting on the calming effect of combining the word “crash” with “landing” instead of using just the first one, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and attract the annoyed looks of my co-travelers. And then, the only thing that came to my mind to explain my apparently inappropriate behaviour was to hold up the book and give them an embarrassed smile: “Had you read this, you would know what’s so funny.”

Obviously, I do not want to spoil too much of the novel, and quite frankly I also believe that nothing can explain why White Noise is so fantastic. You just have to see for yourself. Here’s a list of pros and cons to help you make up your mind. Be advised: I might have been slightly biased when putting together this list. (Protip: If the force is not strong with your eyes, you might wanna click the image to see a larger version.)

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6 responses to “Raph Recommends: White Noise

  1. Yay! It’s nice to read this from (apparently) a fellow white noise-fan. It’s really one of my favouritest-est novels of all time. I’ve read it three times so far, ever since we had to read it in Tobias Weber’s Textual Analysis course in the first year at the ES – and I still spot new things everytime I have a look at it. Very recommendable; I endorse everything which is said in the “Read it!” column 😉

    • You know what’s funny is that I was actually in that class, too. But back then, I kind of didn’t realize we were going to do DeLillo until I no longer had time to get and read it for the seminar. So I just kind of didn’t.

  2. Oh I noticed there is a book called Mao II by him. I guess a must-read for someone doing English/Chinese studies.

    • The good thing about great literature is: there is no pressure. It doesn’t matter what it is that you study, there will never be a need to read ONE particular book. I, for example, have never read anything by Austen. And as you may have noticed, I get by just fine 😀 I simply recommend Mao II just as I recommend White Noise. Although I have to say, Mao II gets even more abstract and weird. I wrote a paper on it arguing that instead of a traditional story of events, the characters are what constitutes the plot of that novel. Which is kind of making the book a tiring read at first. The charm is in rereading Mao II. And what’s funny about it: I never managed to read the last 50 pages of that book. One of the reasons is that the novel is such a mind-fuck to me that I just cannot keep reading on at some point.

  3. Pingback: Raph Recommends: Sonnet 130 | The Zurich English Student

  4. Pingback: Raph al Guul: A Year of DeLillo | The Zurich English Student

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