Winner of the National Book Award in 1985, White Noise is the story of Jack and Babette and their children from their six or so various marriages. They live in a college town where Jack is Professor of Hitler Studies (and conceals the fact that he does not speak a word of German), and Babette teaches posture and volunteers by reading from the tabloids to a group of elderly shut-ins. They are happy enough until a deadly toxic accident and Babette's addiction to an experimental drug make Jake question everything.White Noise is considered a postmodern classic and its unfolding of themes of consumerism, family and divorce, and technology as a deadly threat have attracted the attention of literary scholars since its publication. This Viking Critical Library edition, prepared by scholar Mark Osteen, is the only edition of White Noise that contains the entire text along with an extensive critical apparatus, including a critical introduction, selected essays on the author, the work and its themes, reviews, a chronology of DeLillo's life and work, a list of discussion topics, and a selected bibliography.
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Don DeLillo published his first short story when he was twenty-three years old. He has since written twelve novels, including White Noise (1985) which won the National Book Award. It was followed by Libra (1988), his novel about the assassination of President Kennedy, and by Mao II, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
In 1997, he published the bestselling Underworld, and in 1999 he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize, given to a writer whose work expresses the theme of the freedom of the individual in society; he was the first American author to receive it. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Table of Contents
I - Waves and Radiation
II - The Airborne Toxic Event
III - Dylarama
FOR THE BEST IN PAPERBACKS, LOOK FOR THE
FOR THE BEST IN PAPERBACKS, LOOK FOR THE
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First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin Inc. 1985
Published in Penguin Books 1986
This edition published in Penguin Books 1999
Copyright © Don DeLillo, 1984, 1985 All rights reserved
A portion of this book appeared originally in Vanity Fair.
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To Sue Buck and to Lois Wallace
Waves and Radiation
THE STATION WAGONS arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags—onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.
I’ve witnessed this spectacle every September for twenty-one years. It is a brilliant event, invariably. The students greet each other with comic cries and gestures of sodden collapse. Their summer has been bloated with criminal pleasures, as always. The parents stand sun-dazed near their automobiles, seeing images of themselves in every direction. The conscientious suntans. The well-made faces and wry looks. They feel a sense of renewal, of communal recognition. The women crisp and alert, in diet trim, knowing people’s names. Their husbands content to measure out the time, distant but ungrudging, accomplished in parenthood, something about them suggesting massive insurance coverage. This assembly of station wagons, as much as anything they might do in the course of the year, more than formal liturgies or laws, tells the parents they are a collection of the like-minded and the spiritually akin, a people, a nation.
I left my office and walked down the hill and into town. There are houses in town with turrets and two-story porches where people sit in the shade of ancient maples. There are Greek revival and Gothic churches. There is an insane asylum with an elongated portico, ornamented dormers and a steeply pitched roof topped by a pineapple finial. Babette and I and our children by previous marriages live at the end of a quiet street in what was once a wooded area with deep ravines. There is an expressway beyond the backyard now, well below us, and at night as we settle into our brass bed the sparse traffic washes past, a remote and steady murmur around our sleep, as of dead souls babbling at the edge of a dream.
I am chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill. I invented Hitler studies in North America in March of 1968. It was a cold bright day with intermittent winds out of the east. When I suggested to the chancellor that we might build a whole department around Hitler’s life and work, he was quick to see the possibilities. It was an immediate and electrifying success. The chancellor went on to serve as adviser to Nixon, Ford and Carter before his death on a ski lift in Austria.
At Fourth and Elm, cars turn left for the supermarket. A policewoman crouched inside a boxlike vehicle patrols the area looking for cars parked illegally, for meter violations, lapsed inspection stickers. On telephone poles all over town there are homemade signs concerning lost dogs and cats, sometimes in the handwriting of a child.
BABETTE IS TALL and fairly ample; there is a girth and heft to her. Her hair is a fanatical blond mop, a particular tawny hue that used to be called dirty blond. If she were a petite woman, the hair would be too cute, too mischievous and contrived. Size gives her tousled aspect a certain seriousness. Ample women do not plan such things. They lack the guile for conspiracies of the body.
“You should have been there,” I said to her.
“It’s the day of the station wagons.”
“Did I miss it again? You’re supposed to remind me.”
“They stretched all the way down past the music library and onto the interstate. Blue, green, burgundy, brown. They gleamed in the sun like a desert caravan.”
“You know I need reminding, Jack.”
Babette, disheveled, has the careless dignity of someone too preoccupied with serious matters to know or care what she looks like. Not that she is a gift-bearer of great things as the world generally reckons them. She gathers and tends the children, teaches a course in an adult education program, belongs to a group of volunteers who read to the blind. Once a week she reads to an elderly man named Treadwell who lives on the edge of town. He is known as Old Man Treadwell, as if he were a landmark, a rock formation or brooding swamp. She reads to him from the National Enquirer, the National Examiner, the National Express, the Globe, the World, the Star. The old fellow demands his weekly dose of cult mysteries. Why deny him? The point is that Babette, whatever she is doing, makes me feel sweetly rewarded, bound up with a full-souled woman, a lover of daylight and dense life, the miscellaneous swarming air of families. I watch her all the time doing things in measured sequence, skillfully, with seeming ease, unlike my former wives, who had a tendency to feel estranged from the objective world—a self-absorbed and high-strung bunch, with ties to the intelligence community.
“It’s not the station wagons I wanted to see. What are the people like? Do the women wear plaid skirts, cable-knit sweaters? Are the men in hacking jackets? What’s a hacking jacket?”
“They’ve grown comfortable with their money,” I said. “They genuinely believe they’re entitled to it. This conviction gives them a kind of rude health. They glow a little.”
“I have trouble imagining death at that income level,” she said.
“Maybe there is no death as we know it. Just documents changing hands.”
“Not that we don’t have a station wagon ourselves.”
“It’s small, it’s metallic gray, it has one whole rusted door.”
“Where is Wilder?” she said, routinely panic-stricken, calling out to the child, one of hers, sitting motionless on his tricycle in the backyard.
Babette and I do our talking in the kitchen. The kitchen and the bedroom are the major chambers around here, the power haunts, the sources. She and I are alike in this, that we regard the rest of the house as storage space for furniture, toys, all the unused objects of earlier marriages and different sets of children, the gifts of lost in-laws, the hand-me-downs and rummages. Things, boxes. Why do these possessions carry such sorrowful weight? There is a darkness attached to them, a foreboding. They make me wary not of personal failure and defeat but of something more general, something large in scope and content.
She came in with Wilder and seated him on the kitchen counter. Denise and Steffie came downstairs and we talked about the school supplies they would need. Soon it was time for lunch. We entered a period of chaos and noise. We milled about, bickered a little, dropped utensils. Finally we were all satisfied with what we’d been able to snatch from the cupboards and refrigerator or swipe from each other and we began quietly plastering mustard or mayonnaise on our brightly colored food. The mood was one of deadly serious anticipation, a reward hard-won. The table was crowded and Babette and Denise elbowed each other twice, although neither spoke. Wilder was still seated on the counter surrounded by open cartons, crumpled tin-foil, shiny bags of potato chips, bowls of pasty substances covered with plastic wrap, flip-top rings and twist ties, individually wrapped slices of orange cheese. Heinrich came in, studied the scene carefully, my only son, then walked out the back door and disappeared.
“This isn’t the lunch I’d planned for myself,” Babette said. “I was seriously thinking yogurt and wheat germ.”
“Where have we heard that before?” Denise said.
“Probably right here,” Steffie said.
“She keeps buying that stuff.”
“But she never eats it,” Steffie said.
“Because she thinks if she keeps buying it, she’ll have to eat it just to get rid of it. It’s like she’s trying to trick herself.”
“It takes up half the kitchen.”
“But she throws it away before she eats it because it goes bad,” Denise said. “So then she starts the whole thing all over again.”
“Wherever you look,” Steffie said, “there it is.”
“She feels guilty if she doesn’t buy it, she feels guilty if she buys it and doesn’t eat it, she feels guilty when she sees it in the fridge, she feels guilty when she throws it away.”
“It’s like she smokes but she doesn’t,” Steffie said.
Denise was eleven, a hard-nosed kid. She led a more or less daily protest against those of her mother’s habits that struck her as wasteful or dangerous. I defended Babette. I told her I was the one who needed to show discipline in matters of diet. I reminded her how much I liked the way she looked. I suggested there was an honesty inherent in bulkiness if it is just the right amount. People trust a certain amount of bulk in others.
But she was not happy with her hips and thighs, walked at a rapid clip, ran up the stadium steps at the neoclassical high school. She said I made virtues of her flaws because it was my nature to shelter loved ones from the truth. Something lurked inside the truth, she said.
The smoke alarm went off in the hallway upstairs, either to let us know the battery had just died or because the house was on fire. We finished our lunch in silence.
DEPARTMENT HEADS wear academic robes at the College-on-the-Hill. Not grand sweeping full-length affairs but sleeveless tunics puckered at the shoulders. I like the idea. I like clearing my arm from the folds of the garment to look at my watch. The simple act of checking the time is transformed by this flourish. Decorative gestures add romance to a life. Idling students may see time itself as a complex embellishment, a romance of human consciousness, as they witness the chairman walking across campus, crook’d arm emerging from his medieval robe, the digital watch blinking in late summer dusk. The robe is black, of course, and goes with almost anything.
There is no Hitler building as such. We are quartered in Centenary Hall, a dark brick structure we share with the popular culture department, known officially as American environments. A curious group. The teaching staff is composed almost solely of New York emigres, smart, thuggish, movie-mad, trivia-crazed. They are here to decipher the natural language of the culture, to make a formal method of the shiny pleasures they’d known in their Europe-shadowed childhoods—an Aristotelianism of bubble gum wrappers and detergent jingles. The department head is Alfonse (Fast Food) Stompanato, a broad-chested glowering man whose collection of prewar soda pop bottles is on permanent display in an alcove. All his teachers are male, wear rumpled clothes, need haircuts, cough into their armpits. Together they look like teamster officials assembled to identify the body of a mutilated colleague. The impression is one of pervasive bitterness, suspicion and intrigue.
An exception to some of the above is Murray Jay Siskind, an ex-sportswriter who asked me to have lunch with him in the dining room, where the institutional odor of vaguely defined food aroused in me an obscure a...
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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 1998. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Winner of the National Book Award in 1985, Don DeLillo s novel about an ultramodern family bound by love and remarriage, shopping and television, is a postmodern masterpiece. The Viking Critical Library edition of White Noise contains the complete text of the novel along with extensive critical and contextual material including a critical introduction by DeLillo scholar Mark Osteen; published interviews with DeLillo on White Noise, including a Paris Review interview by Adam Begley; relevant excerpts from other works by DeLillo; reportage of current events from the time of publication; selected reviews of White Noise by Diane Johnson, Pico lyer, and others; critical essays on White Noise by Frank Lentricchia, Arthur M. Saltzman, Tom LeClair, Paul Maltby, and other scholars; a chronology of DeLillo s life and work, a list of topics for discussion and papers, and a bibliography. Codice libro della libreria BZV9780140274981
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