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Don DeLillo: White Noise

Jack Gladney is the chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill, a small Midwestern liberal arts college. In fact, according to Gladney, he invented Hitler studies in North America. He is happily married to Babette (tall and fairly ample) and they have four children and step-children. And, like good DeLillo suburbanites they are here to avoid situations. But, of course, it is all packaged capitalism as signified by the MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA, surrounded by tourists. However, once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn. Everything moves along fairly smoothly till the Airborne Toxic Event, an accident from a nearby industrial plant which results in a cloud of gases being released into the air. They are evacuated from their town and can only return nine days later.

Strange things start happening. Babette seems to be involved in testing an experimental drug call Dylar. People keep seeing UFOs and, apparently, people are abducted and then thrown out of the UFO. The insane asylum burns down. What DeLillo is doing, of course, is showing us that death is like white noise – it’s there, it’s all around but all too often we fail to notice it till it’s too late. Safe in our suburban cocoons, we may think we are, but DeLillo, in his usually witty and astute way, points out that we are all doomed.

Publishing history

First published 1985 by Viking