Jack Gladney teaches Hitler studies at a liberal arts college in Middle America where his colleagues include New York expatriates who want to immerse themselves in “American magic and dread.” Jack and his fourth wife, Babette, bound by love, fear of death, and four ultramodern offspring, navigate the usual rocky passages of family life to the background babble of brand-name consumerism.
Then a lethal black cloud floats over their lives, an airborne “toxic event,” an industrial accident. The menacing cloud is a more urgent and visible version of the “white noise” engulfing the Gladney family—radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, ultrasonic appliances, and TV murmurings—pulsing with life, yet filled with dread and danger.
“A stunning performance from one of our most intelligent novelists…also, tremendously funny.” (The New Republic)
Better than any book I can think of, White Noise captures the particular strangeness of life in a time where humankind has finally learned enough to kill itself. Naturally, it’s a terribly funny book, and the prose is as beautiful as a sunset through a particulate-filled sky. Nice-guy narrator Jack Gladney teaches Hitler Studies at a small college. His wife may be taking a drug that removes fear, and one day a nearby chemical plant accidentally releases a cloud of gas that may be poisonous. Writing before Bhopal and Prozac entered the popular lexicon, DeLillo produced a work so closely tuned into its time that it tells the future.