Still basking in the glow of the fabulous reception for yesterday’s speech, I’ve returned to reading for the “American Voice” panel at the Mark Twain House in September. Next up on David Bowie’s Top 100 list was White Noise by Don DeLillo. I recognized the name but knew nothing about him or his writing. It was embarrassing to discover that the 1985 publication won the National Book Award.
I decided not to read any more of the book jacket and was rewarded with an amusing, sometimes laugh out loud, work. White Noise is told from the viewpoint Jack Gladney, the jaded chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the midwestern College-on-the-Hill. He does not speak German. He does develop a friendship of sorts with a visiting professor in the popular culture department, though I foresee an affair between Murray Siskind and Jack’s fourth wife.
Here’s Jack’s description of Murray’s department: “The [teaching staff is] 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 childhood—an Aristotelianism of bubble gum wrappers and detergent jingles.” A great combination of grad speak and pop cult! The chairman is Alfonse (Fast Food) Stompanato. Sounds like he should be a mob enforcer instead of an academic.
When Jack and Murray first speak, the latter is searching for a subject that he can “create, nurture, and make his own” as Jack did with Hitler. Murray settles on … Elvis. Let the hilarity continue.