When I read “modern” novels of the “literate” variety, I am often perplexed at the dissonance that occurs between what I am feeling as I read, and the blurbs and puffs and reviews I glance at as I pick the book up and put the book down. “Splendidly funny”? “Macabre comedy”? Apparently, “nobody could complain that” the “novel isn’t funny.” See me? I’m holding my hand up.
Apparently, it’s “social comedy meets science fiction”. I laughed until my jetpack fell off. In the sense that there’s a “disaster”, and there’s a newly-invented drug, and there’s some colourful sunsets caused by the “disaster” it is a kind of science fiction; SF-light that contains the sort of vague techno-jargon that appears to make non-science-fiction-reading reviewers weak at the knees.
Of course, it couldn’t be a contemporary American novel without exposing “the absurdities” of “American existence”, observing “small town culture”, and “examining the ways in which American culture alienates people”; and apparently White Noise duly does. Although all I found was a slightly wry look at extended familial relationships in an age of easy divorce and serial monogamy. Yes, there were some pokes at post-modern academic life with the protagonist’s Hitler Studies and his colleague’s ramblings about popular culture. However, the colleague, while an able foil, falls out of the book unnoticed, and the point of their dialogues, apart from the arch amusement they provide, is difficult to fathom.
In the end, the characters seem thinly drawn, and motivations seem lacking; this lack of motivation was particularly telling when it came to the denouement, I felt.
Nonetheless, I read the novel through to the end, and I might even read it again one day. There was enough wryness and archness to keep me vaguely amused. The writing style was interesting enough that I might consider other DeLillo novels in the future.