Search This Blog

Thursday, December 18, 2008

White Noise

I never posted anything about the Mumbai attacks, but was struck when I recently read the following exchange in Don DeLillo's White Noise.

The first speaker is Alfonse Stompanato, chair of the department of American environments at the College-on-the-Hill:
"Japan is pretty good for disaster footage," Alfonse said. "India remains largely untapped. They have tremendous potential with their famines, monsoons, religious strife, train wrecks, boat sinkings, et cetera. But their disasters tend to go unrecorded. Three lines in the newspaper. No film footage, no satellite hookup. This is why California is so important. We not only enjoy seeing them punished for their relaxed life-style and progressive social ideas but we know we're not missing anything. The cameras are right there. They're standing by. Nothing terrible escapes their scrutiny."

"You're saying it's more or less universal, to be fascinated by TV disasters."

"For most people there are only two places in the world. Where they live and their TV set. If a thing happens on television, we have every right to find it fascinating, whatever it is."

"I don't know whether to feel good or bad about learning that my experience is widely shared."

"Feel bad," he said.
When White Noise was published in 1985, it was considered prescient for discussing an "airborne toxic event" that anticipated India's Bhopal tragedy.

And, of course, the critique of television and popular culture is clear.

In an age of globalization, cell phones, and digital video, India is no longer an untapped source of world news.

Another interesting passage has been noted by other bloggers and scholars since the 9/11 attacks:
“Members of an air-crash cult will hijack a jumbo jet and crash it into the White House in an act of blind devotion to their mysterious and reclusive leader, known only as Uncle Bob”
Those words appear in a supermarket tabloid, which a main character reads aloud to a group of blind people.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say by quoting these passages, but Ed Cone's reaction to the book seems fair:
Kept checking to make sure it was really published 22 years ago, because (but for the absence of details like the internet and mobile phones and "reality" television) it felt like it was written yesterday, which is pretty remarkable for a book keyed to popular culture.
DeLillo's book won the National Book Award for fiction in 1985.

Soon, I'll be posting a list of all the books I read during 2008.

Visit this blog's homepage.

No comments:

Post a Comment