White Noise by Don DeLillo is doublepluspostmodern, and not in a good way.
The whole book is about this dude, Jack (why are 75% of all protagonists named Jack?) who's an annoying college professor, insufferable poser, babydaddy, and a guy who generally has too much time on his hands to ponder... wait for it... DEATH.
(DEATH is like so scary, that's why we have to write it in BIG LETTERS.)
Now, DEATH is hardly an overwritten subject, especially in postmodernism's heyday, right? But DeLillo brings it to a whole new level of Oh My God, My Eyes Are Bleeding badness. Basically, good ol' Jack can't stop thinking about DEATH because it's the only thing that freaks him out in his comfy consumer culture.
Poor Jack, DEATH upsets him. Don't you feel sorry for him and can totally relate to his character? No? You'd rather just chuck a portable DVD player at his head? Wow, me too! We should hang out.
DeLillo's description of the overly media-saturated world was probably a big whoop in the eighties, but writing "Leaded, Unleaded, Superleaded" in the middle of a love scene between Jack and his legwarmer-clad wife strikes me as less deep and meaningful and more 'I need three more words for this chapter or my publisher will yell at me again.'
I'm pretty sure that this book got on the Honours reading list, and into academic acclaim in general, through a very clever the-king-has-no-clothes approach: the individual fakes awe and a deep understanding of the book because that's what the collective is expressing. Nobody wants to be the idiot who says he didn't get it.
And after three hundred or so pages of Jack whingeing about DEATH, I was sincerely hoping he'd fall into a giant meat grinder and... wait for it... DIE! But the freakin' dude just keeps on trucking. Yes, it's postmodern. It's also a shitty ending.
The only good thing about this book is that (despite that fact that I found it really, really lame) I get it, so I'm going to write an essay on it this week and not have any more American Lit work until the exams.
Next week we're starting on Black Boy, by Richard Wright. I'll probably write more about it once I've finished it, but let me say now that it's fantastic. One of the best books I've ever read; I can't wait for classes to start so I can gush about it to a begrudging audience of eight.
The only thing is that it's pretty depressing, and brings me to tears almost as much as the first season of Glee. I don't know why I start crying when perfectly good-sounding people break into show tunes. Maybe because it makes me ponder the ceaseless void of DEATH.