Monday, November 1, 2010

White Noise

Maybe you can't really appreciate DeLillo in high school. No, that's letting myself off too easily. There are surely a lot of precocious high school readers who dig DeLillo. Maybe it takes 3 or 4 authors to get to DeLillo from, say, Ralph Ellison, a favorite of mine, even at 17. Maybe you just have to give DeLillo a second try before you can ever appreciate DeLillo for the first time. Maybe you don't, but I do. I did. And this is my blog.

I read White Noise my senior year of high school and I hated it. Loathed it. Disliked it enough to use it as my go to reference in college in order to a) show that I was the kind of guy who had read DeLillo and b) show that I was the kind of guy who could dismiss him. I don't like some writer just because you and your literary buddies say he's a genius! I'm contrarian! But not because I don't understand!! Because there's nothing to understand!!!

I could be a tad unbearable in college. That said, I really did hate that White Noise book.

I've mellowed a bit since college, but DeLillo's name still comes up from time to time (I read a lot and work in a bookstore) and I always say something along the lines of "Yeah, I don't know what it is, I just can't stand that guy's writing. I'm not saying he's a bad writer, I just don't get it."

Then a combination of forces came together in such a way as to compel me to revisit DeLillo; specifically, White Noise. I've become quite the David Foster Wallace fan, and he was quite the DeLillo fan. I had a co-worker, whose tastes I respect quite a bit, talk about how much they enjoy DeLillo's work. And I had a conversation with two co-workers and a customer about books we were required to read in high school that we revisited later in life and found out we enjoyed. While White Noise was never required reading, I decided to give it a go.

I loved it. Really, truly loved this book. It was funny and sad and weird in all the ways I like fiction to be. I love the dialogue, the plot, the characters, and the dialogue. Seriously, I love the dialogue.

White Noise gets dismissed by some as a rather obvious and heavy-handed take on consumer America, but I thought it was obvious when it needed to be and subtle when it didn't. It's somehow world weary and winsome and once, which is much of what I love about Wallace and much of what, I imagine, Wallace loved about DeLillo.

I cannot wait to read more of DeLillo's work and am taking suggestions from those who are fans. Let me know where's the next place you'd go.

But, mostly, I am writing to remind myself, and you as well, to give a "bad book" (or album or movie or some such) a second chance. You may discover a new favorite you would have missed.

That said, I've given Gravity's Rainbow and Ulysees their fair share of chances, and I just hate those books.

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