Posts Tagged ‘don delillo’

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White Noise Part II

January 6, 2010

I took a very long time to finish it, but I knew I couldn’t return this book to the library unfinished, like I’ve done for so many others. Here are a few other excerpts that I thought were utterly unique and well put together and beautiful, although my overall impression of the book otherwise. It was strange and sometimes surreal, children can’t be that informed about the inner workings of life and their parent’s lives. It was still a riveting read and I recommend you read these excerpts if not the entire book. The second one in particular I could imagine as a scene in an indie, ground-breaking (for lack of better word) film. Just as background, the narrator is the dad of the children and Babette is his wife.
Excerpt #48:
“Any episodes of déjà vu in your group?”
“Wife and daughter,” I said.
“There’s a theory about déjà vu.”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“Why do we think these things happened before? Simple. They did happen before, in our minds, as visions of the future. Because these are precognitions, we can’t fit the material into our system of consciousness as it is now structured. This is basically supernatural stuff. We’re seeing into the future but haven’t learned how to process the experience. So it stays hidden until the precognition comes true, until we come face to face with the event. Now we are free to remember it, to experience it as familiar material.”
“Why are so many people having these episodes now?”
“Because death is in the air,” he said gently. “It is liberating suppressed material. It is getting us closer to things we haven’t learned about ourselves. Most of us have probably seen our own death but haven’t known how to make the material surface. Maybe when we die, the first thing we’ll say is, ‘I know this feeling. I was here before.'” (151)

Excerpt #49:
No one wanted to cook that night. We all got in the car and went out to the commercial strip in the no man’s land beyond the town boundary. The never-ending neon. I pulled in at a place that specialized in chicken parts and brownies. We decided to eat in the car. The car was sufficient for our needs. We wanted to eat, not look around at other people. We wanted to fill our stomachs and get it over with. We didn’t need light and space, We certainly didn’t need to face each other across a table as we ate, building a subtle and complex cross-network of signals and codes. We were content to eat facing in the same direction, looking only inches past our hands. There was a kind of rigor in this. Denise brought the food out to the car and distributed paper napkins. We settled in to eat. We ate fully dressed, in hats and heavy coats, without speaking, ripping into chicken parts with our hands and teeth. There was a mood of intense concentration, minds converging on a single compelling idea. I was surprised to find I was enormously hungry. I chewed and ate, looking only inches past my hands. This is how hunger shrinks the world. This is the edge of the observable universe of food. Steffie tore off the crisp skin of a breast and gave it to Heinrich. She never ate the skin. Babette sucked a bone. Heinrich traded wings with Denise, a large for a small. He thought small wings were tastier. People gave Babette their bones to clean and suck. I fought off an image of Mr. Gray lazing naked on a motel bed, an unresolved picture collapsing at the edges. We sent Denise to get more food, waiting for her in silence. Then we started in again, half stunned by the dimensions of our pleasure. (231-232)

A different cover...for variety.


Excerpt #50:
We go to the overpass all the time. Babette, Wilder, and I. We take a thermos of iced tea, park the car, watch the setting sun. Clouds are no deterrent. Clouds intensify the drama, trap and shape the light. Heavy overcasts have little effect. Light bursts through, tracers and smoky arcs. Overcasts enhance the mood. We find little to say to each other. More cars arrive, parking in a line that extends down to the residential zone. People walk up the incline and onto the overpass, carrying fruit and nuts, cool drinks, mainly the middle-aged, the elderly, some with webbed beach chairs which they set out on the sidewalk, but younger couples also, arm in arm at the rail, looking west. The sky takes on content, feeling, an exalted narrative life. The bands of color reach so high, seem at times to separate into their constituent parts. There are turreted skies, light storms, softly falling streamers. It is hard to know how to feel about this.Some people are scared by the sunsets, some determined to be elated, but most of us don’t know how to feel, are ready to go either way. Rain is no deterrent. Rain brings on graded displays, wonderful running hues. More cars arrive, people come trudging up the incline, The spirit of these warm evenings is hard to describe. There is anticipation in the air but it is not the expectant midsummer hum of a shirtsleeve crowd, a sandlot game, with coherent precedents, a history of secure response. This waiting is introverted, uneven, almost backward and shy, tending toward silence. What else do we feel? Certainly there is awe, it is all awe, it transcends previous categories of awe, but we don’t know whether we are watching in wonder or dread, we don’t know what we are watching or what it means, we don’t know whether it is permanent, a level of experience to which we will gradually adjust, into which our uncertainty will eventually be absorbed, or just some atmospheric weirdness, soon to pass. The collapsible chairs are yanked open, the old people sit. What is there to say? The sunsets linger and so do we. The sky is under a spell, powerful and storied. Now and then a car actually crosses the overpass, moving slowly, deferentially. People keep coming up the incline, some in wheelchairs, twisted by disease, those who attend them bending low to push against the grade. I didn’t know how many handicapped and helpless people there were in town until the warm nights brought crowds to the overpass. Cars speed beneath us, coming from the west, from out of the towering light, and we watch them as if for a sign, as if they carry on their painted surfaces some residue of the sunset, a barely detectable luster or film of telltale dust. No one plays a radio or speaks in a voice that is much above a whisper. Something golden falls, a softness delivered to the air. There are people walking dogs, there are kids on bikes, a man with a camera and long lens, waiting for his moment. It is not until some time after dark has fallen, the insects screaming in the heat, that we slowly begin to disperse, shyly, politely, car after car, restored to our separate and defensible selves. (325)

-White Noise by Don Delillo

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Free Reading

November 21, 2009

Yes, I make time for it in college. I have learned the complicated system of the library’s numerical code for each book – no idea what it means, and it takes entire minutes to find one book, but it’s worth it. For example, the code of this book is: PS 3554 E4425 W48 and the words inside are beautiful. However, the cover is not. My cover of this book is completely black.

Excerpt #43:
“Where are you living, Murray?”
“In a rooming house. I’m totally captivated and intrigued. It’s a gorgeous old crumbling house near the insane asylum. Seven or eight boarders, more or less permanent except for me. A woman who harbors a terrible secret. A man with a haunted look. A man who never comes out of his room. A woman who stands by the letter box for hours, waiting for something that never seems to arrive. A man with no past. A woman with a past. There is a smell about the place of unhappy lives in the movies that I really respond to.” (10)

I wish I had this cover...for purely superficial reasons.


Excerpt #44:
“Babette and I tell each other everything. I have told everything, such as it was at the time, to each of my wives. There is more to tell, of course, as marriages accumulate. But when I say I believe in complete disclosure I don’t mean it cheaply, as anecdotal sport or shallow revelation. It is a form of self-renewal and a gesture of custodial trust. Love helps us develop an identity secure enough to allow itself to be placed in another’s care and protection. Babette and I have turned our lives for each other’s thoughtful regard, turned them in the moonlight in our pale hands, spoken deep into the night about fathers and mothers, childhood, friendships, awakenings, old loves, old fears (except fear of death). No detail must be left out, not even a dog with ticks or a neighbor’s boy who ate an insect on a dare. The smell of pantries, the sense of empty afternoons, the feel of things as they rained across our skin, things as facts and passions, the feel of pain, loss, disappointment, breathless delight. In these night recitations we create a space between things as we felt them at the time and as we speak them now .This is the space reserved for irony, sympathy and fond amusement, the means by which we rescue ourselves from the past. (29-30)

Excerpt #45
He looked at me, still smiling in a half sneaky way.
“You have to learn how to look. You have to open yourself to the data. TV offers incredible amounts of psychic data. It opens ancient memories of world birth, it welcomes us into the grid, the network of little buzzing dots that make up the picture pattern. There is light, there is sound. I ask my students, ‘What more do you want?’ Look at the wealth of data concealed in the grid, in the bright packaging, the jingles, the slice-of-life commercials, the products hurtling out of darkness, the coded messages and endless repetitions, like chants, like mantras. ‘Coke is it, Coke is it, Coke is it.’ The medium practically overflows with sacred formulas if we can remember how to respond innocently and get passed our irritation, weariness and disgust.”
“But your students don’t agree.”
“Worse than junk mail. Television is the death throes of human consciousness, according to them. They’re ashamed of their television past. They want to talk about movies.”
He got up and refilled our cups.
“How do you know so much?” Babette said.
“I’m from New York.” (51)

Excerpt #46:
“Either I’m taking something and I don’t remember or I’m not taking something and I don’t remember. M life is either/or. Either I chew regular gum or I chew sugarless gum. Either I chew gum or I smoke. Either I smoke or I gain weight. Either I gain weight or I run up the stadium steps.”
“Sounds like a boring life.”
“I hope it lasts forever,” she said.
Soon the streets were covered with leaves. Leaves came tumbling and scraping down the pitched roofs. There were periods in every day when a stiff wind blew, baring the trees further, and retired men appeared in the backyards, on the small lawns out front, carrying rakes with curved teeth. Black bags were arrayed at the curbstone in lopsided rows.
A series of frightened children appeared at our door for their Halloween treats. (53)

Excerpt #47:
I went to German lessons twice a week, in the late afternoon, darkness crowding in earlier with each succeeding visit. It was Howard Dunlop’s working rule that we sit facing each other during the full length of the lesson. He wanted me to study his tongue positions as he demonstrated the pronunciation of consonants, diphthongs, long and short vowels. He in turn would look closely into my mouth as I attempted to reproduce the unhappy sounds.
His was a mild and quiet face, an oval surface with no hint of distinctiveness until he started his vocal routines. Then the warping began. It was an eerie thing to see, shamefully fascinating, as a seizure might be if witnessed in a controlled environment. He tucked his head in his trunk, narrowed his eyes, made grimacing humanoid faces. When it was time for me to repeat the noises I did likewise, if only to please the teacher, twisting my mouth, shutting my eyes completely, conscious of an overarticulation so tortured it must have sounded like a sudden bending of the natural law, a stone or tree struggling to speak. When I opened my eyes he was only inches from my mouth, leaning in to peer. I used to wonder what he saw in there. (54)