Don DeLillo's White Noise

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Don DeLillo's White Noise WHITE NOISE is probably Don DeLillo's most popular novel, largely because most readers see it as DeLillo's warmest and most human book. In this story, the ideas that seem to captivate DeLillo are fleshed out in real life in a way that none of his other books quite achieves. Of course, there are a few stubborn souls (like me) who still feel THE NAMES, or one of his other books is better. But I think everyone agrees, WHITE NOISE is a winner. It won DeLillo the National Book Award in 1985, and it also won a larger reading audience for a great American writer. DeLillo has said that Ernest Becker's THE DENIAL OF DEATH was a book that influenced him at the time he wrote WHITE NOISE. There's certainly no denying that death, and the many things we do to avoid facing it, is a major focus of DeLillo's novel. Becker's book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1974, has as it's thesis the assertion that "the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity---activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man." Becker's point is that this is *the* driving force in the human psyche today...which I think is overstating the matter a bit...but it certainly is a reality that all of us face in some way, sooner or later. As I looked through Becker's book last month, I was surprised to discover that it's actually an exposition of the work of Otto Rank. Rank was the third of the three famous defectors from Freud's inner psychoanalytic circle early this century (the others being Alder and Jung), and he's known in the literary world to a certain extent because of his intimate involvement with Anais Nin. Like Jung, Rank developed a psychology of mythology and religion...and, in particular, Rank's emphasis was "The Hero" motif. This is what Jung called "the puer aeternus" (or the female "puella")---the eternal youth...who never ages...who never whom death is nothing. In psychology, this idea is linked closely with that of narcissism, which is considered prevalent in society today. Just look at all the things we do to avoid the appearance of aging! Jack Gladney is, at best, an unlikely Hero, I think.

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