For reasons I am still trying to wrap my head around, Don DeLillo’s White Noise moved me more than any book I had read in quite some time. Not in an altogether good way, or bad way. I found it both pleasant and intensely disturbing. It was familiar and horrifying, and thus both comforting and startling. I liked it. It was something to experience.
In that state, I was eager to get my hands on more of the same. The next DeLillo I came across was Cosmopolis. Egads, what a twisted little number that was.
I think one of the things I like most (and others, I gather hate most (more to follow)) about DeLillo’s writing is that he makes these knowing (pithy?) comments throughout the work. It’s not a character saying them, and it doesn’t necessarily fit into the story, but it’s just there. To the extent it rings true, I don’t mind the occasional aside, like for example his statement on p. 55 of the hardcover version where he states:
Mirrors and images. Or sex and love. These are two separate systems that we miserably try to link.
True? Maybe, maybe not. Integral to that part of the story? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Thought provoking? I think so.
Should I be disturbed that I connect with such a mind? I’m not, but should I be? I recognize a not completely unpleasant familiarity in lines like: “I make mind speeches all the time. So do you, only not always. I do it all the time, long speeches to someone I can never identify.” p. 57. I don’t care if that makes sense.
His book also touches on this idea I keep seeing more and more in contemporary literature/film/art, regarding death, and how people in the future will not die, their consciousness will simply be converted/downloaded into some data/computer format, and will continue in perpetuity. I don’t know if this is comforting or not. It’s like the vampire/living forever question. Is that better? Is part of what makes life meaningful its finite scope?
In an unrelated note, apropos of nothing, but probably also worth mentioning, Cosmopolis is highly sexualized. Highly. And I can’t say I completely understand why, nor could I see its role in the story. The book contains the hands down strangest “sex” scene I have ever encountered in any book anywhere. Hands down. Weird. Proceed with caution.
Speaking of DeLillo with a friend recently, he quoted literary critic James Wood, who of DeLillo’s Underworld said something to the effect of: “a bunch of paranoia and detritus makes for interesting reading, but that’s all it is–bits of information. It doesn’t create a whole story.” Do with that what you will.
I like DeLillo. A little paranoia and detritus never hurt anyone. He makes me think, and I value that in a writer above just about anything else. Were I to read him all the time, and nothing but, I’d probably lose what’s left of my mind, sooner rather than later. White Noise I found more moving and relevant, but Cosmopolis too was an enjoyable, thoughtful experience. I understand it has been adapted to film, featuring my doppelganger Robert Pattinson. I would be interested to see how they handle certain elements.
Any other DeLillo fans out there? Do tell.