Don DeLillo

{EN} White Noise – Don DeLillo

1. “All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorist plots, lovers’ plots, narrative plots, plots that are part of children’s games. We edge nearer death every time we plot. It is like a contract that all must sign, the plotters as well as those who are the targets of the plot.” Is this true? Why did I say it? What does it mean?

2. The German tongue. Fleshy, warped, spit-spraying, purplish and cruel. One eventually had to confront it.

3. “Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material. But it is psychic data, absolutely. The large doors slide open, they close unbidden. Energy waves, incident radiation. All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability.

4.”Tibetans try to see death for what it is. It is the end of attachment to things. This simple truth is hard to fathom. But once we stop denying death, we can proceed calmly to die and then go on to experience uterine rebirth or Judeo-Christian afterlife or out-of-body experience or a trip on a UFO or whatever we wish to call it.

5. “There’s something about German names, the German language, German things. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s just there. In the middle of it all is Hitler, of course.”

6. That night, a Friday, we gathered in front of the set, as was the custom and the rule, with take-out Chinese. There were flopds, earthquakes, mud slides, erupting volcanoes. We’d never before been so attentive to our duty, our Friday assembly. Heinrich was not sullen, I was not bored. (…) We were otherwise silent, watching houses slide into the ocean, whole villages crackle and ignite in a mass of advancing lava. Every disaster made us wish for more, for something bigger, grander, more sweeping. (…) “Why is it, Alfonse, that decent, well-meaning and responsible people find themselves intrigued by catastrophe when they see it on television?” (…)”Because we’re suffering from brain fade. We need an occasional catastrophe to break up the incessant bombardment of information.” (…) “The flow is constant,” Alfonse said. “Words, pictures, numbers, facts, graphics, statistics, specks, waves, particles, motes. Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we need them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, earthquakes, mass killings, et cetera. We can relax and enjoy these disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.”(…) Japan is pretty good for disaster footage,” Alfonse said. ” India remains largely untapped. They have tremendous potential with their famines, monsoons, religious strife, train wrecks, boat sinkings, et cetera. But their disasters tend to go unrecorded. Three lines in the newspaper. No film footage, no satellite hookup. This is why California is so important. We not only enjoy seeing them punished for their relaxed life-style and progressive social ideas but we know we’re not missing anything. The cameras are right there. They’re standing by. Nothing terrible escapes their scrutiny.”

7. “For most people there are only two places in the world. Where they live and their TV set. If a thing happens on television, we have every right to find it fascinating, whatever it is.” (…) Murray said, “This is what comes from the wrong kind of attentiveness. People get brain fade. This is because they’ve forgotten how to listen and look as children. They’ve forgotten how to collect data. In the psychic sense a forest fire on TV is on a lower plane than a ten-second spot for Automatic Dishwasher All. The commercial has deeper waves, deeper emanations. But we have reversed the relative significance of these things. This is why people’s eyes, ears, brains and nervous systems have grown weary. It’s a simple case of misuse.”

8. Crowds came to form a shield against their own dying. To become a crowd is to keep out death. To break off from the crowd is to risk death as an individual, to face dying alone. Crowds came for this reason above all others. They were there to be a crowd.”

9. Heat, noise, lights, looks, words, gestures, personalities, appliances. A colloquial density that makes family life the one medium of sense knowledge in which an astonishment of heart is routinely contained.

10. It seems that danger assigns to public voices the responsibility of a rhythm, as if in metrical units there is a coherence we can use to balance whatever senseless and furious event is about to come rushing around our heads.

11. What people in an exodus fear most immediately is that those in positions of authority will long since have fled, leaving us in charge of our own chaos.

12. It is surely possible to be awed by the thing that threatens your life, to see it as a cosmic force, so much larger than yourself, more powerful, created by elemental and willful rhythms.

13. We think we’re so great and modern. Moon landings, artificial hearts. But what if you were hurled into a time warp and came face to face with the ancient Greeks. The Greeks invented trigonometry. They did autopsies and dissections. What could you tell an ancient Greek that he couldn’t say, ‘Big deal.’ Could you tell him about the atom? Atom is a Greek word. The Greeks knew that the major events in the universe can’t be seen by the eye of man. It’s waves, it’s rays, it’s particles.”

14. ‘That little breath of Nyodene has planted a death in my body. It is now official, according to the computer. I’ve got death inside me. It’s just a question of whether or not I can outlive it. It has a life span of its own. Thirty years. Even if it doesn’t kill me in a direct way, it will probably outlive me in my own body. I could die in a plane crash and the Nyodene D. would be thriving as my remains were laid to rest.”

15. ‘This is the nature of modern death,” Murray said. “It has a life independent of us. It is growing in prestige and dimension. It has a sweep it never had before. We study it objectively. We can predict its appearance, trace its path in the body. We can take cross-section pictures of it, tape its tremors and waves. We’ve never been so close to it, so familiar with its habits and attitudes. We know it intimately. But it continues to grow, to acquire breadth and scope, new outlets, new passages and means. The more we learn, the more it grows. Is this some law of physics? Every advance in knowledge and technique is matched by a new kind of death, new strain. Death adapts, like a viral agent.

16. The world is full of abandoned meanings.

17. “What if death is nothing but sound?”
“Electrical noise.”
“You hear it forever. Sound all around. How awful.”
“Uniform, white.”

18. I think it’s a mistake to lose one’s sense of death, even one’s fear of death. Isn’t death the boundary we need? Doesn’t it give a precious texture to life, a sense of definition? You have to ask yourself whether anything you do in this life would have beauty and meaning without the knowledge you carry of a final line, a border or limit.”

19. Routine things can be deadly, Vern, carried to extremes. I have a friend who says that’s why people take vacations. Not to relax or find excitement or see new places. To escape the death that exists in routine things.”

20. “A person spends his life saying good-bye to other people. How does he say good-bye to himself?”

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