White Noise (novel)

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search

White Noise is the eighth novel by Don DeLillo, and is an example of postmodern literature. Widely considered his "breakout" work, the book won the National Book Award in 1985.


  • “Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.” – Alfonse


  • “I love Omar, Jack. We all know about men and their insane rage. This is something men are very good at. Insane and violent jealousy. Homicidal rage. When people are good at something, it’s only natural that they look for a chance to do this thing. If I were good at it, I would do it. It happens I’m not. So instead of going into homicidal rages, I read to the blind. In other words I know my limits. I am willing to settle for less.” – Babette.


  • “Don’t you know about all those theorems that say nothing is what it seems? There’s no past, present, or future outside our own mind. The so-called laws of motion are a big hoax.” – Heinrich
  • “What good is my truth? My truth means nothing.” – Heinrich


  • “How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for awhile? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it that no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise" - Jack
  • “Brilliant people never think of the lives they smash, being brilliant.” – Jack
  • “I am the false character that follows the name around.” – Jack
  • I feel sad for people and the queer part we play in our own disasters – Jack
  • “Society is set up in such a way that it’s the poor and the uneducated who suffer the main impact of natural and man-made disasters.” – Jack
  • “Terrifying data is now an industry in itself. Different firms compete to see how badly they can scare us.” – Jack
  • What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation. – Jack
  • "Waves of relief and gratitude flowed over me. The system had blessed my life. I felt its support and approval." - Jack, at the ATM.
  • "The family is the cradle of the world’s misinformation." - Jack, ch. 17, p. 81.


  • “I don’t trust anybody’s nostalgia but my own. Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It’s a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country.” – Murray
  • “Men shout as they die, to be noticed, remembered for a second or two….You know a couple of useless things about a person that become major facts of identification and cosmic placement when he dies suddenly, after a short illness, in his own bed, with a comforter and matching pillows, on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, feverish, a little congested in the sinuses and chest, thinking about his dry cleaning.” – Murray
  • “Once you’re out of school, it is only a matter of time before you experience the vast loneliness and dissatisfaction of consumers who have lost their group identity.”- Murray
  • “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn…They are taking pictures of taking pictures.” – Murray
  • “This is the nature of modern death. 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, a new strain. Death adapts, like a viral agent. Is it a law of nature? Or some private superstition of mine? I sense that the dead are closer to us than ever. I sense that we inhabit the same air as the dead.” – Murray
  • "To be so enormous. Then to die.”
    Jack: “To be lost without a trace. To be swept away." - Murray
  • “You’ve said good-bye to everyone but yourself. How does a person say good-bye to himself? It’s a juicy existential dilemma.” - Murray
  • "Tibetans try to see death for what it is. It is the end of attachment to things. ... We don't have to cling to life artificially, or to death for that matter. We simply walk toward the sliding doors. Waves and radiation. Look how well-lighted everything is. The place is sealed off, self-contained. It is timeless. Another reason why I think of Tibet. Dying is an art in Tibet. A priest walks in, sits down, tells the weeping relatives to get out and has the room sealed. Doors, windows sealed. He has serious business to see to. Chants, numerology, horoscopes, recitations. Here we don't die, we shop. But the difference is less marked than you think." - Murray


  • “Here I am. Big deal. Toot the horn.” – Vernon
  • “The thing about marriage today is you don’t have to go outside the home to get those little extras. You can get whatever you want in the recesses of the American home. These are the times we live in, for better or for worse. Wives will do things. They want to do things. You don’t have to drop the little looks. It used to be the only thing available in the American home was the basic natural act. Now you get the options too. The action is thick, let me tell you. It’s an amazing comment on our times that the more options you get in the home, the more prostitutes you see in the streets. How do you figure it, Jack? You’re the professor. What does it mean?” – Vernon


  • “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 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 a limit.” – Winnie


  • "All the old muddles and quirks," I said. "Faith, religion, life everlasting. The great old human gullibilities. Are you saying that you don't take them seriously? Your dedication is a pretense?"
  • If the special character of Nyodene Derivative (added to the everyday drift of effluents, pollutants, contaminants and deliriants) had caused this aesthetic leap from already brilliant sunsets to broad towering ruddled visionary skyscapes, tinged with dread, no one had been able to prove it.
  • Maybe when we die, the first thing we'll say is, 'I know this feeling. I was here before.'
  • May the days be aimless. Let the seasons drift. Do not advance the action according to a plan.
  • "Our pretense is a dedication. Someone must appear to believe. Our lives are no less serious than if we professed real faith, real belief. As belief shrinks from the world, it is more necessary than ever that someone believe. Wild-eyed men in caves. Nuns in black. Monks who do not speak. We are left to believe. Fools, children. Those who have abandoned belief must still believe in us. They are sure they are right not to believe but they know belief must not fade completely. Hell is when no one believes..."
  • The face on the screen was Babette's... I'd seen her just an hour ago, eating eggs, but her appearance on the screen made me think of her as some distant figure from the past, some ex-wife and absentee mother, a walker in the mists of the dead.
  • "You don't believe in heaven? A nun?"
    "If you don't, why should I?"
    "If you did, maybe I would."
    "If I did, you would not have to."
Wikipedia has an article about: