I'm trying to catch up on my reading—it seems my TO READ pile is bottomless, and I'm just getting around to books I should have read years ago, but yet, I'm catching them at the right time in my life. White Noise is a prickly, hilarious, and sober little-big book. It’s squirmy in that amusing Seinfeld sort of way that can be uncomfortable at times—like sitting on grass, after awhile its stops being nice once it starts to make your skin itchy and every dang bug comes out and decides to crawl all over you. Jack, his family, and acquaintances are as American as apple pie—tho’ some of them apples are not meant for pies, ‘tis a pessimistic pie if you ask me. I’ve become so cynical these days, sometimes I think our country is truly a bag full of assholes with the best ones picked out—I know, that really, really sounds mean, but honestly—these last 30 years—dang, this book is still as relevant today as it was back in ’85, and things have become all too predictable—shit has not changed all that much, I’m disappointed how we haven’t grown—we just got a whole lot of MORE, that’s all (and that also means a whole lot of MORE who have LESS too.) Since when did the American dream turn people into a bunch of greedy fucks? It’s so depressing if I dwell on it too much—but when I stand on my acre of the world—there is a sense of serenity that I cannot find anywhere else—the shit can be hitting the fan in more ways than one, but here at home sweet home I try to keep my head and convince myself, “It really isn’t THAT bad.” (Ah, screw, who am I kidding, it is.)
Contemporary life has a strange fixation on catastrophes—the 24/7 news coverage of disasters—footage of devastation and the devastated—the body count counts toward how bad it really was—or wasn’t. The agony of survivors overplayed until we are desensitized to their plight—it all becomes white noise after awhile—it’s no longer about reporting information—it’s about the bottom line. Once you stop listening, the screaming of advertisements break the monotony of disaster, plague, famine, war, and last but not least, Death. Get your fix of choice right here on the biggest screen you can buy—the latest scandal, the latest murder, the latest Hollywood fiasco, the latest political debacle; the latest diet to make you lose weight, the latest drug of choice to cure what ails you…
What if there is a pill to cure the fear of death? What if, indeed. Let me tell you this—I don’t trust anything the FDA has approved in the last 20 years so forget it. If they claim they don’t know why that little pill in the brown bottle works, then people shouldn’t be taking it just because it seems to help cure whatever ails them while they are assured that the benefits out-weigh the crappy side effects. (What it definitely does do—it makes piles of money for a select someone else, not you.)
Who will die first? This question comes up from time to time, like where are the car keys. It ends a sentence, prolongs a glance between us. I wonder if the thought itself is part of the nature of physical love, a reverse Darwinism that awards sadness and ear to the survivor. (Page 15)
The Fear of Death—married couples especially seem sensitive to this fact of life.When my mother died unexpectedly from a massive stroke, my father said on more than one occasion: “It was supposed to be me who went first.” When Edith Bunker passed away in televisions All in the Family, Archie Bunker uttered this sorrowful lament, as if they had it worked out together. (The ding-bat pulled a fast one on him—who would’ a thunk it?) I know my Fred worries about this—living in our house without me in it will suck for him horribly because everywhere he’ll look, my stuff will be around. The stuff that I have collected over the years to feather our nest—to make our house a home. This was true of my parent’s house, as I have spent the last three years dismantling their nest—every handful of my father’s possessions, there’s an armload of my mother’s things. Sixty-one years of acquiring stuff—lots of it.
Holy shit, we all die someday. Animals are blessed with a sense of survival—good old fight or flight—but in spite of their natural instinct for self-preservation, they do not dwell on their mortality like we do. Some people deal with it by not thinking about it at all—a naïve repression—some are in total denial—“Me, die? Not me. That’ll never happen in a million years.” But that’s kid stuff, anyone younger than 25 thinks they’re going to live forever and are immune to anything bad happening to them. Some don’t think about it until a health crisis sticks its unwelcome nose into their business and cause untold hours of worry—sometimes for nothing because the test came back negative for that one thing that it could’ve been, but wasn’t. Then there are people all too aware of the ticking clock and the unknown “when”—the real control freaks are most likely to put the gun to their heads and pull the trigger just to get it over with—they probably read the last page of novels too—the anticipation kills them. I personally have learned to appreciate the anticipation—more times than I can count, the outcome is disappointing—it’s the getting there that’s the best part. (I always feel a little depressed when I finish reading a book.)
Don’t fear the reaper…
Life is absurd—the absurdity of reality—the elusive dream of one’s hopes for the future, foiled by disappointments and the non-cooperation of life in general—I know it’s enough to make me drop an F-bomb before 9AM on any given day. And then somewhere in the middle of Jack and his family’s normal, a toxic event occurs—this sort o’ shit does not happen to college professors living in small town America. WTF. No-no-no-no this happens in the Third World or in poor neighborhoods, not here—a line is drawn at suburbia—capiche? No, wait—that toxic cloud doesn’t give a shit—nature doesn’t give a rat’s ass about who you think you are. Don’t you know by now? Mother Nature can be mighty mean, you don’t even have to cross her—so wake up and get your ass moving because the wind just changed direction and that hot mess is coming your way, dude... (Maybe it only happens to college professors who teach niche courses about Hitler.)
When it’s over, life goes on for Jack and his family—returning home to a renewed fixation on one’s demise—only with intense sunsets due to the crap that spewed into the air a few weeks ago, and knowing that after being exposed to that toxic crap cloud a death sentence has most definitely been issued—yet still TBA.
My favorite part—the family crammed into their car eating takeout fried chicken for dinner—and then sending the kid back in for more—they ate with such wolfish contentment—even Babette sucking on the bones felt very satisfying. There’s nothing like an unhealthy round of gluttony to soothe the unsettled soul.
I also loved the father-son philosophical arguments between Jack and Heinrich—engagingly frustrating—and after awhile Jack just gives up and steps away—too tired, stressed out, and getting too old to keep up with a fourteen year old boy. His friend, Murray is like an old sage full of all the wisdom and obvious stuff I can nod my head to and feel worse about our society.
“Television is just another name for junk mail.” Page 50
“Forgetfulness has gotten into the air and water. It’s entered the food chain.” Page52
“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 revered 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.” Page 66
I guess I needed this book now—reassuring me that my cynicism is on overdrive for a good reason.