The White Noise of Grief

By Charles, Ron | The Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

The White Noise of Grief


Charles, Ron, The Christian Science Monitor


In 1996, a physicist at New York University named Alan Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal devoted to something called "poststructuralism." His essay, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," argued that Western science - with notions like, say, "gravity" - is merely a social construction, a fabric of political and philosophical Enlightenment dogma.

As soon as the editors at Social Text published this riff of poststructural erudition, Dr. Sokal revealed that his article was a hoax, a parody of the kind of gobbledygook that regularly passes for intellectual analysis of language and culture.

It's tempting to hope Don DeLillo delivers a similar revelation soon after the publication of his latest "novel."

His previous works, most recently "White Noise" and "Underworld," were enormous critical and popular successes. He's won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Jerusalem Prize, and the American Book Award.

But where those novels are sprawling with wit and insight, "The Body Artist" is claustrophobic and affected. Very smart professors of French literature and diehard fans of "Twin Peaks" will find "The Body Artist" fascinating. (I half expected a midget to dance through the wall and whisper, "My log had a dream about you last night.") But these fit readers may not be enough to recoup the $1 million Simon & Schuster reportedly paid for this little book.

The story opens in a large rented house on a remote beach along the East Coast. Lauren Hartke has been married to Rey Robles for only a few months, but already things are strained.

In the late 70s, Rey was director of avant-garde films that briefly developed a cult following in art houses in the US and abroad. He's spent the last 20 years in a haze of alcoholism and depression.

Lauren, his third wife, calls herself a "body artist." She bleaches, sands, cuts, and contorts her body into odd shapes while the robotic voice of a telephone answering machine repeats the standard greeting for 75 minutes. Sophisticated theatergoers, we're told, eat this stuff up.

DeLillo presents their last quiet breakfast in a stark, super- sensory narrative: "She crossed to the cabinet with the blueberries wet in her hand and reached up for the cereal and took the box to the counter, the mostly brown and white box, and then the toaster thing popped and she flipped it down again because it took two flips to get the bread to go brown and he absently nodded his acknowledgement because it was his toast and his butter and then he turned on the radio and got the weather. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The White Noise of Grief
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.