Quotes from White Noise

Don DeLillo ·  320 pages

Rating: (74.3K votes)


“California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“The greater the scientific advance, the more primitive the fear.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“It was important for him to believe that he'd spent his life among people who kept missing the point.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots. ”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“The family is the cradle of the world’s misinformation. There must be something in family life that generates factual error. Over-closeness, the noise and heat of being. Perhaps even something deeper like the need to survive. Murray says we are fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts. Facts threaten our happiness and security. The deeper we delve into things, the looser our structure may seem to become. The family process works towards sealing off the world. Small errors grow heads, fictions proliferate. I tell Murray that ignorance and confusion can’t possibly be the driving forces behind family solidarity. What an idea, what a subversion. He asks me why the strongest family units exist in the least developed societies. Not to know is a weapon of survival, he says. Magic and superstition become entrenched as the powerful orthodoxy of the clan. The family is strongest where objective reality is most likely to be misinterpreted. What a heartless theory, I say. But Murray insists it’s true.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise



“It is possible to be homesick for a place even when you are there.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“Fear is unnatural. Lightning and thunder are unnatural. Pain, death, reality, these are all unnatural. We can't bear these things as they are. We know too much. So we resort to repression, compromise and disguise. This is how we survive the universe. This is the natural language of the species.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“That's why people take vacations. No to relax or find excitement or see new places. To escape the death that exists in routine things.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“He thinks he's happy but it's just a nerve cell in his brain that's getting too much stimulation or too little stimulation.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise



“The nonbelievers need the believers. They are desperate to have someone believe." "As belief shrinks from the world, people find it more necessary than ever that someone believe...Those who have abandoned belief must still believe in us. They are sure that they are right not to believe but they know belief must not fade completely. Hell is when no one believes.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“He'd once told me that the art of getting ahead in New York was based on learning how to express dissatisfaction in an interesting way. The air was full of rage and complaint. People had no tolerance for your particular hardship unless you knew how to entertain them with it.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“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.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“It was the time of year, the time of day, for a small insistent sadness to pass into the texture of things. Dusk, silence, iron chill. Something lonely in the bone.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“Murray said, ´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.´”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise



“Fear is self-awareness raised to a higher level.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“Maybe when we die, the first thing we’ll say is, 'I know this feeling. I was here before.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature. - Murray (WN 285)”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“Some people are larger than life. Hitler is larger than death.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“The world is full of abandoned meanings. In the commonplace I find unexpected themes and intensities.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise



“Who knows what I want to do? Who knows what anyone wants to do? How can you be sure about something like that? Isn't it all a question of brain chemistry, signals going back and forth, electrical energy in the cortex? How do you know whether something is really what you want to do or just some kind of nerve impulse in the brain? Some minor little activity takes place somewhere in this unimportant place in one of the brain hemispheres and suddenly I want to go to Montana or I don't want to go to Montana. How do I know I really want to go and it isn't just some neurons firing or something? Maybe it's just an accidental flash in the medulla and suddenly there I am in Montana and I find out I really didn't want to go there in the first place. I can't control what happens in my brain, so how can I be sure what I want to do ten seconds from now, much less Montana next summer? It's all this activity in the brain and you don't know what's you as a person and what's some neuron that just happens to fire or just happens to misfire.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“I feel sad for people and the queer part we play in our own distasters.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, 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.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“The smoke alarm went off in the hallway upstairs, either to let us know the battery had just died or because the house was on fire.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise


“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.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from White Noise



About the author

Don DeLillo
Born place: in Bronx, New York, The United States
Born date November 20, 1936
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