Study Guide

White Noise Writing Style

By Don DeLillo

Writing Style

Wordy, but Fair

If you're going to read Don DeLillo, you need to be ready for some sophisticated language. But that doesn't mean his sentences are impossible to read. For example, check out the opening line of chapter 19:

Bee made us feel self-conscious at time, a punishment that visitors will unintentionally inflict on their complacent hosts. (19.1)

Now that might feel a bit wordy, but DeLillo has this magical way of pairing sentences like these with short one-clause sentences, like the one that follows:

Her presence seemed to radiate a surgical light. (19.1)

Both of these sentences are very dense, but with DeLillo, it's not always what's in a sentence that counts, but the length of the sentence. By constantly mixing short with long, DeLillo actually makes you feel pretty good about yourself as a reader. Even when one sentence is a long haul through HugeWordsVille, the next sentence is bound to be short n' sweet. He's not a sadistically hard writer like Joyce, even though he gives Joyce a run for his money when it comes to being cerebral.

No getting around it, DeLillo has to use fancy language sometimes because he's getting at some really out-there concepts. The thing is, though, that he tries his very darnedest to bring us along as readers. He wants us to look at everyday things we take for granted, like the sounds of TV commercials and traffic noises, and look at them in a new way. He also wants us to become more critical of our world without alienating us, and this requires him to strike a very careful balance between difficult language and readable writing.

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