Gladney's hustle works in reverse; instead of enhancing trivialities with phony significance, he reduces the century's paramount expression of evil to classroom entertainment. Getting a handle on his domestic arrangements is a little more difficult. The Gladneys are a parody of relationships resulting from multiple divorce. Stepchildren, half brothers and half sisters drift in and out of the household. One former wife is abroad with the CIA; another runs the business end of an ashram under the name Mother Devi. Talk is plentiful, but communication is illusive. "There must be something in family life that generates factual error," muses Jack. "Overcloseness, the noise and heat of being. Perhaps something even deeper, like the need to survive."
Not to make too much of the “airborne toxic event” in Don DeLillo’s new novel, White Noise, and the Bhopal tragedy it anticipates, but it is the index of DeLillo’s sensibility, so alert is he to the content, not to mention the speech rhythms, dangers, dreams, fears, etc., of modern life that you imagine him having to spend a certain amount of time in a quiet, darkened room. He works with less lead time than other satirists, too—we should have teen-age suicide and the new patriotism very soon—and this must be demanding. But here, as in his other novels, his voice is authoritative, his tone characteristically light. In all his work he seems less angry or disappointed than some critics of society, as if he had expected less in the first place, or perhaps his marvelous power with words is compensation for him.