Monday, September 2, 2019

Primal Scenes in Americana and White Noise :: White Noise Essays

Primal Scenes in Americana and White Noise Written in 1989, Frank Letricchia's essay on the overriding themes of Don DeLillo's writing offers a short but concise praise of two of DeLillo's major works: Americana and White Noise. Letricchia offers the thesis in his essay that "two scenes in DeLillo's fiction are primal for his imagination of America" (Osteen 413). It seems that Letricchia is using "primal" not to denote an animalistic sense, but more along the lines of a basic need. The first of these primal scenes takes place in DeLillo's first book, Americana (Osteen 413). In a particular part of this novel, DeLillo describes the invention of America as the invention of the television (Osteen 413). One of his characters even describes it as having "came over on the Mayflower," which Letricchia interprets as meaning not television itself came over, but the desire for a "universal third-person" (Osteen 414). Letricchia argues that television offers to modern Americans today what the Pilgrims' ships offered to immigrants on the old days: something to dream about (Osteen 414). Even DeLillo writes that "To consume in America is not to buy; it is to dream," which, according to Letricchia is to say "that it is not the consummation of desire but the foreplay of desire that is TV advertising's object" (Osteen 414). Which is to say, it is not the advertisements job to make you buy something, only to make you want to buy it, a point I find to be not only accurate, but so mewhat disturbing as well. The second "primal scene" that Letricchia touches on comes from the book White Noise. In the book, there is a small but significant part in which two of the main characters drive twenty miles outside of town in order to visit a tourist attraction known as "The most photographed barn in America" (Osteen 415). While this is the surface subject of the passage, Letricchia asserts that the underlying issue at hand is actually "a new kind of representation as a new kind of excitement" (Osteen 415). In the scene from the book, the characters stand among crowds of people that are taking pictures of a very ordinary barn. One of the characters (Murray Siskind) begins a monologue about the fact that no one there has come to see the barn, but only "to be part of a collective perception" (Osteen 12).

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