Don Delillo

Fiction in the face of crisis: Japan and "The Airborne Toxic Event"

Article: Fiction in the face of crisis: Japan and "The Airborne Toxic Event"

When Don Delillo’s seminal masterpiece White Noise came out in 1985, it not only won The National Book Award and landed a spot on TIME’s “100 Best Novels” list, but it hit readers like a sonic boom, a tidal wave, a nuclear explosion – all apt comparisons given the ongoing events in Japan as well as the novel’s treatment of the “Airborne Toxic Event” that strikes midway through.

Even though White Noise was written over 25 years ago and is filled with references to pop culture and contemporary consumerism (DeLillo even wanted to name the book “Panasonic,” but they objected), it manages to escape the ties that bind it to a specific time period, avoiding obscurity or becoming dated over time. Instead, it not only remains relevant, but the book’s implications about modern life seem to intensify with age. It’s a supremely humanistic novel: while our world changes and trends come and go, people stay the same.