I would very much like to be at a dinner where Don DeLillo, author of White Noise, and Wayne Coyne, wacko frontman of The Flaming Lips, meet each other. I think that they would turn out to be two of those people who seem wildly different from each other, but wouldn’t get along because of how similar they actually are. DeLillo’s point of view is a tad too depressing and pretentious for my point of view, so I’d have to root for Coyne. But I can just hear the arguments that they’d have. On the topic of death, DeLillo would pontificate about the value of everyday lives in relation to death, and Coyne would insist that all we need focus on is loving each other right now. Both would actually agree perfectly with each other, but would have such different terms for saying it that they’d never realize. Besides, DeLillo could never stomach the absolute strangeness of Coyne, and Coyne would never tolerate the academic stuffiness of DeLillo long enough to take him seriously.
Or at least, this is what I imagine having just read White Noise and being a nearly life-long fan of the Lips. Both White Noise and “Do You Realize” probe the obvious but philosophical aspects of life. The song speaks in obvious platitudes, like, “Do you realize that everyone you know one day will die,” while the book operates in a similarly themed but more complicated way. It investigates death through Jack’s complicated feelings, thoughts, and troubling relationship to Dylar. What they both have in common is art’s ability to take the most basic things in life, in this case death, and equalize them into something completely human and beautiful. The similarities with their obsession with technology are also strikingly similar, especially since they represent times over ten years apart. Something about the dense particles of the cloud remind me of the electronic elements on the album, noise particles spreading out over space like paint from an aerosol can.
This was one of the most obvious pairings that’s ever come to mind while reading a novel. There are a few ways, though, in which I don’t believe they fit. DeLillo’s writing style is minutely claustrophobic, tight and stilted. There’s something unnatural and cold in the way he has his characters think (I don’t think I would like any of them very much should I meet them in person). The Lips, on the other hand, tend towards to the grand, the wide open, reaching their aural tentacles out as far as they can into the “white noise” that precedes their music. Something quieter and less ostentatious also would have fit DeLillo, but I do like to think how the two are similar enough in intent to question exactly what the other is doing. That’s a dinner party I definitely want to attend.