What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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White Noise
by Don DeLillo

Field-Tested by Juliane Huang

in Chu-Dong, Taiwan

A lost sense of self is much harder to find than, say, a pair of keys, or socks that mysteriously disappear from the dryer, or that CD that you could have sworn was in your glove compartment. A lost sense of self is elusive. It’s clever. It outsmarts you. Once you think you’ve gotten your hands on its wriggly little neck, it outmaneuvers you and you realize that what you’ve actually grasped onto is simply thin air.

Who are we today? Who were we before? Did we ever know?

I asked myself these questions silently as I was curled up on my bed reading Don DeLillo’s White Noise. The rain drummed against my window as I casually turned each page. I was deep into my first year living in Taiwan, and while I was homesick for my native California, I think I was mostly homesick for myself. Here in this foreign land, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I thought moving to an unfamiliar place and speaking in a language my tongue had forgotten over the past 20 years was such an adventurous and romantic idea. But apparently the strong sense of self I had so painstakingly cultivated throughout my more formidable years did not board the plane with me and I was the last to find out.

I think what connected me so deeply to the book was how strongly its thematic undercurrents resonated with those in my life that year. At that time, I felt lost in a bombardment of new and foreign information in which I was not yet well-enough versed to sift through and process. Under the hailstorm of Taiwanese culture, language, and media, my knees buckled and I effectively lost track of who I was. I picked up this book right as I was reaching the pinnacle of my navel-gazing, and while it was a distraught and confusing time in my life, I can’t help but to think upon that exact moment, in my room, on my bed, reading White Noise with incredible fondness.

That was over two years ago. After that rainy winter in Taiwan, I found my bearings living on the island and even decided to stay an extra year before moving back to California. White Noise currently sits on the bookshelf in my bedroom, making friends with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and The Time Traveler’s Wife. Now, every time I even think about the book, my skin immediately recalls the cotton feel of the white linen bed sheet. My ears remember the tapping rhythm of the rain against the window pane. My eyes remember the crimson paint of my walls against the dark-stained wood of my bed frame. Every time, I am in the same curled up position, reading the book sideways, like the world has turned over on its axis.

Juliane Huang is a full-time dreamer and writer living in Los Angeles, California. Next to fighting split-ends and dry skin, Juliane stays busy saving teenagers from the SAT, and once in a while, frantically typing in her blog.

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