White Noise

Murray Jay Siskin Character Analysis

Jack’s colleague at the College-on-the-Hill. An ex-sportswriter, Murray works in the American Environments (or popular culture) department and hopes to corner the market on Elvis Studies, just like Jack has done with Hitler Studies. Murray is extremely intellectual and pedantic, liable at any moment to excitedly launch into convoluted diatribes about the messages embedded in consumer culture, a phenomenon he refers to as “psychic data.” Hailing from New York City, which he fled in order to “‘be free of cities and sexual entanglements,’” he is charmed by the quaint city of Blacksmith and very obviously attracted to Babette, a fact that doesn’t seem to bother Jack.

Murray Jay Siskin Quotes in White Noise

The White Noise quotes below are all either spoken by Murray Jay Siskin or refer to Murray Jay Siskin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of White Noise published in 2009.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material. But it is psychic data, absolutely. The large doors slide open, they close unbidden. Energy waves, incident radiation. All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability. Not that we would want to, not that any useful purpose would be served.

Related Characters: Murray Jay Siskin (speaker), Jack Gladney, Babette
Related Symbols: The Supermarket
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

[…] I’ve been sitting in this room for more than two months, watching TV into the early hours, listening carefully, taking notes. A great and humbling experience, let me tell you. Close to mystical. […] I’ve come to understand that the medium is a primal force in the American home. Sealed-off, timeless, self-contained, self-referring. It’s like a myth being born right there in our living room, like something we know in a dreamlike and preconscious way.

Related Characters: Murray Jay Siskin (speaker), Jack Gladney, Babette
Related Symbols: Television
Page Number: 50-1
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 14 Quotes

Words, pictures, numbers, facts, graphics, statistics, specks, waves, particles, motes. Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we need them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, earthquakes, mass killings, et cetera. We can relax and enjoy these disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves what it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.

Related Characters: Alfonse Stampanato (speaker), Jack Gladney, Murray Jay Siskin
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
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Murray Jay Siskin Character Timeline in White Noise

The timeline below shows where the character Murray Jay Siskin appears in White Noise. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...liable to engage in long conversations about culture and trivia. This is how Jack meets Murray Jay Siskind, a new visiting lecturer who specializes in studying “living icons.” After asking Jack... (full context)
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Several days after their lunch, Jack and Murray visit a barn outside of Blacksmith that is advertised as THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN... (full context)
Chapter 5
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...that he will someday die. One day after this happens, he and Babette run into Murray at the supermarket. Murray shows a clear attraction to Babette and holds forth about the... (full context)
Chapter 8
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...He begins attending private German lessons conducted by a man named Dunlop, a reclusive gentleman Murray refers him to who lives in the board housing near the insane asylum. (full context)
Chapter 9
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
...and Babette go with Denise, Steffie, and Wilder to the supermarket. Again, they bump into Murray, who predictably latches onto Babette and sings the praises of the grocery store. Meanwhile, Steffie... (full context)
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
When Jack and Steffie rejoin Babette and Murray, Murray is excitedly extolling the symbolic virtue of the products surrounding them in the grocery... (full context)
Chapter 11
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Jack and Babette go to Murray’s boarding room for dinner. Murray tells them that he’s interested in studying children because they... (full context)
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
On the walk back from having dinner at Murray’s, Babette asks Jack if her memory is truly as bad as Denise makes it sound.... (full context)
Chapter 15
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
Because Murray is having trouble establishing his authority over Elvis in the American Environments department, Jack visits... (full context)
Chapter 20
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Murray comes over to talk to Steffie, Denise, and Wilder as part of his fascination with... (full context)
Chapter 21
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Deciding to get some air, Jack goes outside, where he finds Murray talking to a group of prostitutes. He tells his friend about what the SIMUVAC technician... (full context)
Chapter 22
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...Blacksmith—have taken on new qualities, have become epically vibrant, and last much longer. He finds Murray in the supermarket, who tells him that one of the New York émigrés, Dimitrios Cotsakis,... (full context)
Chapter 32 
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Jack and Murray take a walk on campus. They start talking about Jack’s German instructor, Dunlop, each of... (full context)
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...he says. A firefighter sprays her with a hose and she collapses on the ground. Murray emerges from across the street, appearing at Jack and Heinrich’s sides and silently shaking their... (full context)
Chapter 37
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Murray and Jack go on a very long walk, focusing their discussion primarily on Jack’s fear... (full context)
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
Jack and Murray’s discussion of murder as a form of rebirth leads them to examine the nature of... (full context)