• Retro Review: Don DeLillo's "Falling Man"

    It's always a pleasure to discover a book you think is brilliant by an author who has published loads of other novels you've never read. So, while Don DeLillo's Falling Man is a difficult read, it is certainly worth a retro-review.

    Published in 2007, the novel follows the story of one family after the World Trade Center attacks on that horrific morning in 2001. The story begins with Keith emerging from one of the towers, burned and uncertain. He gets picked up by a passing truck and asks to be driven to his eix-wife, Lianne's home. So begins a strange reconciliation, born out of the uncertainties of that day.

    While I have read a lot of poetry that was written subsequent to 9/11, this is the first novel I have read that deals with the attacks. Stylistically, I loved this book. DeLillo writes with a poignant intimacy conveyed in elegant sentences. Like all truly great writers he makes me see what it means to craft a world from words. He writes a kind of poetry.

    But it is his character's reaction to events that makes it such a powerful novel. Lianne is transfixed by the television, obsessed by the names of the people who died in the attacks. She struggles to accept that faith may have influenced those responsible. She feels this loss, in a way that evokes all of her previous losses. 

    Indeed, her life after 9/11 becomes the experience of loss, and we get a sense of the overwhelming grief of this moment in our history. I like this. It's not a political study, but an elegy, a lament. 

    All the way through the spectre of the performance artist, the falling man, haunts the pages. Is this a commentary on life in a new age, or is this insensitive, designed merely to shock and to anger?

    This is not a novel that sets out to express a right way of feeling, a right way of grieving, or a right way of viewing the world after 9/11. Rather it is a novel about the ongoing nature of grief, about a changed world with which his characters struggle to come to terms. 

    It is beautiful, it is haunting. 

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