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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DeLillo in Context
I enjoyed this book very much, having enjoyed some of Don DeLillo's other novels. A couple things to know about this book:

1. This is not mainstream fiction. DeLillo uses his own conventions and the conventions of postmodern fiction to great extent.

2. This novel is not primarily a retelling of the events of 9/11. Rather, it is an exploration of the...
Published on June 10, 2007 by Ryan Silberstein

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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vaguely dissatisfying
This novel is a rather halting and not very satisfying attempt to capture the impact of 9/11 on immediate survivors and their families. Keith Neudecker, a lawyer on an upper floor of the first tower, covered in soot and blood inexplicably finds his way to his estranged wife Lianne's door. Whatever their differences, apparently grateful for his survival, all seems to be...
Published on June 26, 2007 by J. Grattan


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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DeLillo in Context, June 10, 2007
This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
I enjoyed this book very much, having enjoyed some of Don DeLillo's other novels. A couple things to know about this book:

1. This is not mainstream fiction. DeLillo uses his own conventions and the conventions of postmodern fiction to great extent.

2. This novel is not primarily a retelling of the events of 9/11. Rather, it is an exploration of the mindset of New Yorkers (and one European) after 9/11, how this particular watershed event changed people's worldview.

3. This is not a political work. It does not seek to espouse any political point of view.

That being said, I very much liked this book. I found it very chilling at some points, and difficult to read. I found myself dealing with emotions I had not felt since the days just after 9/11 (deftly referred to in the novel as 'since the planes'), and an exploration much different from the film United 93.

I did feel some of the characters were hollow, but that is kind of typical of DeLillo's storytelling style. Characters in DeLillo works tend to be people to whom things happen, reactors as opposed to actors. I felt that this helped enhance the feelings of some of the characters in this work, accentuating the helplessness and fear I know I certainly felt in the wake of 9/11.

While the book does deal directly with the events of 9/11 (those were some of the most emotionally difficult to read), it is primarily an exploration of the 'post-9/11' world. In this, I feel it succeeds, and is a brilliant work.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Transience of Consciousness and Identity, June 12, 2007
By 
Ryan P. Dowd (Silver Spring, MD United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
There exists an event in each of our pasts that haunts all of our potential futures. "Falling Man" explores one such event that we are all connected to, some directly (like those in the Towers or in NYC or DC or in an airport, etc.) and others who experienced it on television, in the papers, on the radio. We all have individual memories of what happened, where we were, how it affected us. Yet we continually share the experience repetitively through a collective memory comprised of images on TV, photographs of the planes striking the towers, overheard conversations in restaurants or subways, images of the pristine towers in a longshot from an older movie or television program, etc. In some ways the events of 9/11 define us as individuals and in some ways the events define us all.

This book made me think about myself in ways that few books do. I didn't so much imagine "walking in the shoes" of the characters so much as I thoughtfully considered their actions and reactions in search of some understanding, or empathy. Actions and behaviors that would otherwise appear selfish, Delillo exposes as superficial manifestations of penetrating emotional wounds. It is not always our actions that define who we "are," but rather the events in our lives that shape the consciousness and identity from which our actions result. In "Falling Man", Lianne is not obsessed with the degradation of her own memories (or potential onset of Alzheimer's) as one could conclude. Instead, Delillo gives us the opportunity to see Lianne as a woman traumatized by her father's suicide, which had been prompted by a seemingly rapid onset of Alzheimer's while Lianne was in college. Likewise, Keith's experience of having been in the South Tower when it was first struck altered his sense of self and the life he was choosing to live. Delillo allows for no moral judgments to be made against his characters, or against us by proxy. Instead we delicately observe the frailty of the human condition. Delillo shows that at our best, we are all simply walking on a path, unable to know if it is the right one. There is no proof of salvation, just a set of possible outcomes, some expected and foreseeable, and others that are not.

Other reviewers have wondered why the plot seemed to be missing from this novel (not an ignorant question on its face). To those with similarly open questions I ask this, if someone was writing the story of your life or mine, what would the plot be? In this novel the plot is of little significance. What is important are the themes and how they are interwoven, like memories forming a consciousness. Delillo explores the subtleties between understanding and faith, memory and history, realities and fictions, and how there are few, if any, certainties.

Reality and fiction, history and memory, the differences between each is a matter of perspective. How is it that two people witnessing the same event often present completely different versions of what happened, yet genuinely believe they are themselves correct? Just as many believe accepting Christ is the path to salvation, the Koran professes that it is the one book of truth. These issues are irresolvable; it is impossible to know in this life which, if any path, is correct.

Again, in this life we are all looking for "the" right path, at least those of us with a choice. Just like the people in the Towers when they were attacked, those lucky enough to try an escape could have either walked up or down the stairs, a choice that ended up being one of life and one of death. Others, trapped above the fires, faced a much deeper dilemma and had to choose between two types of death. Those who survived are left with ever-fading memories and the burden of knowing that it was nothing more than chance that kept them alive; except for those who attribute their survival to some divine intervention without explaining why others were then "selected" to die.

There is no way to understand how another would feel after making a choice that ends up being, in hindsight, one between life and death. Even more impossible would be to predict how someone should react in the aftermath. Delillo captures the essence of these experiences, both the personal experience and the one that we all share. In the end we are left with a beautiful story which reflects our own set of moral and spiritual ambiguities, our lost and faded memories, and our shared version of these events that altered the course of history.
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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vaguely dissatisfying, June 26, 2007
By 
J. Grattan (Lawrenceville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
This novel is a rather halting and not very satisfying attempt to capture the impact of 9/11 on immediate survivors and their families. Keith Neudecker, a lawyer on an upper floor of the first tower, covered in soot and blood inexplicably finds his way to his estranged wife Lianne's door. Whatever their differences, apparently grateful for his survival, all seems to be forgiven as Keith is allowed to recover at his own pace with no demands placed. Their precocious yet reticent son Justin is engaged in a never understood game with the Siblings, brother and sister neighbors, looking for Bill Lawton, aka Bin Laden. In addition, Lianne makes regular treks to her art professor mother Nina's apartment where she also engages with her mother's secretive art collector lover Martin.

The book consists of rapidly shifting, mostly short, disconnected scenarios involving these characters. The book in essence mirrors the disorientation undoubtedly felt by those who endured the 9/11 catastrophe. Whether intentional or not, the characters exhibit limited emotional range, unable to fully engage with life. One exception is the intimate connection that Keith makes with fellow survivor Florence when he returns her briefcase, which inadvertently wound up in his hands as he stumbled down the stairs of the tower, a week later, though he had not known her pre 9/11. The device of interspersing a "falling man," mimicking those who were forced to jump from the towers, jumping from structures in full public view with a concealed harness to stop his fall is unnecessary.

Overall the book, the story, and the characters are lacking in capturing post 9/11 life. Keith becomes ever more detached as he winds up living a reduced life playing five-card stud in Las Vegas with the pretence of maintaining a relationship with his wife and son. Given the backdrop of 9/11, the expectation is for a fuller, more meaningful account. As it is, life is excessively bleak in the author's post 9/11 world.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After The Planes, October 2, 2008
This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Paperback)
I couldn't pick this up when it first came out. I listened to it recently on CD during a long drive and with each mile, I felt the growing weight and gravity, lived with the men and women grappling with the aftermath, after the planes. There is a phrase in "Falling Man" that covers lots of ground about what this book is about: "beyond the limits of safe understanding." I think that's what DeLillo challenged himself to do, to understand beyond where we normally search for comprehension about our world.

The tone here is dispassionate, almost like a list of details. I heard echoes of Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," that same gripping weight. The word "ash" comes back over and over and that's what we were all coated with, the emotional ash, the "organic shrapnel" that might not at first be visible, that might take its toll slowly, over time. The mattress scene in "Falling Man" is a brilliant, along with the recurring performance artist, the gambling and the odd emotional connections forged and forced by the devastation of the attack.

"Falling Man" starts shortly after the attack and ends up just before the attack, a haunting choice, taking us back to the beginning, to try and imagine how "God's name" could be on the "tongues of killers." Read "Falling Man" when you want to try and push the limits of your own understanding and/or you don't want to forget, for whatever reason.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A NOVEL THAT MERITS ATTENTION, July 12, 2007
This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
While there have been millions of words written about 9/11 surely few are as trenchant and poignant a those penned by award winning author Don DeLillo in Falling Man. He presents the small moments, minute observations, which in everyday life would be fleeting but in this case are crucial to the character's state of mind.

Readers are immediately caught by one of the most devastating opening lines in fiction: "It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night." With those few words one is transported back to the shock, the horror of that dreadful day that changed our lives forever.

We see the devastation through the eyes of Keith Neudecker whose office was in the south tower. He emerges dazed, confused, carrying someone else's briefcase. When a helpful truck driver offers a ride he asks to be taken to the apartment of his wife, Lianne. They have been separated for some time and have a young son, Justin.

Lianne seeks to know why Keith has returned to her, while Justin responds to the tragedy by scanning the sky with binoculars - searching for another plane. As time passes Nina, Lianne's mother, reconnects with her lover and Keith finds common ground with another survivor.

Landscaping the emotional terrain of these people is DeLillo at his finest - staccato voices, brief phrases, revealing so much.

Later in the book we are privy to the thoughts of Hammad who "...thinks of the rapture of live explosives pressed to his chest and waist."

Reading Falling Man is almost painful, a reopening of old wounds. Yet DeLillo has so precisely captured the then and now of 9/11 that it merits attention by all.

- Gail Cooke
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One artist's rendering of the aftermath, June 18, 2007
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This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
I agree with other reviewers that this book is not linear, not meant to offer a compelling plot. It is one artist's expression (and DeLillo, by the way, is an artist; if you doubt it, read White Noise), in prose, of the aftermath of 9-11. As such, DeLillo does not try to make sense of the event itself--how can we, when it was senseless? He simply does what all artists do: He observes, then records, from his own perspective, what he sees. And what apparently he continues to see in the aftermath of The Event is the toll in psychological suffering (including--thank you--what has befallen the children who watched the events unfold), the confusion of the time, the anger and hate which continue. This book, from page one, raised my anxiety level--as it should, if the artist's work is effective. I hurried to finish it only because I wanted to get back to a place of safety and comfort... which I realize now may never be fully possible again.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars organic shrapnel, June 6, 2007
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This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
DeLillo is an examiner of American culture. Whether it's the underlying sea of memorabilia (Underworld: A Novel) or the hysteria and machinations of the JFK assassination (Libra), or the group mentality of crowds (Mao II: A Novel), DeLillo is probably one of our best writers of the modern American character. While Cormac McCarthy may be showing us the roots of the American spirit from the midwestern lands of yore, DeLillo examines us in the heat of our corporate and internationally connected lives, so it was probably only inevitable that he address 9/11.

_Falling Man_ focuses on Keith and Lianne, a New York couple who have direct experience with the plane attack on the Towers. Keith was actually at work in the Towers that day, and though he escaped with little more physical injury than a damaged wrist, he and Lianne, who had previously been separated, come back together as a reaction to this tragedy. Keith has even escaped what one doctor calls 'organic shrapnel': pieces of human that get propelled into victims' bodies as the result of a suicide bomber.

But this organic shrapnel is one of the metaphorical centers of this book. The blowing apart of humans, the scattering of humanity, so that they are clutching for whatever they can find that gives them meaning. Lianne explores art and volunteering for an Alzheimer's writing group. Keith throws himself into poker and his estranged wife's bed and an obsession with a briefcase he carried out of the Towers without thinking.

But DeLillo, as any great writer does, examines to actualities of existence, the search for meaning that will almost always direct one down a different path than planned. Memory and philosophy intermix just like bits of suicide bomber flesh may bury itself into the face and chest of the bystander, and the result is that a horrifying event such as this will always be a part of you. Keith and Lianne are looking for a way to live with what has happened to them, and sometimes the bravest thing one can do is accept the realities of themselves and not accept a false change done out of fright. Just like the strange wisdom of Lorne Michaels' question to Giuliani on Saturday Night Live when, weeks after 9/11 he said, "Can we be funny again?", DeLillo shows us that there is courage in allowing yourself to fall short of being a good person, if that is where you were headed all along.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming, July 6, 2007
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This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
I did not see "United 93," nor did I see "World Trade Center." Too soon for me, I suppose. But when I, too, read the sparkling review given to this book, I thought I'd go ahead and foray into the inevitable fictionalized 9/11 literature and other media that will probably gather more and more momentum. My brother-in-law had also recommended that I read "Underworld," raving about it, and so I figured I had a book review saying that this specific book was great, as well as a person I actually knew telling me that the guy was a great author.

Plainly speaking, I was bored. I didn't find the novel compelling. Adding to the problem, I guess, is I really don't like DeLillo's writing style. To me, it was pronoun-laden, making it quite confusing oftentimes exactly which character he was referring to. Add this to the inexplicable and usually undefined jumps in time and I spent a lot of time wondering exactly what was going on. Never one to quit in the middle of a book unless it's absolutely excruciating, though, I held on to the end, at which point I felt I got a bit of a payoff. The description of the moments after the plane impacted the tower in which Keith was working is most definitely moving.

I was thinking I must be the only one who felt this way about this novel before seeing the other user's reviews, so it's good to see I'm not alone. I thought maybe I just didn't get it.

It's obvious that DeLillo is a good writer, but this one was just didn't hook me. I'll probably still give "Underworld" a chance based on my brother-in-law's recommendation, but I won't be advising anyone to read "Falling Man." It apparently just wasn't for me.
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64 of 84 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He Did His Best With What He Had, May 20, 2007
This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
Other reviews have criticized DeLillo's book, but I found it sad and hard going. What he realizes is that people changed because of 9/11. One survivor wanders the country playing poker simply to study the chips. He is totally empty. His wife starts going to church. Her lover, a German, criticizes America. Outside the ambit of the book,the president immediately plans to start a war. The image I can never forget of that morning is the TV shot of people jamming to line up at the office windows of the north tower. The camera zoomed in and panned over their faces. They were holding white handkerchiefs, some of them, as the announcer said they were waiting for rescue by helicopter. That footage was never shown again. We now know that hundreds of people jumped, that the ledges were littered with briefcases, purses, shoes, laptops, all kinds of personal belongings. And the empty hospitals waited for survivors to be brought in. It is heroic of DeLillo to attempt to reconstruct that awful day, including a view inside one of the planes and a view inside the tower itself. These views, and his view of the emptied fire trucks, lights still flashing, tell it all. Read it and weep.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some DeLillo brilliance, but not enough, July 27, 2007
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This review is from: Falling Man: A Novel (Hardcover)
I'm a great Don DeLillo fan. I think White Noise, Libra, Mao, and especially Underworld are among the great novels of our time. His last three though fall far short of his best. The device of the performance artist "falling man" showing up from time to time through these pages just doesn't work for me and I can't get much interested in either of the main characters, who are bonded by their common experience on 9/11. Credit DeLillo as always for taking on the big themes, but a great post 9/11 novel has yet to be written.
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Falling Man: A Novel
Falling Man: A Novel by Don DeLillo (Audio CD - May 15, 2007)
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