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Falling Man: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 15, 2007
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Keith Neudecker, a lawyer and survivor of the attack, arrives on his estranged wife Lianne's doorstep, covered with soot and blood, carrying someone else's briefcase. In the days and weeks that follow, moments of connection alternate with complete withdrawl from his wife and young son, Justin. He begins a desultory affair with the owner of the briefcase based only on their shared experience of surviving: "the timeless drift of the long spiral down." Justin uses his binoculars to scan the skies with his friends, looking for "Bill Lawton" (a misunderstood version of bin Laden) and more killing planes. Lianne suddenly sees Islam everywhere: in a postcard from a friend, in a neighbor's music--and is frightened and angered by its ubiquity. She is riveted by the Falling Man. Her mother Nina's response is to break up with her long-time German lover over his ancient politics. In short, the old ways and days are gone forever; a new reality has taken over everyone's consciousness. This new way is being tried on, and it doesn't fit. Keith and Lianne weave into reconciliation. Keith becomes a professional poker player and, when questioned by Lianne about the future of this enterprise, he thinks: "There was one final thing, too self-evident to need saying. She wanted to be safe in the world and he did not."
DeLillo also tells the story of Hammad, one of the young men in flight training on the Gulf Coast, who says: "We are willing to die, they are not. This is our srength, to love death, to feel the claim of armed martyrdom." He also asks: "But does a man have to kill himself in order to accomplish something in the world?" His answer is that he is one of the hijackers on the plane that strikes the North Tower.
At the end of the book, De Lillo takes the reader into the Tower as the plane strikes the building. Through all the terror, fire and smoke, De Lillo's voice is steady as a metronome, recounting exactly what happens to Keith as he sees friends and co-workers maimed and dead, navigates the stairs and, ultimately, is saved. Though several post-9/11 novels have been written, not one of them is as compellingly true, faultlessly conceived, and beautifully written as Don De Lillo's Falling Man. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Outstanding writing, but the story is sacrificed for brilliant turns of phrase.Published 15 days ago by Thomas F. Scott
I didn't understand what was going on half the time. Too complex for a 14 year old. Make it simpler.Published 3 months ago by fff
I enjoyed this book very much, in spite of the tired theme of trauma as fractured narratives. In typical DeLillo fashion, there is an extremely liberal use of pronouns and a near... Read morePublished 4 months ago by JMC
Not so truly. Rather boring . But some parts are good. Bit the literature can discribe nine eleven events. The best is documentary.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
I'll give the author an added point for tackling a very difficult subject, but the victims and survivors of 9/11 deserve better than this disjointed, rambling tome. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Laura E.
Written in the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers, the title refers to a performing artist in New York who hangs himself upside down in public places in the position of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by ZC
It is evident the DeLillo has a vast amount of talent, yet he always seems to uses it in odd ways. Firstly, his dialogue remains a puzzle to me, at times confusing and abstract, it... Read morePublished 9 months ago by K.N.R.