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Falling Man: A Novel Paperback – June 3, 2008
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"Falling Man brings at least a measure of memory, tenderness and meaning to all that howling space." -- Frank Rich, The New York Times Book Review
"The clearest vision yet of what it felt like to live through that day." -- Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"DeLillo is at his best...a keen imaginer...[writing] with exactitude and lyrical originality." -- James Wood, The New Republic
"Haunting...elegiac...masterful." -- Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe
About the Author
Don DeLillo is the author of fifteen novels, including Zero K, Underworld, Falling Man, White Noise, and Libra. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize for his complete body of work, and the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2010, he was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Prize. His story collection The Angel Esmeralda was a finalist for the 2011 Story Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
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I strongly recommend this book. However, if you have not yet reas Collin McCann's Let the Great World Spin, I suggest you read this short novel first. McCann provides an equally well written narrative that counterpoints the magic and wonder of the high wire walker in 1974 with the tragedy at the same site 27 years later. It is the most positive and spiritually moving consideration of the books I have read that consider 9-11 and it is one of the best novels I have ever read.
_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.
I started to read this book and made a lot of progress, but it became more difficult. Finally I could not control my emotions, my nights became an endless film loop of my recordings. I had to stop reading the book so that I can retain some semblance of control and acceptance. It was more than a novel to me.