Falling Man, Don DeLillo: a post 9/11 novel
See 9/11 Falling Man reflection here.
Set in a post-9/11 world, Falling Man, Don DeLillo’s most recent novel (May 2007), attempts to grapple with the social, interpersonal, psychological and, at times, spiritual impact of the destruction of Twin Towers. This impact is etched into the life of fictional Manhattan survivor, Kieth Neudeckor, and his family.
The themes, characters, structure, and plot of Falling Man raise many questions without providing all the answers. The reader is immediately thrust into a world “of falling ash and near night,” and abandoned in anticipation to find his/her way through the achronological sequence of events that follow. Along the way we encounter a suit and tie performance artist who jumps from great heights while attached to a hidden safety harness, whose purpose is never made crystal clear. What would compel a man to do such a thing? This character is, of course, snatched from the controversial photo taken during 9/11 of a man free falling in front of the Two Towers (right).
Despite the disjointed, post-modern structure of the novel, its content is decidedly existential. We are given an embarrassingly privileged and gripping insight into how some people have and must still struggle with the force of this tragedy. As a result of reading this book, I already possess a greater empathy for the 9/11 survivors and victims’ families.
The book moves beyond sentiment and compassion to wrestle with the connected and deeply philosophical, theological questions of epistemology, reason for being, etc. Some quotes…
“Human existence had to have a deeper source than our own dank fluids. Dank or rank. There had to be a force behind it, a principal being who was and is and ever shall be.”
“God used to be an urban Jew. He’s back in the desert now.”
“God would consume her. God would de-create her and she was too small and tame to resist. That’s why she was resisting now. Because think about it. Because once you believe such a thing. God is, then how can you escape, how survive the power of it, is and was and ever shall be.”
“Twenty years. Eating and sleeping together. You don’t know? Did you ask him? Did you press him?”
“They talked a minute longer, then went to their designated tables without making plans to meet later. The idea of later was elusive.”
Falling Man has been criticized for being a “frustratingly disjointed novel” and praised as “pages of magnificent force and control.” It would be best to read it and decide for yourself. But beware, if imperfect endings and unresolved conflicts bother you, this is not the book for you (or perhaps it is just what you need).