Falling Man by Don Delillo
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Published in: 2007
Reviewed by: Jen and Book Worm
Find it here: Falling Man
Synopsis (from Amazon): There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years.
Falling Man is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people.
First there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he’d always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes.
These are lives choreographed by loss, grief, and the enormous force of history.
Brave and brilliant, Falling Man traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking.
Book Worm’s Review:
I think this was an easier read for me than it was for Jen, as I am not American and so had a level of distance from the actual events. For me 9/11 was an horrendous news story like the earthquakes in Japan or the 2012 Tsunami. It scared me, it made me sad, but I was removed from it.
What this book offered was a view not of the horrific events themselves, but the perspective of what happens next. DeLillo chooses to do this by concentrating on one family that lives, works, and goes to school in New York City. Through this family, he shows how what happened has an impact for years after the events and probably forever for those affected.
To me this book made the events more real as it bought them down to an individual human level.
This was a difficult book for me to read. My husband and I had just moved from NYC shortly before 9/11. He worked in one of the buildings right next to the World Trade Center. We got married two days before 9/11 and we had friends and family flying out of Boston that morning. There was a span of several hours when we didn’t know whether any of our family or friends were on one of the planes. We were lucky because we didn’t lose anyone close to us although my husband’s company lost several people in the attacks. It was only until recently that I even could think about reading a book about the days surrounding 9/11.
DeLillo does a wonderful job capturing the emotional and psychological impact of the events of 9/11 on the lives of New Yorkers. The novel is told alternating perspectives of a man who was in the towers at the time of the attack, his estranged wife, and one of the terrorists. DeLillo bounces back and forth between perspectives and, at times, it can be hard to figure out who we are following at any given time. He also moves around chronologically with the beginning and end of the book taking place in the towers and the middle taking place in the months afterwards. Although the man returns to his family after the events, they continue to be emotionally distant. Each member of the family copes with events in their own ways that further alienate them from other members of the family. The book is well-written, using repetition and alternating narratives to thrust the reader into the mindset of New Yorkers during that time.
Despite all the positives, I had difficulties connecting with the characters (perhaps that was the point) and some parts of the novel dragged. However, I think it can be a valuable book for those who want to learn more about how trauma can impact ordinary people.
Want to try it for yourself? Find it here: Falling Man
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other works by DeLillo?
I have not read DeLillo’s Falling Man. I am still unable to read fiction or watch any films purportedly based on the true events of 9/11. Similar to feelings expressed in Jen’s review above, on 9/11 I was New Yorker living in CA. I, too, had recently left NYC to get married. On 9/11, as I watched the news footage shortly after the North tower was hit, feelings of guilt overwhelmed me. I thought: I should be in New York, not here. NY is my home.
In the weeks following 9/11, my mother often would telephone me in CA from her home on Long Island and speak about the amount of funeral processions she had witnessed that day. 9/11 had a wide berth. Its effects reached far beyond the site where the towers fell.
I moved back to NYC in 2009. I don’t plan on visiting the memorial downtown. It would be too sad.
With respect to “Falling Man” — and I apologize if I’m going off point — after watching the final season of Mad Men earlier this year, I finally got around to googling “Falling Man.” My intent was to search for information on the iconic photograph titled “Falling Man” shot on 9/11 by photojournalist, Richard Drew.
Each episode of Mad Men, which began airing in 2007, opens with a motion graphic depicting a man falling upside down backdropped by a towering skyscraper. The very first time I saw this graphic image, I immediately thought of 9/11. I was shocked to see Drew’s image appropriated in such a way (in pop culture). From season to season, my shock over the image gradually diminished. But shock had been replaced with wary discomfort. At the opening of very last episode, the discomfort was still there.
The same google search yielded an article called “Falling Man” written in 2003 for Esquire magazine by journalist Tom Junod. The article focuses on Richard Drew and the events and ramifications surrounding his famous photo.
Junod’s article, an exquisitely written, heartfelt, diligently researched piece of journalism, has, unexpectedly, provided for me an element of closure. I am able to forgive myself a little bit for being away from NYC on 9/11.
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Thanks for sharing.
I bought this book for my boyfriend for his birthday in May, I hadn’t even thought about reading it until seeing this post! Once I get my own reading out of the way I will definitely be borrowing this from his book pile.
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I hope you like it. Either way when you’ve read it, stop by again and let us know what you thought of it
I’ll be sure to drop by and let you know how it goes
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Hi, having visited New York this year for a wondrous week, am now making a list of books and authors who write about this incredible city, and just earlier today added this book to the growing list, so thanks to your review will be adding it posthaste to the Wish List. Thanks for both viewpoints, a great review. Nicola
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