Thursday, May 29, 2008

Falling Man

Falling Man by Don Delillo

"It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night. He was walking north through rubble and mud and there were people running past holding towels to their faces or jackets over their heads. They had handkerchiefs pressed to their mouths. They had shoes in their hands, a woman with a shoe in each hand, running past him. They ran and fell, some of them, confused and ungainly, with debris coming down around them, and there were people taking shelter under cars.

"The roar was still in the air, the buckling rumble of the fall. This was the world now. Smoke and ash came rolling down streets and turning corners, busting around corners, seismic tides of smoke, with office paper flashing past, standard sheets with cutting edge, skimming, whipping past, otherworldly things in the morning pall."

This is how Don Delillo begins his 9/11 book, Falling Man. Wow. I was blown away (no pun intended, really) by the opening paragraphs of this novel. Two years ago, I had never heard of Delillo. But recently, it seems his name is everywhere, all over my "book folder"... Underworld, White Noise, Mao II, Libra, etc. I got so tired of hearing "Don Delillo," seeing "Don Delillo" that I just decided to pick up one of his books and read the damn thing. And so I picked up Falling Man. I open the book and I'm greeted by, "It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night."

The prose was restrained and distant, reminiscient in some ways of Cormac McCarthy. I'm not sure if DeLillo's writing is always like this - for some reason I doubt it. In the beginning, it was poetic, beautiful. By the end it didn't have the same effect. I don't think it's because I got used to it...I don't know why I felt that way. Once it devolved into Keith's poker tornaments to recapture something he had before the attacks, I lost interest. The book is best when describing what Keith experiences during 9/11, and from there, it goes down hill. I wish DeLillo had further developed Justin and "The Siblings" searching the sky for "Bill Lawton." I felt that that was the creepiest part of the book...the attack's effects on the children and how they process it and come to terms with it.

A book like this naturally brings up the question, what were you doing that morning? I was asleep...dreaming of the wind blowing things around...I was trying get all my stuff together so it wouldn't blow away - everything blowing around. I woke up, got my applesauce and OJ for breakfast and turned on the television. It must have been right after the second plane hit the towers. Only one of my three roomates was home, Lateefah...the rest had left for classes without informing me that the f*cking world was coming down. Lateefah gets on the phone with her friends...she's on the phone yelling "We are under attack and you're worried about getting your hair done???? We are under attack!!!!" Albert aka Rebekah comes back from class, and I say, "Did you know about this?" She says, "yes." "Why didn't you wake me up?" I was so angry that no one had woken me up. I felt slightly like my grandfather who was in bed with TB when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I wish I could have asked him if he felt like he had missed something...if his inability to participate in a meanigful way frustrated him at all. That was how I felt - out of the loop. Didn't we all just want to get on a bus (not a plane) to NYC and do something? Falling Man brought all that back to me, which I had mostly forgotten about.

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