Falling Man by Don DeLillo

Falling Man is a 246 page novel about events occurring immediately following the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. I read this novel for my American literature course, and consequently had to write a paper for it — this review will be pre-paper, so I don’t get sick of writing about the book.

Falling Man

The narrative starts in immediately with a well-crafted sentence in the midst of the falling debris of the first tower’s demise, “It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night.” The story follows a man, Keith, who worked in, and therefore escaped from, the north tower. It also focuses on his wife (separated, before the fall) Lianne, Lianne’s mother Nina and Nina’s lover Martin, Lianne and Kieth’s son Justin, and the two terrorists-to-be, Hammad and Amir.

The narrative is, I don’t want to say monotonous, but I can’t think of another word for it. It’s non-linear, fragmented, and sometimes does interesting things, but mostly it’s just a telling of thoughts and feelings of whichever character is the first person narrator at the time.  There was a definite static feeling of the plot; I would maybe call it a flatline or even an example of the still life (natura morta!) that Lianne and Nina obsess over so much.  The dialogue gets confusing at times — no one is credited to having said something, you just have to figure out who is speaking by framing the conversation in the narrative; this is more difficult than it should be.

I didn’t hate this book;  I liked it, but definitely did not loved it. I actually also disliked Kieth, and yet I sympathized with him a lot — he was relatable in a really distant, quiet sort of way; I enjoyed the fact that his story wasn’t all tidy in the end. It seemed realistic that not everything was tied up in the end. My favorite part and characters were the to-be terrorists, Hammad and Amir (Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta). Their parts were so surreal, and yet completely realistic at the same time. Their stories were easily the best and more interesting parts of the novel. In it’s entirety, the book was like a puzzle that had quite a few pieces that just didn’t seem to fit together that well; in the end though, once you put the puzzle together, it was a great picture of domestic life in the aftermath of 9/11.

DeLillo’s writing had a very high literary feel; sometimes this worked extremely well, other times not so much. It seemed as if he was just trying too hard to seem lofty. Though the times it worked made it worth the times it did not. Overall, it was a decent book, though I wouldn’t recommend it for light reading.

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