Falling Man, Don DeLillo

“He said, ‘It still looks like an accident, the first one. Even from this distance, way outside the thing, how many days later, I’m standing here thinking it’s an accident.’
‘Because it has to be.’
‘It has to be,’ he said.
‘The way the camera sort of shows surprise.’
‘But only the first one.’
‘Only the first,’ she said.
‘The second plane, by the time the second plane appears,’ he said, ‘we’re all a little older and wiser.'”


Some books wash over you like a sip of gin and tonic on an empty stomach. I was drunk on Don DeLillo’s prose after one page. I am very grateful that I have a friend–who gave me this book–that studied DeLillo for her master’s and we had a chance to discuss the book yesterday (which mostly involved me gushing over every aspect that I loved and her struggling to fit in insights or research).

I’ve become obsessed with Goodreads lately, and when I stuck in my obvious 5-star review, I noticed that most people were frustrated by this book. Most said the characters were flat and didn’t feel like people, to which I say: OF COURSE. They were beautiful, beautiful symbols, stand-ins for the American experience of the event. Many believed it was inappropriate for DeLillo to write this book so soon (2007) after 9/11, but I believe he’s worked through the event in such detail and so carefully, and has many insights to offer. And Lianne’s obsession with trying to understand her husband’s experience at the WTC and Falling Man–a street performer in New York who would hang himself upside down in a harness to imitate an image of a man falling from one of the towers–parallels most of our own struggle to understand this tragedy.

It’s a powerful book that will stay with me for a long time as I work through its ideas on how we work through and retell tragedy.

Books read: 10


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