Wednesday, August 19, 2009


This book opens with an apocalyptic-type scene where a man is walking through ash and debris. Three pages later we realize that the scene is New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Keith is a lawyer who escapes from the South Tower and goes home to his estranged wife Lianne and young son Justin. He brings with him a briefcase belonging to Florence Givens, who lost it during a fall in the stairwell. The book is about these 4 people, primarily Keith and Lianne, plus Hammad, one of the terrorists. The Falling Man is a performance artist who seems to re-enact the leaps from the burning towers by falling head first with a harness and a non-bungee-like tether. (My favorite image is that of the Falling Man as a Tarot card.) Symbolically, Keith is the falling man, though, as he has a brief affair with Florence and then becomes a full-time poker player—possibly in some kind of homage to his poker-night friends who died in the World Trade Center. DeLillo makes copious use of pronouns, so that it sometimes requires several paragraphs of reading to determine who is the antecedent of "he" or "she." This technique emphasizes the disconnectedness of the characters that is prevalent throughout the novel. The tragedy has caused them to become somewhat robotic and caused me to consider the lives of the survivors and their families. The inclusion of Hammad's story, brief and incomplete, seemed unnecessary to me, and he doesn't come to life nearly as well as the terrorists did in The Garden of Last Days by AndrĂ© Dubus III. As far as Keith and Lianne are concerned, DeLillo sums them up in what is probably the most quoted and most telling line in the novel: "She wanted to be safe in the world and he did not."
Amazon: 3.5 stars (86 reviews)
Barnes and Noble: 3 stars (14 reviews)

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