Falling Man: A Novel

Falling Man - Don DeLillo Don DeLillo’s novel of 9/11, reminds me in a way of the film [book: Brokeback Mountain]. The weight of that movie came from the premise that the viewer would be, or should be, shocked by two rural men in love, but the great failing of that movie is that if you aren’t shocked by the concept, then you are left with a fairly typical story of love abbreviated.Falling Man gains its importance from being a novel about the New York terrorist attacks. But if you overlook the weight of this event — contextualize it in the way you might contextualize a novel wanting to recapture Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of John Kennedy — then you are left with a novel of a marriage struggling to rebuild itself, with the weight of a cataclysmic event moving the characters in and out of reflection.I’ve read better novels of Events, in particular, [book: Birds In Fall]. Where Falling Man suffers is that the novel doesn’t seek to do any contextualizing for us. We read about the aftermath of the attack and are asked, as readers, to blow our own feelings, our own experiences like dust over DeLillo’s portrayal of a fractured domestic life.(Is it even possible to write a novel about 9/11 that doesn’t in some way ask us to invest ourselves in the author’s difficult process of making the factual mythical and then factual again? I think that novel will be written, but Falling Man is not it.)There are also sections of Falling Man that follow one of the hijackers. These seemed removed and unreal (most of the book feels removed and unreal, but I say that to DeLillo’s credit) and ultimately false in their rendering.Of all the things to write about 9/11, is the event itself now the least important? Have we played that song over and over so long that we no longer know how to hear it, and instead only hear what we expect to hear? Is there a person in America who can speak of 9/11 that escapes the tower we built of it in our language horrific hyperbole? Shakespeare didn’t have to write about the deaths of Kings for his stories to reflect the great breadth of human experience, but that choice elevated the root of his story, making Kings more human and common men more like kings. In Falling Man, the Event rules all, but I wonder if we really know what story it is that we are trying to tell about it, about us, about then, about now.