Sunday, February 24, 2008

Falling Man by Don DeLillo

Literary equivalent of watching a movie filmed with a hand-held camera. Choppy scenes - immediate feel of being there as the trauma of the past bleeds into the present. Keith Neudecker stumbles out of the dust and carnage of the World Trade Center and back into his estranged wife's life. Sooty, bloody, clutching a stranger's briefcase, he arrives on Lianne's doorstep. DeLillo shows the impact of 9-11 on North American society through Keith, his family and acquaintances. In the last chapter, after exploring how the trauma has affected the national psyche (Lianne develops a hatred-tinged paranoia focusing on her Muslim neighbor, her mother ends a long-standing relationship because of her lover's political views, Keith has an affair and becomes a professional gambler), DeLillo shows us what happened to Keith when the plane hit his tower. Along the way, he has also intertwined the story of Hamad, one of the hijackers, relating 9-11 from his viewpoint. DeLillo manages to make it all work to create a picture of things changed forever in a moment. It's a strangely detached tale, told through isolated conversations and snippets of events. I felt as though the book was remote and somewhat cold and the characters like paper dolls. A shadow play. Not really my favorite style, but I can appreciate DeLillo's mastery and do see why he had garnered accolades. But, I just couldn't get involved with the characters and was glad when I reached the last chapter.

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