Falling Man
DeLillo's wrenchingly beautiful novel of 9/11.
I Don DeLillo has long been our most prescient novelist, the man whose imagination felt like a crystal ball in which we made out the ghostly silhouettes of our future. Only once before has he cast an eye backward at a particular event in history: In Libra (1988), he brilliantly anatomized the forces leading up to the Kennedy assassination and brought to life the strange, sketchy figure of Lee Harvey Oswald. Now, in Falling Man (Scribner), he has again looked back at another staggering moment of mystery and change in the American story: 9/11. The two events share a kind of catastrophic murkiness, a grievous unsolvability, that fascinates DeLillo and puts before him a crucial aesthetic challenge. How do such moments erupt from individual lives, and change them? Falling Man captures all the startling and sometimes eerily beautiful imagery of that day—the sunlight glinting on silver, the charcoal smoke dispersing across pure blue sky like ink dropped in water—and grounds those visions in the lives of a handful of men and women who were traumatized by them. One man finds an abandoned briefcase on his way out of the towers. He holds it for a time, and finally returns it to its owner, a woman who also survived. She says, "You ask yourself what the story is that goes with the briefcase. I'm the story." In such immutable human realities, in such deeply imagined stories, lies the essence of literature's power and, for DeLillo, the strongest possibility of our own psychic redemption.


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