Don DeLillo, Falling Man

Finished reading Falling Man on sunday. As I am a bit of a DeLillo-specialist (having read all of his prose and most of his plays) I guess I have to give my opinion here… Falling Man is a novel about the effects of 9/11 on the lives of a group of Americans – DeLillo-characters, all with something to hide, a secret maybe, though this ‘something to hide, this secret, might be just nothingness, a big hole. It’s a novel on the scale of Endzone or Players. It doesn’t compare badly to his earlier prose at all. I say this because his novels after Underworld seemed to be the work of a free-wheeling writer returning to his subject matter, without any urgent reason. Whereas in the earlier prose DeLillo seemed to struggle – sign of urgency. Underworld was a sort of summary of all of DeLillo’s earlier concerns and themes, which resolved most of the loose ends and problems of the earlier novels – (a reason why I never feel compelled to pick up that book a second time, yet continue to read the others. like Americana). Though sometimes praised by reviewers who discovered DeLillo through Underworld, The Body Artist, Valparaiso and Cosmopolis are simply the least interesting works from his oeuvre. The lack edge, and even seem false/fake sometimes.

Falling Man, I think, is simply the book DeLillo had to write, although he might not have longed to write it. It has to exist. Without it, there’s a lack in his oeuvre. Libra is the novel which defines the ‘postmodern age’; all of his other novels project a world that is running toward 9/11. One could even say that DeLillo’s prose pointed towards 9/11 in an eerie way.

And to be silent then, afterwards, after what for the New Yorkers signifies catastrophe, would be too much. I can imagine, that being DeLillo one feels compelled to take the impact of the catastrophe as subject matter.

Falling Man then, might not be Delillo’s best novel, but it’s all there. The characters, the short sentences, the distanced, ‘objective’ observations, the scenes that seem to be overexposed (a metaphor I’ve used for years trying to describe DeLillo’s style, and never have been able to explain in detail). Maybe a critique could be that DeLillo doesn’t delve deep enough into the post-9/11-American-soul, nor deep enough into the soul of the terrorist. (The theory was already there in Mao II, the soul I guess in Libra). Maybe a critique could be that most of what DeLillo tells, reminds one of the journalistic accounts of 9/11. But even if that is the case, it is there: descriptions of the impact of the planes, of people going down the stairs of the WTC, of the moment just before the impact. And these descriptions are precise. DeLillo-esque (which is scary enough I guess, for a writer, to describe historical scenes and then someone saying that such scenes are DeLillo-esque…)

But that said, this book is not about terrorist or terrorism, not at all about victims, not about ‘our age’ It is a novel about the soul of white, well-to-do Americans and their secrets (see above). It is also an attempt to look into the soul of an Arab terrorist, but this fails just as it fails in Mao II: it makes sense, theoretically. It shows how ‘we’ (Westerners) think terrorists think, and bringing European terrorism in, does not alter that. It shows the surface. But it might also be that there is no more. That said, not many writers go where DeLillo goes, and the prose in Falling Man doesn’t sound false or weak for one sentence. It’s ‘Delillo’ – and in the world of his characters, 9-11 was always already there.

Well, I could’ve also pointed you to Omar’s review at:

en,reading matter,writing | June 25, 2007 | 20:59 | Comments Off on Don DeLillo, Falling Man |


RSS for comments on this post.

sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Arie Altena