06 September, 2007

Review - Falling Man by Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo is an author who i was introduced to while I studied in America. I read White Noise and loved it, (alex didn't when I read it to her) tried to read Underworld but got bogged down and read The Body Artist.

I always get excited when DeLillo puts out a new book because he is an amazing author. He is one of the best in America and I generally prefer American to English contemporary fiction. Martin Amis does nothing for me.

The reason that I like DeLillo is because he does not take the cheap shots that are so easily made by American cultural commentators. He doesn't attack the redneck, or make some trite partisan attack on how stupid Bush is. This probably makes him less popular and accessible, but it also makes him better. He writes to identify the problems that America faces as a whole.

Falling Man is his 9/11 novel. It starts with a man called Keith escaping the falling twin towers. Follows him as he goes home to his estranged wife and child and follows their lives as they try to move on from the day the planes came. DeLillo is great with metaphor and theme, giving you a new perspective on current issues. He writes like the performance artist he describes, Falling Man, who re-enacts the falls of the people who jumped from the Twin Towers.

So in this book, 9/11 is less about the politics and rights and wrongs of attacking Iraq, but more about how events can bring people together but can't hold them together, how memory works in reflecting on tragedy so that we try hard to remember some things but are compelled to forget, like Altzheimers. It's about how people reduce life to try and get control over it as the main character gives up the risks of living with his frailties in a family life for the risks of the professional poker table.

DeLillo isn't an easy read and I'm sure I missed a lot in this book. But he is thoughtful, unpredictable and eloquent. Falling Man is as good as anything I have read by him.

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