Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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“I don’t know this America anymore. I don’t recognize it,” he said. “There’s an empty space where America used to be.”

Maybe it’s because I don’t read Don DeLillo novels hoping to connect with the characters, or maybe I was just born to be a contrarian, but I liked Falling Man quite a bit more than the reviewers seemed to. I thought it was probably his best book since Underworld, and maybe earlier. As is often the case with DeLillo, the characters are not real people, and barely even qualify as simulacra of real people—but for this book, at least, about the psychic aftermath of 9/11, that emptiness and stilted disconnectedness made a great deal of sense. It’s interesting that once again, as in Libra, DeLillo’s best character work is in representing those consciousnesses that might popularly be considered unrepresentable: here, the minds of the terrorists.

I’m not sure what 9/11 novel people were hoping DeLillo might write, but a novel about PTSD was more or less what I was expecting. Honestly I think it’s probably the only sort of 9/11 novel that is capable of being either written or widely published, at least for a couple decades—which is just one of the reasons why DeLillo has thus far been the only exception to my rigorous personal ban on all 9/11 novels.

You have to look for them a bit—and I think the fact of that looking was one of the things the reviewers didn’t care for—but DeLillo still manages to get in a few nice DeLilloesque grand pronouncements, though he’s careful always to put them into the mouths of his characters rather than in untagged text, almost as if even six years later he still needs the protection of a proxy to talk about these things:

“But that’s why you built the towers, isn’t it? Weren’t the towers built as fantasies of wealth and power that would one day become fantasies of destruction? You build a thing like that so you can see it come down. The provocation is obvious. What other reason would there be to go so high and then to double it, do it twice? It’s a fantasy, so why not do it twice? You are saying, Here it is, bring it down.”

and

He said,”It still looks like an accident, the first one. Even from this distance, way outside the thing, how many days later, I’m standing here thinking it’s an accident.”

“Because it has to be.”

“It has to be,” she said.

“The way the camera sort of shows surprise.”

“But only the first one.”

“Only the first,” she said.

“The second plane, by the time the second plane appears,” he said, “we’re all a bit older and wiser.”

Written by gerrycanavan

August 8, 2007 at 11:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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