Falling Man (4 stars)

Don DeLillo

Falling Man (Picador)


As soon as the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, several things were inevitable. The sick jokes would start flying, the conspiracy theories would take to the internet and Don DeLillo would be sifting through the wreckage for a future novel. And so five-and-a-half years on, Falling Man finally leaps onto the shelves, adding 9/11 to the pantheon of landmark 20th century people and events he has covered, from Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra and the ‘Bob Dylan’ character of Great Jones Street to the whole post-war shooting match of America in Underworld.

With Falling Man, DeLillo is as vibrant and difficult as ever, wrestling with the psychological aftermath of September 11 in the hearts and minds of normal people caught up in that hell on earth. But he also ups the ante on the actual bodily harm done to individuals: the man who walks around caked in other people’s blood and the recurring motif of ‘organic shrapnel’ with the terror of having the exploded bits of a suicide bomber lodged in your body. For DeLillo, perhaps he has been taking much stock over 9/11 as it was almost written in the stars by himself. In Mao II, he described ‘midair explosions and crumbled buildings’ and the first edition of Underworld features a cloud-covered World Trade Centre with what looks like a bird flying away from it. Look at that image now and try not to see one of the iconic jumpers.

(Brian Donaldson)

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