Falling Man
  • Falling Man
  • Falling Man

Falling Man

2.8 19
by Don DeLillo
     
 

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There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years.

Falling Man is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people.

First there is Keith, walking

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Overview

There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years.

Falling Man is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people.

First there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he'd always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes.

These are lives choreographed by loss, grief and the enormous force of history.

Brave and brilliant, Falling Man traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking.

Editorial Reviews

Frank Rich
If Underworld took its cues from the kinetic cinema of Eisenstein, Falling Man, up until its remarkable final sequence, is all oblique silences and enigmatic close-ups reminiscent of the domestic anomie of the New Wave. In DeLillo’s hands, this is not at all limiting or prosaic. There’s a method to the Resnais-like fogginess. The cumulative effect is devastating, as DeLillo in exquisite increments lowers the reader into an inexorable rendezvous with raw terror.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

When DeLillo's novel Playerswas published in 1977, one of the main characters, Pammy, worked in the newly built World Trade Center. She felt that "the towers didn't seem permanent. They remained concepts, no less transient for all their bulk than some routine distortion of light." DeLillo's new novel begins 24 years later, with Keith Neudecker standing in a New York City street covered with dust, glass shards and blood, holding somebody else's briefcase, while that intimation of the building's mortality is realized in a sickening roar behind him.

On that day, Keith, one half of a classic DeLillo well-educated married couple, returns to Lianne, from whom he'd separated, and to their young son, Justin. Keith and Lianne know it is Keith's Lazarus moment, although DeLillo reserves the bravura sequence that describes Keith's escape from the first tower—as well as the last moments of one of the hijackers, Hammad—until the end of the novel. Reconciliation for Keith and Lianne occurs in a sort of stunned unconsciousness; the two hardly engage in the teasing, ludic interchanges common to couples in other DeLillo novels. Lianne goes through a paranoid period of rage against everything Mideastern; Keith is drawn to another survivor. Lianne's mother, Nina, roils her 20-year affair with Martin, a German leftist; Keith unhooks from his law practice to become a professional poker player. Justin participates in a child's game involving binoculars, plane spotting and waiting for a man named "Bill Lawton."

DeLillo's last novel, Cosmopolis, was a disappointment, all attitude (DeLillo is always a brilliant stager of attitude) and no heart. This novel is a return to DeLillo'sbest work. No other writer could encompass 9/11 quite like DeLillo does here, down to the interludes following Hammad as he listens to a man who "was very genius"—Mohammed Atta. The writing has the intricacy and purpose of a wiring diagram. The mores of the after-the-event are represented with no cuteness—save, perhaps, the falling man performance artist. It is as if Players, The Names, Libra, White Noise, Underworld—with their toxic events, secret histories, moral panics—converge, in that day's narrative of systematic vulnerability, scatter and tentative regrouping. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
A man emerging from the Twin Towers blaze heads uptown to reconnect with his ex-wife and son. If any novelist can do justice to 9/11, it's DeLillo. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The contemporary master's 14th novel is a pulsating exploration of our recent history akin and comparable to such predecessors as White Noise (1985), Libra (1988) and Mao II (1991). It's a subtle deployment of intersecting narratives which begins on September 11, 2001, as the Twin Towers are falling. Keith Neudecker, a New York City office worker who survives the disaster, returns, not to the apartment where he has lived since separating from his wife Lianne, but to her and their young son Justin: a gaunt, wraith-like figure covered in ashes, broken glass and blood, carrying a stranger's briefcase. In brief, cryptic segments that move backward and forward in time, we learn of the couple's past difficulties and nominal "reconciliation," in relation to Lianne's troubled closeness to her elegant mother Nina and memories of her father, her volunteer work with a neighborhood Alzheimer's patients' support group, the poker playing cronies with whom Keith has led a separate life and the owner of the briefcase he carried out of the Tower (to whom he impulsively returns it, with whom he forges a mutually consolatory intimacy). DeLillo subtly connects these and numerous other episodes and motifs, introducing the figures of an Iraqi true believer preparing himself for martyrdom, a jaded European (Nina's lover) who confidently predicts America's impending downfall and the eponymous "performance artist" whose seemingly suicidal plunges increasingly clearly adumbrate and embody the experience of "free fall" toward which all this ruthlessly compact novel's characters are leaning. Exquisitely written sentence by sentence, perfectly constructed and infused with a harrowing momentum that never relaxes itsgrip on the reader's nerves, this is arguably the crowning work of DeLillo's estimable career: a compassionate and despairing dramatization of current events that shows how inextricably the political and the personal worlds are fatefully entwined. You'll scarcely be able to draw a breath throughout its lucid, overpowering climactic pages. Beauty from ashes.
From the Publisher
"Falling Man brings at least a measure of memory, tenderness and meaning to all that howling space." -- Frank Rich, The New York Times Book Review

"The clearest vision yet of what it felt like to live through that day." -- Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

"DeLillo is at his best...a keen imaginer...[writing] with exactitude and lyrical originality." -- James Wood, The New Republic

"Haunting...elegiac...masterful." -- Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416546023
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
05/15/2007
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night. He was walking north through rubble and mud and there were people running past holding towels to their faces or jackets over their heads. They had handkerchiefs pressed to their mouths. They had shoes in their hands, a woman with a shoe in each hand, running past him. They ran and fell, some of them, confused and ungainly, with debris coming down around them, and there were people taking shelter under cars.

The roar was still in the air, the buckling rumble of the fall. This was the world now. Smoke and ash came rolling down streets and turning corners, busting around corners, seismic tides of smoke, with office paper flashing past, standard sheets with cutting edge, skimming, whipping past, otherworldly things in the morning pall.

He wore a suit and carried a briefcase. There was glass in his hair and face, marbled bolls of blood and light. He walked past a Breakfast Special sign and they went running by, city cops and security guards running, hands pressed down on gun butts to keep the weapons steady.

Things inside were distant and still, where he was supposed to be. It happened everywhere around him, a car half buried in debris, windows smashed and noises coming out, radio voices scratching at the wreckage. He saw people shedding water as they ran, clothes and bodies drenched from sprinkler systems. There were shoes discarded in the street, handbags and laptops, a man seated on the sidewalk coughing up blood. Paper cups went bouncing oddly by.

The world was this as well, figures in windows a thousand feet up, dropping into free space, and the stink of fuel fire, and the steady rip of sirens in the air. The noise lay everywhere they ran, stratified sound collecting around them, and he walked away from it and into it at the same time.

There was something else then, outside all this, not belonging to this, aloft. He watched it coming down. A shirt came down out of the high smoke, a shirt lifted and drifting in the scant light and then falling again, down toward the river.

They ran and then they stopped, some of them, standing there swaying, trying to draw breath out of the burning air, and the fitful cries of disbelief, curses and lost shouts, and the paper massed in the air, contracts, resumés blowing by, intact snatches of business, quick in the wind.

He kept on walking. There were the runners who'd stopped and others veering into sidestreets. Some were walking backwards, looking into the core of it, all those writhing lives back there, and things kept falling, scorched objects trailing lines of fire.

He saw two women sobbing in their reverse march, looking past him, both in running shorts, faces in collapse.

He saw members of the tai chi group from the park nearby, standing with hands extended at roughly chest level, elbows bent, as if all of this, themselves included, might be placed in a state of abeyance.

Someone came out of a diner and tried to hand him a bottle of water. It was a woman wearing a dust mask and a baseball cap and she withdrew the bottle and twisted off the top and then thrust it toward him again. He put down the briefcase to take it, barely aware that he wasn't using his left arm, that he'd had to put down the briefcase before he could take the bottle. Three police vans came veering into the street and sped downtown, sirens sounding. He closed his eyes and drank, feeling the water pass into his body taking dust and soot down with it. She was looking at him. She said something he didn't hear and he handed back the bottle and picked up the briefcase. There was an aftertaste of blood in the long draft of water.

He started walking again. A supermarket cart stood upright and empty. There was a woman behind it, facing him, with police tape wrapped around her head and face, yellow caution tape that marks the limits of a crime scene. Her eyes were thin white ripples in the bright mask and she gripped the handle of the cart and stood there, looking into the smoke.

In time he heard the sound of the second fall. He crossed Canal Street and began to see things, somehow, differently. Things did not seem charged in the usual ways, the cobbled street, the cast-iron buildings. There was something critically missing from the things around him. They were unfinished, whatever that means. They were unseen, whatever that means, shop windows, loading platforms, paint-sprayed walls. Maybe this is what things look like when there is no one here to see them.

He heard the sound of the second fall, or felt it in the trembling air, the north tower coming down, a soft awe of voices in the distance. That was him coming down, the north tower.

The sky was lighter here and he could breathe more easily. There were others behind him, thousands, filling the middle distance, a mass in near formation, people walking out of the smoke. He kept going until he had to stop. It hit him quickly, the knowledge that he couldn't go any farther.

He tried to tell himself he was alive but the idea was too obscure to take hold. There were no taxis and little traffic of any kind and then an old panel truck appeared, Electrical Contractor, Long Island City, and it pulled alongside and the driver leaned toward the window on the passenger's side and examined what he saw, a man scaled in ash, in pulverized matter, and asked him where he wanted to go. It wasn't until he got in the truck and shut the door that he understood where he'd been going all along.

Copyright © 2007 by Don DeLillo

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Meet the Author

Don DeLillo is the author of fifteen novels, including Zero K, Underworld, Falling Man, White Noise, and Libra. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize for his complete body of work, and the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2010, he was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Prize. The Angel Esmeralda was a finalist for the 2011 Story Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In 2012, DeLillo received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for his body of work.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Westchester County, New York
Date of Birth:
November 20, 1936
Place of Birth:
New York City
Education:
Fordham University, 1958

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Falling Man 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don DeLillo has yet to disappoint me. Falling Man is just another perfect example why DeLillo is easily one of the top five novelists in contemporary America. DeLillo refuses to take the easy road by merely regurgitating the mass media frenzy that resulted from 9/11 instead, he tells the story through individuals and their varying forms of reaction and coping in the aftermath of the attacks. DeLillo, as seen in previous novels, reverts back to his focus on `images¿ with the ¿Falling Man¿ (a twin tower jumper in the 9/11 attacks caught on camera). No author is better equipped to deal with such an image readers have witnessed DeLillo¿s successful track record with the undertaking images in Libra¿s JFK Zapruder film, White Noise¿s ¿most photographed barn in America,¿ and video footage of the Texas Highway Killer in Underworld (just to name a few). Falling Man is no different. One of DeLillo¿s `knocks¿ over the years has been his lack of plot development. 9/11, however, becomes an ideal platform for DeLillo¿s disregard for plot. After the attacks, there is nothing left, only a numb reaction where plots do not belong. DeLillo delivers this stagnant period of mourning, confusion, and self-reflection to the reader with ease.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book for true lovers of fiction for the reader who seeks something beyond the ordinary. It is lean and muscular. Not an easy read, but deeply fulfilling, with passages of brilliance.
Franne More than 1 year ago
I couldn't stand the writing style. It was just too disjointed. Too many good books to read...don't waste your time with this one.
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mapearl More than 1 year ago
I read the actual written book and I was moved to read about survivors of 911. We have heard about the terrible deaths, we lived with the loss of so many american's on our own soil, but what happened to those who survived...this is the story told. I want to say that after 9 years, I fear that we are forgetting the terror we felt, the anger, and the pride of being an American...the flags on every automobile, in home windows, the country felt close. It is fading...and we must not let this happen. Never Forget!!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
If you've never read DeLillo you have one of two options: Either don't start reading him with this book, or don't start at all. For my money he's one of the most emotionally complex American writers alive, definately not for the casual reader. This is a very gripping book for those who read more than just the words on the page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book thinking that it would be a good fictional read about the complicated lives of a few 9/11 survivors. Having never read Delillo before, I cannot honestly say if his writing was worse than previous books or not. His writing style is very odd and turns one way, then another, and comes back again with no rhyme or reason. This could have been a fantastic book, but the author's writing style made me wish I never picked it up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been an avid Delillo fan and advocate since the early 80s. Falling Man stands along with Cosmopolis as one of his two most unsatisfying efforts - at least for the reader. Characterization and language are weak, his two hallmarks. Without either, Falling Man is regrettably forgettable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The events driving the novel are far more compelling than the characters. Although they are all somehow connected, their ramdom musings drag any semblance of continuity apart. Even DeLillo's gift for choppy, clever dialogue become tedious. If you have to have it, wait for the paperback, or better, the bargain table.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No, the author didn't bother with a plot. What a waste of a book.
eak321 More than 1 year ago
After the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I decided to pick up my copy of FALLING MAN that I had lying on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I thought it was timely and would be a fantastic read, given all the accolades the novel received. Unfortunately, FALLING MAN is basically a book of random thoughts. It's like being inside the head of someone with attention deficit disorder who changes from one topic to another so quickly that you can't understand what they're trying to say. They're giving you only pieces of the conversation that's going on inside their head. It was very hard to follow what was going on. To make it worse, the author uses generic pronouns like "he" and "she" as if we're supposed to know who he's talking about, when we don't even know the characters. I know there's a man with an estranged spouse and a kid. Other than that, I wasn't quite sure and, frankly, after 50 pages in, I didn't care. After the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I decided to pick up my copy of FALLING MAN that I had lying on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I thought it was timely and would be a fantastic read, given all the accolades the novel received. Unfortunately, FALLING MAN is basically a book of random thoughts. It's like being inside the head of someone with attention deficit disorder who changes from one topic to another so quickly that you can't understand what they're trying to say. They're giving you only pieces of the conversation that's going on inside their head. It was very hard to follow what was going on. To make it worse, the author uses generic pronouns like "he" and "she" as if we're supposed to know who he's talking about, when we don't even know the characters. I know there's a man with an estranged spouse and a kid. He escapes the center of the attacks and goes straight to his ex-wife's house. Other than that, I wasn't quite sure and, frankly, after 50 pages in, I didn't care. If, after 50 pages, the book hasn't grabbed me, I doubt reading an additional 200 pages would have really made me appreciate or enjoy the novel any more, so I just gave up. FALLING MAN? More like FAILING MAN.
discoverygal More than 1 year ago
I found the book extremely confusing. You almost know the end before you've heard the first two chapters and after that it jumps back and forth in a jumble of times and characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You read the inside flap and you think, ok.. this is going to be tragic and moving and heartwrenching. And the 1st chapter set it all up.... and then..... the broken views, the inner chatter.. for me, it just wasnt what i had hoped it would be. It was rather disappointing, really. All the right intentions, just poor follow through in my opinion. Best parts of the book for me was the 1st and last chapter. Everything inbetween was forgetable.