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
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
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.