Falling Man

Falling Man

by Don DeLillo

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416546061
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 06/03/2008
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 513,835
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About 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. His story collection The Angel Esmeralda was a finalist for the 2011 Story Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Hometown:

Westchester County, New York

Date of Birth:

November 20, 1936

Place of Birth:

New York City

Education:

Fordham University, 1958

Read an Excerpt

Falling Man

A Novel
By Don DeLillo

Scribner

Copyright © 2007 Don DeLillo
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416546023

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



Continues...


Excerpted from Falling Man by Don DeLillo Copyright © 2007 by Don DeLillo. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion:
1. Falling Man chronicles a tragic, defining moment in American history, yet the news stories are left out. We see the event through the eyes of the people who witnessed it, or through the story of the terrorist, Hammad. What do you make of DeLillo's choice?
2. Discuss Keith and Lianne's separate pursuits of solace and relief. What does Keith's relationship with Florence provide him? Why does Lianne depend so deeply on her meetings with the Alzheimer's patients? Are there similarities in the way that Keith and Lianne attempt to recuperate and comprehend their new post-9/11 world? What are the differences?
3. One plotline focuses on Nina, Lianne's mother, and Martin, Nina's German lover. What are the issues regarding America and American patriotism that surface in Nina and Martin's debates? What is the role of their story in the novel? Why is it significant that we discover that Martin's real name is Ernst Hechinger and that he was on the periphery of a terrorist group in Germany in the 1970s?
4. Keith eventually enters the professional poker circuit, spending a great majority of his time away from home, in anonymous windowless rooms, gambling. What do you think of Keith's descent into this state of alienation?
5. Why does Lianne believe that Keith wants to kill someone (p. 214)? Both Lianne and Keith have outbursts of anger or violence — Keith when "shopping" for beds with Florence, Lianne in her encounter with the woman in her apartment building who plays loud Arabic music. Are these episodes symptoms of unexamined disturbance?
6. Children in DeLillo's fiction are often uncannily wise and observant. Keith and Lianne's son Justin and his friends, the twins, try to make sense of the event in secret. They watch with binoculars to see if the planes will come back. They whisper about "Bill Lawton." What do they contribute to the novel? What does their perspective offer?
7. Lianne thinks that Falling Man, the performance artist, "eluded her" (p. 224) - that she felt connected with the other people who watched him fall from the tracks, but "not that man who'd stood above her, detailed and looming" (p. 224). While Lianne researches Falling Man online she comes upon material from a New School panel discussion concerning, "Falling Man as Heartless Exhibitionist or Brave New Chronicler of the Age of Terror" (p. 220). How would you characterize Falling Man's performances?
8. Besides Falling Man, consider some of the other symbols used in this novel. Discuss the significance of the briefcase and the Morandi paintings.
9. At the end of each of the three parts within the novel is a brief coda featuring Hammad, a terrorist, as the protagonist. What effect do you think these passages have on the novel as a whole? How does the inclusion of the terrorist's perspective affect a story told primarily from the victims' point of view?
10. Is there meaning in the book's narrative structure? It opens with Keith walking out of the wreckage, moves on to explore how Keith and Lianne struggle to cope with life after 9/11, and concludes with the attacks themselves, as Keith watches his friend die and then escapes down the stairs. Why do you think DeLillo both opens and closes the novel in the midst of the chaos? How different, in terms of the narration and connotation, is the introduction from the conclusion?
11. The novel closes with the following lines, "Then he [Keith] saw a shirt come down out of the sky. He walked and saw it fall, arms waving like nothing in this life" (p. 246). Discuss how these concluding sentences made you feel. What do you think DeLillo was trying to accomplish in closing his 9/11 novel in this way?
12. Did you sympathize with Keith and Lianne? Do you think that they're good parents and spouses, or, are these questions made irrelevant given their circumstances following 9/11? Did you feel more strongly connected to one character over another? Consider their interactions and expectations of one another in the aftermath of the attacks. What effect did this have on you as a reader?
13. In novels that explore a tragedy of some kind, redemption is often a crucial element. Is there redemption in this novel? Why or why not?
14. Has Falling Man allowed you to gain new perspective on 9/11? Has it shown you an aspect of the event's consequences that you hadn't considered before?
Enhance Your Book Club:
1. The paintings of artist Giorgio Morandi are featured as objects of interest in Falling Man. Read more about him and view some of his work at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgio_Morandi or on museum sites such as www.moma.org or http://www.metmuseum.org. Look into your local art museum's collections, and if it has a Morandi painting, visit the museum with your group.
2. As with any major historic event, people often remember exactly what they were doing when that event occurred. As a group, share your 9/11 experiences. How have your feelings about the attacks changed, if at all, with the passage of time?
3. Don DeLillo is a prolific and critically acclaimed author. Read this review of DeLillo titles in New York Magazine and pick another DeLillo book to read as a companion text. http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/31522/

Introduction

Questions for Discussion:

1. Falling Man chronicles a tragic, defining moment in American history, yet the news stories are left out. We see the event through the eyes of the people who witnessed it, or through the story of the terrorist, Hammad. What do you make of DeLillo's choice?

2. Discuss Keith and Lianne's separate pursuits of solace and relief. What does Keith's relationship with Florence provide him? Why does Lianne depend so deeply on her meetings with the Alzheimer's patients? Are there similarities in the way that Keith and Lianne attempt to recuperate and comprehend their new post-9/11 world? What are the differences?

3. One plotline focuses on Nina, Lianne's mother, and Martin, Nina's German lover. What are the issues regarding America and American patriotism that surface in Nina and Martin's debates? What is the role of their story in the novel? Why is it significant that we discover that Martin's real name is Ernst Hechinger and that he was on the periphery of a terrorist group in Germany in the 1970s?

4. Keith eventually enters the professional poker circuit, spending a great majority of his time away from home, in anonymous windowless rooms, gambling. What do you think of Keith's descent into this state of alienation?

5. Why does Lianne believe that Keith wants to kill someone (p. 214)? Both Lianne and Keith have outbursts of anger or violence — Keith when "shopping" for beds with Florence, Lianne in her encounter with the woman in her apartment building who plays loud Arabic music. Are these episodes symptoms of unexamined disturbance?

6. Children in DeLillo's fiction are often uncannily wise and observant. Keith andLianne's son Justin and his friends, the twins, try to make sense of the event in secret. They watch with binoculars to see if the planes will come back. They whisper about "Bill Lawton." What do they contribute to the novel? What does their perspective offer?

7. Lianne thinks that Falling Man, the performance artist, "eluded her" (p. 224) - that she felt connected with the other people who watched him fall from the tracks, but "not that man who'd stood above her, detailed and looming" (p. 224). While Lianne researches Falling Man online she comes upon material from a New School panel discussion concerning, "Falling Man as Heartless Exhibitionist or Brave New Chronicler of the Age of Terror" (p. 220). How would you characterize Falling Man's performances?

8. Besides Falling Man, consider some of the other symbols used in this novel. Discuss the significance of the briefcase and the Morandi paintings.

9. At the end of each of the three parts within the novel is a brief coda featuring Hammad, a terrorist, as the protagonist. What effect do you think these passages have on the novel as a whole? How does the inclusion of the terrorist's perspective affect a story told primarily from the victims' point of view?

10. Is there meaning in the book's narrative structure? It opens with Keith walking out of the wreckage, moves on to explore how Keith and Lianne struggle to cope with life after 9/11, and concludes with the attacks themselves, as Keith watches his friend die and then escapes down the stairs. Why do you think DeLillo both opens and closes the novel in the midst of the chaos? How different, in terms of the narration and connotation, is the introduction from the conclusion?

11. The novel closes with the following lines, "Then he [Keith] saw a shirt come down out of the sky. He walked and saw it fall, arms waving like nothing in this life" (p. 246). Discuss how these concluding sentences made you feel. What do you think DeLillo was trying to accomplish in closing his 9/11 novel in this way?

12. Did you sympathize with Keith and Lianne? Do you think that they're good parents and spouses, or, are these questions made irrelevant given their circumstances following 9/11? Did you feel more strongly connected to one character over another? Consider their interactions and expectations of one another in the aftermath of the attacks. What effect did this have on you as a reader?

13. In novels that explore a tragedy of some kind, redemption is often a crucial element. Is there redemption in this novel? Why or why not?

14. Has Falling Man allowed you to gain new perspective on 9/11? Has it shown you an aspect of the event's consequences that you hadn't considered before?

Enhance Your Book Club:

1. The paintings of artist Giorgio Morandi are featured as objects of interest in Falling Man. Read more about him and view some of his work at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgio_Morandi or on museum sites such as www.moma.org or http://www.metmuseum.org. Look into your local art museum's collections, and if it has a Morandi painting, visit the museum with your group.

2. As with any major historic event, people often remember exactly what they were doing when that event occurred. As a group, share your 9/11 experiences. How have your feelings about the attacks changed, if at all, with the passage of time?

3. Don DeLillo is a prolific and critically acclaimed author. Read this review of DeLillo titles in New York Magazine and pick another DeLillo book to read as a companion text. http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/31522/

Customer Reviews

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Falling Man 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 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.
Ben.Cumberledge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read Falling Man recently, coincidentally during the ten year anniversary of 9-11. I was pleased with the read, but not blown away as I have been by some of DeLillo's other novels (see: Underworld, Mao II). Some of the less-than-scholarly reviews I've seen on the Internet have described the characters as hollow, one-dimensional or dysfunctional. This entirely misses the real strength of the book for me at least-- the dispassionate narration and stark point-of-view shifts (the real wallop comes when DeLillo shifts to the terrorists' POV). With a book of this breadth, expecting the characters, which are quite numerous, to be richly portrayed and fully developed is akin to walking into Mastro's and asking for a well done steak smothered in gravy. Best to leave the grown-up literature to the grown-ups, Nancy Drew.
KPW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I never read DeLillo before, and after this probably never will again.
Rachissy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a quick read, but also hard to read in places. Falling Man by Don DeLillo follows a survivor of 9/11. It begins with Keith walking away from the World Trade Center covered in ash and blood. In the aftermath of the disaster, he moves back in with his wife and son, whom he had been separated from at the time of the attack.There are parts of the book, when the characters are recounting their experiences of the day, trying to get out of the tower, that are downright haunting. Some were very difficult to read, so overly detailed in places so that I felt like I was there. The book left me with a bit of a heavy heart, though being a book about 9/11, it wasn't as thought I was expecting a feel-good read.I just finished the book a few minutes ago, and I'm not sure yet if I liked the book as a whole. It could be that I still need to absorb it, let it sink in or whatnot, but I'm on the fence. I liked parts and I hated parts.The book is narrated in the third person and follows several people. Sometimes the transition from one character to the next was so abrupt that I found myself getting confused as to who it was referring to. One minute we're with Keith, then a few paragraphs later we're with his wife or someone else, often with little warning. It would take me a few lines to realize we were suddenly in a different place or time.The dialog was also bit awkward in places and almost hard to follow, everyone seemed to speak abruptly and only one sentence at a time. Though these are characters in turmoil and Lord knows I wouldn't be too chatty if I went through something like that. It's just that most of the conversations seemed like they were on a bad first date; question, quick answer, one line comment, rinse and repeat. People just don't talk like that on a normal basis.What I did like about the book was that these were real people trying to make sense of the tragedy and dealing with the aftermath. Keith's young son begins watching the skies for more planes, his wife, Lianne, lashes out at a middle eastern neighbor and doesn't seem to understand why. These are not heroes such as a firefighter or policeman. These are just normal and flawed people adjusting to life 'after the planes', as they put it.In the end, I think I liked the overall story behind the book but had a problem with the execution of that story. The rapidly changing POV's tended to pull me out of the story as I had to reread passages to figure out what was going on. I do think I would still recommend it to other though. The good far outweighed the bad in my eyes. Just be prepared for a few gut-wrenching moments.
SharonSommers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Good 9/11 Story I read Falling Man after my co-worker and dear friend had finished reading it. Together, like so many other Americans we had our eyes and attention glued to the TV (in our case it was located in the employee lounge) that horrible day on Sept. 11th. So, back when this book was released and found out that the author used 9/11 as a backdrop I could hardly wait till she passed the book on to me. In my opinion, I thought Don Delillo created an excellent story that gave me an insight into the lives of different people that lived through that terrible day; Keith Neudecker, the lawyer, his wife Lianne, and others, and how they struggled to cope with their lives afterward. The story moved along at a good pace. Overall, for a book with a 9/11 theme this is a very good read.
cdeuker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A September 11th novel. Moves from victims to perpetrators, but focuses mainly on Keith, a survivor, and the psychic toll the event has taken on him. It returns him to his estranged wife, but the marriage is not happy, their child is angst-ridden, and Keith--even as he resumes his marriage--has an affair with another survivor whose briefcase he has "rescued" from the collapse of the towers. Keith ends up a poker player, flying to and from his family. Poker games are described as being "like a seance in hell." DeLillo is amazingly talented. The writing at times is breathtaking. However, he is also amazingly frustrating. He seems to be in love with pronouns. Sections begin with "He did this or that . . ." and then the reader is required to figure out who "he" is through context. Annoying and self-conscious. Same thing with the central metaphor. Failling Man is a performance artist who keeps 9/11 on the minds of New Yorkers by "falling" out of buildings. He's harnessed, but the falls are not bungee jumps. They cause real pain to Falling Man and real pain to those who see him fall. Just a bit too tricky.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of a family who survives the World Trade Center attack on 9/11 and how their lives change as a result. Another briefer plot thread follows one of the terrorists as he becomes indoctrinated in radical Islam and comes to the U.S. to flight school. I think this book really captures the feeling of 9/11--the confusion and helplessness we all felt.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story about a family directly involved in 9/11 and what their lives were like immediately following (days, months) the terrorist attacks. The "falling man" was a performance artist who recreated the bodies falling from the towers on that day, but really represented the protagonist, Keith, who was in Tower 1 on 9/11. It was really slow-moving and its only redemption for me was the last chapter, which re-created Keith's life when the plane hit and his descendance down from the tower and to his ex-wife's home. Agonizing.
maquisleader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting, but depressing. A 9/11 survivor goes back to his ex-wife -- he walks from the falling towers to her apartment building. The story was hard to follow, characters weren't always identified as to who was speaking.
railarson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Manhattan, many were looking to quintessential New York author Don DeLillo to take on the unenviable task of explaining to us what it all meant.DeLillo¿s stories have always dealt with the twin specters of terrorism and mass psychosis. It made perfect sense to want to search for deeper meanings lurking just under the surface of his latest novel.To his credit, DeLillo didn¿t exactly deliver what was expected of him. Instead of a myopic study of events on 9/11, Falling Man is a deeper exploration of loss in all its subtle and insidious forms.When Lianne¿s estranged husband Keith walks away from the collapse of the Twin Towers relatively unscathed and ends up on her doorstep, it is her volunteer work with elderly patients in the early stages of Alzheimer¿s that helps her maintain some sense of normalcy. The intimate description of the slow erosion of what has defined those few lives actually threatens to emotionally eclipse the larger tragedy for all its wide-screen horror.That is until the novel¿s final act, where DeLillo takes us inside a doomed plane and the resulting inferno to show us what those struggling to escape had to go through. DeLillo¿s careful, claustrophobic depiction of the exodus from the north tower rivals Hampton Sides¿ piece in Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier for all its nightmarish immediacy.
CasualFriday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Falling Man is about Keith Neudeckor, a survivor of the World Trade Center attack, who flees the smoke and ash to make his way uptown to his estranged wife. She takes him in, and the two of them cope with the aftermath in different ways. Keith has a brief affair with a fellow survivor, and eventually turns all his attention to high-stakes poker. Lianne, his wife, is consumed by anger and anxiety to the point of physically assaulting a neighbor playing Middle Eastern music. Their child searches the sky for returning planes and makes a game of talking only in monosyllables.This is my first DeLillo novel and I found it difficult going. The main characters seem disconnected from each other; their most intense experiences occur alone. The writing is deceptively lean, using short sentences and disjointed phrases to convey complex ideas. It took me about 100 pages to feel anything about these people at all; then I surrendered to the book's odd rhythm and got involved in spite of myself. I need to think about this one some more.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. Now THIS is a book. It is terse, yet expansive. Beautiful, but not annoyingly lyrical. Rich and restrained. Don't be turned off that it is about 9/11 (as I was) it overcomes even its own subject matter. Divine.
sfhaa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Delillo's method of writing in Falling Man is deliberately fragmented, in time and in place. It is worried, confused and unreal - despite its premise lying in a harsh reality outside of fiction - and Delillo's prose conjures up a detached experience of events. He forms vignettes of narrative and character thought, heavier than I found in White Noise - which takes some effort by the reader - but the overall effect, once past the intense climax, makes it more than worthwhile. The horrifying image of the falling man is the ghost that haunts this novel.
TigerLMS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Where were you when 9-11 happened? What if you were in New York City, near the Twin Towers? In the moment the the planes hit, or the towers fell, did you know what was happening, or why, or by or to whom? Probably it was chaos¿and that¿s exactly the feeling you get when you read Falling Man. Delillo is considered a master writer and has the credentials to back that up (National Book Award, Pen/Faulkner Award, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last 25 years by NYTBR). The reason you may not keep track of who the characters are or what they¿re doing is that DeLillo doesn¿t really want you to. The Falling Man of the novel is a performance artist in New York who dangles, suspended in the air. Yet he could be anyone, including Keith¿who walks away from the Twin Towers after they fall, his estranged wife Lianne, who struggles to understand the new version of Keith who walks back into her life, or their young son Justin, who with his friends continuously scan the skies waiting for more planes to arrive. DeLillo¿s skill as a writer keeps you off balance, unsure, and struggling to find reason. You might come away with more questions than answers, but ultimately you know something of profound importance has just occurred.
archangelsbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For myself, this novel of DeLillo's was hard to place. My favorites among his many have been The Names, Underworld, White Noise, End Zone and Great Jones Street. This, however, is so different. It is hard to say that the scope isn't grand in the way that the scope in Underworld was - after all the attack on 9/11 on the World Trade Center is at the heart of this novel - yet there is something so intimate, so personal in this narrative as to defy the grander scale. It is as if DeLillo were saying that the tower's fall was personal. Given his relationship to New York City I would not doubt this one bit. One of the most amazing parts of the novel is towards the end when he begins describing the emotions of one of the hijackers on the plane about to hit the towers and segues seamlessly into the thoughts of Frank, the main character, as he is in his office in the tower that is first hit. DeLillo remains to my mind one of the most important American writers of the last 50 years.
goldiebear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried with this book. I really did. I couldn't finish. I just didn't care anymore. For one, the use of pronouns in this book drove me crazy! Half the time I just spent trying to figure out which He or She DeLillo was referring to. The basic story line was okay. A family intertwined after the events of 9/11. The story line was a bit hard to follow at times. A couple brought back together, a couple torn apart. A child scared and making up ideas of what actually happened, or not believing what actually happened. In the end, I just gave up. I didn't care about the characters anymore. I liked Windows on the World or Extremely Loud and Incredibly close much more.
Meggo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was virtually unreadable. Not for the subject matter, which was the story of a man and his family putting the pieces back together - and letting them fall apart again - after 9/11. Rather, it was unreadable because of the truncated style of conversations, the abrupt changes of subject, the endless inner monologues. All of this sturm and drang for nothing. I couldn't tell what the book was trying to say, if it was saying anything at all. I want my three hours back.
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don Delillo is widely recognized as being one of America¿s finest postmodern writers. With Falling Man the author unleashed his mature and formidable talents in a heroic effort to create the quintessential 9/11 novel. But did he succeed? Delillo is famous for his exquisite writing and carefully crafted prose. He is also noted for novels that focus on important contemporary social issues. That he would eventually turn his talents toward writing a book about 9/11 is not surprising.Falling Man is an extremely difficult book to read. First of all, the subject matter is emotionally disturbing. But the real difficulty comes with Delillo¿s choice to write this novel in a seemingly chaotic literary style. The author does everything he can to put the reader off-balance¿to make the reader unsure about the ¿who, when, and why¿ of practically every segment. The prose is disjointed. It is easy to find yourself totally lost and confused. But that is exactly the emotional state that Delillo wants his readers to be in. He wants his readers to feel that they are in the chaos of the moment, experiencing, through artful prose, this most bewildering of world events. Life lived in the moment is jerky and disjointed. On this point, the author succeeds brilliantly; however, just like the original event, this literary event can leave the reader completely benumbed. The plot concerns 9/11 survivor Keith Neudecker. In the opening chapter, we find Keith staggering out of the North Tower, encrusted in soot, grime, and blood, wandering the streets of New York. The animal part of his brain guides him toward home, but not to his own place, rather toward the apartment of his estranged wife, Lianne, and their young child, Justin. They comfort each other in shock and start living together once again as a family. Over the course of the next few weeks, we meet other essential and superfluous characters that populate this couple¿s life during the weeks following September 11th. We get to see how these characters interact with one another. Delillo focuses on human behavior through a microscope. We never see the whole picture at once. We view every interaction through a chaotic mix of tiny snippets. In our minds we create the overall picture, and it is one of people in deep emotional pain and turmoil¿people trying desperately to transition to a new reality anyway they can.Delillo¿s goal is to put the reader in the experience, not to explain what caused this catastrophe or how to avoid further incidents like this in the future. The plot is really not that compelling. Like the chaotic, jerky prose, the plot is disjointed and unsettling.And to make all this even worse, the author¿s purposeful chaotic prose and plot devices make it virtually impossible for him to deliver characters that the reader cares about. The characters in this book are altogether emotionally remote, not only from themselves and each other, but from the reader, as well. Falling Man comes tantalizingly close being the quintessential novel about 9/11, but on many levels the novel falls short. What the book does best is to recreate the feeling of being there, and actually living through those hellish events. Perhaps it will read better with future generation of readers who have not directly experienced the events of 9/11.Despite its undeniable sparkling and brilliant prose, Falling Man was, for me, disturbingly dull. Then why am I so pleased that I read this difficult book? Perhaps because on some visceral level, I am amazed that an author has it in his power to put me once again in the moment of that unforgettable event. So, I recommend it to those who want to live or relive the 9/11 experience. I also recommend it to readers who want to experience a unique, but ultimately flawed, display of Don Delillo¿s literary talents.
aimless22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The fractured narration by DeLillo amplifies the characters' fragmented lives post-terror. My personal emotional memories make parts of the novel difficult to read.The truncated sentences and scenes fit the scattered mental reactions in those few days after the planes. On two different occasions, two of the main characters punch someone else in the face. While not knowing much about these two people pre-terror, I strongly felt that their actions were completely out of character. Those two scenes are fascinating revelations about emotions, pent up or otherwise. Keith's life 3 years after seems a metaphor for all life. He gambles, both at the poker table and flying to and from tournaments. Yet he does not bet his emotions. He allows no one in, he prefers inward solitude and habit. Every day, everyone gambles. In the car, in an elevator, on a plane, crossing the street. Strangers could become criminals or friends, yet many people do not want to take that chance. Those that do have allowed their gambling to cross over into their emotional lives. Those that don't are just like Keith - traveling here to there, alone yet connected, risking all and wondering how much it's all worth.I found those penultimate chapters set 3 years after to be the most interesting in the entire book.
ashley_schmidt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book seemed to give first hand insight into the world of a 9/11 Survivor. DeLillo did a good job of taking the reader into the buildings on that day. At times the heaviness of the language can become suffocating and the chronology can become broken, but I do not think that this was done accidentally. That fragmentation and disorientation allows the reader to physically feel the part of the main character. Great book and nicely done!
edfinn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best 9/11 novels I've read so far. DeLillo brings in a lot of major themes relating to the trauma of the WTC attacks without getting too lost in cheap comparisons. The attention to memory (of trauma, Alzheimer's, stream of consciousness) makes it worthwhile.
AramisSciant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought the book after reading the excerpt in The New Yorker and although there were some great chapters (the surreal description of the planes hitting the towers passed from one character to another, for example) I found the discontinuous narrative ¿jumping from character to character and from past to present¿ a bit too disconnected. The writing is very good at parts but this doesn't compare to his "Underworld" and I'm not sure it's the great 9/11-defining novel it has been said to be.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, I really struggled to get through this. I do think this is one of the most unremarkable books I've read in a long time, and I suspect I'll forget all about it within a few hours of finishing. I feel guilty saying that about a 9/11-themed book, but there you go. Having not read DeLillo before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'd added this to my wishlist some time ago based on a good review I'd read. I would hope this is not one of his best. The plot was so disjointed -- jumping around in time, changing perspective constantly, and just really not resonating with me at all in the whole. There were some well-written lines & phrases, but the story itself was so dull & confusing, I just bided my time until it was finished. I listened to this on audio, and I think that the transitions between viewpoints were harder to follow because of this. In the dialogue sections, I had an extremely difficult time telling who was saying what. And the ending was so abrupt that I thought for sure my audio cut off unexpectedly. Based on this book, I don't think I'll run out & read another book by this author.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by this post 9/11 story. It is such a unique take on the subject. The prose are very sparse and the images are very real. This is my first book by DeLillo and I don't think it will be my last. The characters are not all that likeable, but the are well written, interesting characters. It is a short book to listen to, but worth the time.