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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Falling Man: A Novel


Falling Man: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9781416546023
ISBN10: 1416546022
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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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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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

A R Pickett, June 28, 2007 (view all comments by A R Pickett)
The somewhat jerky pace of the book comes to abrupt and chilling coherence in the last ten pages, when DeLillo finally turns to portraying what the moment of impact must have been like. At that point the experience of reading the first two hundred pages comes close to seeming worthwhile.

I find I am a little exasperated that other equally worthy treatments of 9/11 have been ignored in the hoopla surrounding FALLING MAN. I refer other readers to Jess Walter's THE ZERO, S J Rozan's ABSENT FRIENDS, and Laila Halaby's ONCE IN A PROMISED LAND.

As writers of every stripe respond to that day, we will reap a rich heritage of worthwhile reading. Other authors have paved the way, let's not ignore them!
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Jan Warner-Poole, June 24, 2007 (view all comments by Jan Warner-Poole)
This is the first post 9/11 novel I have read. It did not disapoint. A beautifully written novel it follows several people during the event, days after, years after. The falling man of the title is not the image burned into our brains of the man jumping from the tower. It is a performace artist who acts out the event by falling from bridges, buildings all over NY. A must read for everyone who lived through the event, either at ground zero or across the country on TV.
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Product Details

A Novel
DeLillo, Don
Victims of terrorism
September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
Psychological fiction
Literature-A to Z
pulitzer; national book award; national book critics circle award; pen/faulkner; pen/saul bellow; jerusalem prize; howells medal; best of 2007; september 11; 9/11; performance art; underworld; white noise; point omega; cosmopolis; david cronenberg;
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
May 15, 2007
Grade Level:
rough front
9 x 6.125 in

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Falling Man: A Novel Used Hardcover
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Product details 256 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781416546023 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Falling Man is Don DeLillo's exquisite, memorable take on 9/11. Somewhat more stylistically spare than his earlier books, Falling Man nonetheless feels like the book DeLillo was meant to write; themes he has addressed throughout his body of work — terrorism, religion, signs and symbols — come together eerily in this novel, which is by far the most significant work of fiction about 9/11 to date.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Falling Man is Don DeLillo's exquisite, memorable take on 9/11. Somewhat more stylistically spare than his earlier books, Falling Man nonetheless feels like the book DeLillo was meant to write; themes he has addressed throughout his body of work — terrorism, religion, signs and symbols — come together eerily in this novel, which is by far the most significant work of fiction about 9/11 to date.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "When DeLillo's novel Players was 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's best 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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[W]hat I asked of DeLillo's Falling Man was not that it be inventive, but that it be...commensurate to all the falling men, and the falling women, and their agony; commensurate, at the very least, to the capsule profiles that people forced themselves to read day after day, five years ago. And it's not. It's a portrait of grief, to be sure, but it puts grief in the air, as a cultural atmospheric, without giving us anything to mourn. It captures our subsequent fall from grace...without ever suggesting a reason for it other than the fact that grace is awfully hard to come by DeLillo's world." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review A Day" by , "More than towers fall in DeLillo's novel. But the social harnesses that keep his characters from hitting the pavement — marriage, family, church, poker — don't arrest their descents altogether. One wishes DeLillo had written a book that made us want to reach out and catch them ourselves." (read the entire CSM review)
"Review A Day" by , "The book, one feels, should either have omitted the terrorists altogether or trained its gaze centrally on them, as DeLillo sustainedly pictured the impotence and resentment of Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra. As it is done here, the fleeting imagining of radical evil seems shallow, and only adds to the general impression of a book that is all limbs — many articulations and joints, an artful map of connections, but finally no living, pulsing center." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "[A] devastating novel....And it's a testament to DeLillo's brilliant command of language that readers will feel once again, whether they want to or not, as scared and as sad as they felt that day."
"Review" by , "Falling Man feels small and unsatisfying and inadequate....Although flashes of Mr. DeLillo's extraordinary gifts for language can be found in his depiction of the surreal events Keith witnessed on 9/11...the remainder of the novel feels tired and brittle."
"Review" by , "Falling Man feels like the first genuine work of art [about 9/11]. Literature, Ezra Pound said, is news that stays news, and reading Falling Man is like looking into a mirror and seeing the familiar face there as if for the first time."
"Review" by , "[A] powerful and direct account of the atrocity and its aftermath....Reading the virtuoso first pages of his novel, we see the catastrophe if that September morning had dawned again, fresh and bright."
"Review" by , "Falling Man...provides a context that only moves and engages us because our thoughts wander, away from the book itself, to our own memories of that ghastly day....Falling Man will be called a good book. It is not a good book."
"Review" by , "[A] gripping, haunting ensemble piece, much less about the public, historical event than about its psychological radiation through the lives of a single New York City family."
"Review" by , "[B]rilliant and awe-producing, incredibly close to a full-blown masterpiece and giving us plenty to ponder for a long time."
"Review" by , "Like an impressive spice collection, Falling Man has many elements to choose from the Sept. 11 drama. DeLillo's choices, though, produce a sharp, bitter aftertaste rather than a fulsome, satisfying meal."
"Review" by , "Nothing, no docudrama, fiction, theater or reporting, can match DeLillo's capture of the precise, concrete language by which we defined ourselves in the shadow of 9/11."
"Review" by , "Falling Man isn't one of DeLillo's best works, despite flashes of the intense, intellectually chilling writing that propelled Underworld....DeLillo is less successful in imagining the inner thoughts of the terrorists as the planes head for the World Trade Center. Here he seems more like Falling Man, whose art is mere re-enactment."
"Review" by , "Sept. 11, at least for a time, rubbed our noses in the immediacy and irrationality of death. In examining its effects on a few of the survivors, DeLillo is seeking to restore our collective awareness of the fragility of life....Reading this absorbing work makes one wonder what the hell we're doing with our lives."
"Synopsis" by , In this essential work of fiction, DeLillo traces the way the events of September 11 kindled or rekindled relationships and reconfigured Americas perceptions of the world in a novel that is beautiful, heartbreaking, and, ultimately, redemptive.
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