You don’t approach a novel about 9/11 expecting giggles-a-plenty, and that’s definitely not what you get in Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. The story mainly follows Keith, an employee who manages to escape the south tower before it collapses and walks back into the home of his estranged wife and son, carrying a briefcase that doesn’t belong to him.
In a typically post-modern style, the book progresses in a series of scenes, bouncing backward and forward in time. You might like that kind of thing, but if you’re not used to it, you’ll probably find yourself rereading paragraphs with a grumpy look on your face.
For something that’s probably classed as the most dramatic event of the 21st century, DeLillo plays everything down, choosing to subtly hint at how the attack affects the characters. Then again, if you’re looking for a suspense-filled 102 minutes of terror and tragedy, that book probably won’t exist – at least not until 9/11 is seen as something that was on the news a long, long time ago.
For me, Falling Man fell a bit flat but, in fairness, my experience was spoiled a little by the occasional notes left in the margin by the previous owner. Nobody likes to be influenced by an unqualified stranger and, out of stubbornness, I refused to consider whether the third paragraph on page whatever was a meditation on the nature of identity.
So I might have deliberately missed the point.
In any case, if you’re looking around for a novel based on the 9/11 attacks, Falling Man will inevitably appear on every list you find. It’s definitely worth a read, but it’s not likely to brighten up your day.