Friday, August 24, 2007

In the Summer Heat, a Falling Man

Is it ever hot in New Hampshire tonight, stifling, the kind of oppressive night where your hair sticks to your neck and you feel like taking a shower every 10 minutes. I can do without any more jokes about global warming - how this will feel like nothing in 100 years, when tropical foliage is overrunning the Northeast and dinosaurs (or something) will have returned. I'm not finding that kind of humor funny anymore, if I ever did. Even the jalapeno peppers in the garden are wilting.

I picked up my third novel about 9/11 yesterday - "Falling Man," by Don DeLillo. I've never been crazy about DeLillo, though I've always admired how technically proficient he is at casting a pall of doom over his stories. "Falling Man" is extreme DeLillo, told in voice so detached and disconnected that the characters seem to stumble through the story shell-shocked, thinking and talking in telegraphic, dazed fragments that don't always make much sense. I have no doubt that the book's tone is true to the surreal quality of the day, but the effect of all this stripped-down emotionality is distancing. Too much, really, to want to spend time with the characters, who all need a lot more therapy than they're going to get, I fear.

Actually the only novel I've read on this topic that was truly good was "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." If there's a writer out there better than Jonathan Safran Foer, I haven't found him. One day a more compelling and beautiful book about 9/11 and its aftermath will be written, but it hasn't been yet.

As I write this I wonder if it's a sign of emotional rebound that we can actually weigh the relative merits of the various 9/11 novels in such a cool fashion. If so, the rebound seems temporary and fragile, like it's only waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

No comments:

Site Meter