Reviews for Falling Man : A Novel

Booklist Reviews 2007 April #1
/*Starred Review*/ There have been a number of novels written in the past years about 9/11 that have attempted to come to grips with what that horrible day means to us. None of them are like this one, although Jess Walter's The Zero (2006) comes closest in terms of re-creating the emotional reality of the post-9/11 world. The novel's searing opening pages follow lawyer Keith Neudecker, who has just emerged from the World Trade Center, as he makes his way up the street, fighting raining debris and "seismic tides of smoke." It's not until he's almost there that he realizes where he's heading--the apartment of his ex-wife and son. And over the succeeding months, we are made privy to the family's reactions to that heartbreaking day. Keith's young son plays a game with his friends in which they search the sky with binoculars, looking for signs of planes and for Bill Lawton (their misheard name for bin Laden); meanwhile, Keith's ex-wife is both mesmerized and horrified by a performance artist dubbed the Falling Man, who, dressed in a blue suit and tethered by a bungee cord, launches himself headfirst off train tracks and balconies. Keith, having learned firsthand the benevolence of luck, dedicates himself to playing poker, elevating the rituals of the game to a sacred rite. Inevitably, inexorably, DeLillo ends his devastating novel with the sights and sounds Keith's experiences on 9/11 as he watches his colleagues die while slumped in their office chairs. 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. ((Reviewed April 1, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 April #1
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 its grip 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. Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2007 February #2
A man emerging from the Twin Towers blaze heads uptown to reconnect with his ex-wife and son. If any novelist can do justice to 9/11, it's DeLillo. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Reviews 2007 May #2

On 9/11, a man working in the towers, Keith, survives and returns to his estranged wife, Lianne, and young son Justin. Keith self-medicates with poker, flying between casinos and home; Lianne becomes obsessed with Alzheimer's and the support group she leads for sufferers. This novel is divided into three sections, each named for a character who is unidentified until the end of the section and serves primarily as a thematic element: "Bill Lawton" is Justin's distorted version of Bin Laden, for whom he searches the sky with binoculars; "Ernst Hechinger" is the real name of Lianne's mother's lover (now known as Martin), a former violent demonstrator against the German Democratic Republic, the extent of his crimes unknown; and "David Janiak" is the Falling Man, a controversial performance artist who falls from heights in a suit and a harness. Each section ends with a short chapter on the terrorists; strangely brief, they serve well to humanize the perpetrators without delving into the territory of judgment, sympathy, or demonization. Acclaimed novelist DeLillo (Underworld; White Noise ) offers the definitive creative text on the 9/11 world in a time when most novels are addressing the post-9/11 world. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/07.]--Anna Katterjohn, Library Journal

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 March #4

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)

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