May I Recommend ‘Falling Man’
Our Town downtown
June 18, 2007
My middle grown daughter loves Three Lives bookstore in the Village and goes there a lot apparently just to hang among the books and see what's new. She said she picked up Don DeLillo's new novel 'Falling Man' off the table and read the first paragraph and put it down when she realized it was about 9/11. She obviously hadn't seen the back of the book, which she must have assumed was a just the standard picture of DeLillo or some old blurbs about 'Libra' or 'White Noise'. The back is an extension of the blue sky of the front cover, but with the Twin Towers standing up through the clouds.
I'd read the book; that's how we got talking about it. I thought of it as my story, like you would if you read it. We all take that day personally. But I've been wondering since my daughter mentioned putting the book down, what younger people who saw the towers fall or heard all the noise carry around with them. A buddy (and a father) always reminds me that you never really know what your kids are thinking, and I know that, but I wonder how the world looks to the young people who were probably out at a bar or a restaurant the night before. Are they OK? I mean she said she put the book down after seeing it was about 9/11. The book makes you think about it all again. The Times’ Michiko Kakutani didn't care for it, but she is so annoying you can't read her anymore.
I wonder what the young people make of how long it's taking us older people to get the new tower or the memorial (which is it? I can't remember) built at Ground Zero. What do they think of Chase getting a great deal-among-older-guys to build there? What do they think of the pictures of the men in dark suits and shovels with hard hats on, all smiling like Robert Moses?
Do sirens get them thinking about it still? A woman at dinner the other night told me she still thinks about it every time she hears an especially persistent siren. I saw a long line of cop cars twice last week speeding somewhere and I wondered. I cried a couple times reading 'Falling Man'.
DeLillo's the guy people had been waiting for to write about 9/11. The day was all so personal and proprietary that his take on it was certain to bug some critics. It did. But I almost started reading it again right after I got to the ending. It held me in a way that I wound up not wanting to let go. It was the first thing since the attack that felt like the days after. For all the photos and all the great amateur footage of the days after I've stared at, this book felt the most like it.
I hope they build a bookstore down around Ground Zero. Downtown needs more bookstores. There have to be places a daughter can go where she can happen upon something like a book by Don DeLillo. Where else can you go but a bookstore and not be assaulted by the cheese of commercial signage and taxicabs with last night scores in lights on top?
I gave my ‘Falling Man’ to the woman of the couple I had dinner with the other night. I don’t know if they’ll read it or not. They have TiVo and that doesn’t mean they’re watching less TV. They’re just watching fewer commercials. They’ve got stuff backed up like stacks of old ‘New Yorker’s waiting to be watched. It’s tough for a book to get face-time in the world of TiVo. Even if Charlie Rose has an author on often, he gets more turned on by guys who invent stuff like TiVo.
What can you do? You can’t make people read Don DeLillo’s ‘Falling Man’, even New Yorkers who should have been in line waiting for it.