Posts Tagged 'Don DeLillo'

September 11 novels by Auster, DeLillo, others

Carolyn Kellogg has a post on the LA Times Jacket Copy blog about novelists who’ve tackled September 11 in their fiction. Kellogg mostly focuses on Paul Auster’s new novel, Man in the Dark, in comparison to Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, but she also provides a handy list of other novelistic treatments of the topic.

I haven’t yet read Auster’s novel (which has been getting mixed reviews), but DeLillo’s book (which I’ve blogged about before) has definitely stayed with me in the year or so since I read it— and particularly the scene in which one of the novel’s central characters participates in a war protest march, and observes that one man in the crowd is shouting out not about the war, but about the fact that it happens to be Charlie Parker’s birthday:

He was almost looking at her but not quite and then moved on to say the same thing to a man wearing a T-shirt inscribed with a peace sign and in his reproachful tone she caught the implication that all these people, these half million in their running shoes and sun hats and symbol-bearing paraphernalia, were shit-faced fools to be gathered here in this heat and humidity for whatever it was that had brought them here when they might more suitably be filling these streets, in exactly these numbers, to show respect for Charlie Parker on his birthday.

The astonishing, powerful, and fundamentally American achievements of Charlie Parker are held up in contrast with the ugly, aggressive, and badly wounded American nation that has become lost in its suffering, grief, and horror in the wake of September 11. It’s a moment that encapsulates what’s wonderful and awful in the hearts and souls of Americans—and which pines for an America that would continue to fulfill the astounding promise of its history, at a time when much of the meaning of that promise seems to have been forgotten.

Chris Adrian: nervy, brainy Promise Breaker

I found this story via a link from Maud Newton several months ago—but I wasn’t blogging then, and it’s stayed on my mind ever since, so I’ll blog about it now: Chris Adrian‘s “Promise Breaker” is spectacularly good, an you can read it online for free thanks to Esquire. (You do have to suffer through the presence of a large number of gaudy, highly obtrusive ads in order to read it—but trust me, it’s worth it.)

I’m not actually going to say too much about this story, for fear of spoiling its plot and ruining some of the great effects that Adrian pulls off via surprise. The opening of the story employs various tactics intended to disorient the reader—a device that ends up serving very well here. Near the end, I had a sinking feeling that I knew exactly what was going to happen—and then when it did, I was devastated all the same, and I was astonished that Adrian had actually done what I thought he might.

It’s a story about family, grief, illness, and the strangeness and terror of being a parent. It’s a political story, too, and one of the boldest I’ve read in tackling the events and aftermath of September 11. (It’s a shame how writers & other artists seem to be only beginning to seriously approach this topic— and when Don DeLillo took it on in his terrific Falling Man, the book ended up being broadly maligned.) It’s a nervy, brainy, edgy story, and it’s highly suspenseful and utterly engrossing. I haven’t yet read anything else that Adrian has written, but if any of it’s half as good as this, I’ll definitely be a fan.


Recent Publications

Review of J.M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature, edited by Anton Leist and Peter Singer. The Quarterly Conversation, September 2010.

Review of Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett. The Region, June 2010.

Review of The Man in the Wooden Hat and Old Filth by Jane Gardam. The Quarterly Conversation, Issue 19, Spring 2010.

Review of 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About by Joshua Clover. ForeWord, November/December 2009.

Review of The Humbling by Philip Roth. Identity Theory, November 25, 2009.

Review of Imperial by William T. Vollmann. PopMatters, September 18, 2009.

Review of Wonderful World by Javier Calvo. The Quarterly Conversation, Issue 17, September 7, 2009.

Review of Of Song and Water by Joseph Coulson. Identity Theory, August 3, 2009.

Review of Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music by Amiri Baraka. ForeWord, July/August 2009.

Review of Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda. Rain Taxi, Summer 2009 (#54). Viewable online via Powell's Books

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