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.


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