Sunday, June 17, 2007

Falling Down

A condensed version of a review that appeared in today's Hindustan Times.


The sense of being let down by Falling Man is acute. This isn’t the incisive, poised DeLillo of the clairvoyant Mao II or the “super-omniscient” Underworld, but the novelist who’s also written the more recent and disappointing Cosmopolis and The Body Artist.

It begins promisingly enough, with the aftermath of the destruction of the first Twin Tower. A shell-shocked Keith Neudecker stumbles through the ravaged site and to the house of his estranged wife Lianne and son Justin, where he takes up residence. The couple attempts to regain balance in the days and years that follow: Keith embarks upon a brief affair, then finds succour in poker; Liane conducts workshops for the Alzheimer’s-stricken, tries to make sense of the relationship between her mother and her lover and watches the eponymous “falling man”, a performance artist. Inserted into this are interludes dealing with the pre-9/11 preparations of a suicide terrorist, Hammad, his hesitations and his holding onto his faith.

The neurosis of survivors; the battle against forgetting; the randomness of events; the creation of art out of tragedy -- all the elements are in place, but the whole is still unsatisfying. Barring some flashes and effective set pieces (such as the rituals of the poker players), the prose is stiff; in particular, the sections dealing with Hammad’s psyche are pedestrian. Overall, this is an alienating and constricted novel, almost a series of mechanistic fragments belonging to an unwritten larger work.

Worth your while? The best work on the subject still remains the US government’s 9/11 Commission Report.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the last line! But surely this is better written?