'She looked at what was unfalling. She liked the big rooms, the old masters, what was unfalling in its grip on the eye and mind, on memory and identit'She looked at what was unfalling. She liked the big rooms, the old masters, what was unfalling in its grip on the eye and mind, on memory and identity. Then she came home and read. She read and slept.'
As a reader of Don DeLillo's works, I wasn't surprised in the least when I heard that he covered the events and aftermath of 9/11 in his latest (at the time) novel, Falling Man. To be completely honest, the content as both a plot device and also as metaphor and symbol is almost made for DeLillo's fiction.
Within the novel, the characters experience the attacks and the direct consequences first hand - Keith escapes from one of the towers, whilst some of his closest friends do not survive. The novel explores the effects of major trauma, the life-changing impact of shocking and disturbing experience. The protagonist regresses back to staying with his estranged wife, and in the advent of becoming unemployed, takes on full-time gambling. Other characters are also deeply effected: the kids that search in the skies for 'Bill Lawton', the elderly lady that sees the image of the towers in her oil painting. Most struck me most though, was the motif of falling used throughout the novel to startling effect. Not only are the characters haunted by memories of people falling from the towers and then the towers falling themselves, but everything is portrayed as falling - rain fall, falling into trances, falling into bed, 'strangers falling down', 'things fall away' and of course, the performance artist 'Falling Man'. It creates a mood of sombre instability, a nightmarish sense of the fall of man... and of the US.
Having said all thing, Falling Man is rather narrow in focus, concentrating on a small business-elite section of New York society, and almost entirely ignores other perspectives. The only major Muslim character portrayed is a hijacker, and although there is an attempt to humanize and connect with him, the focus is shallow. If DeLillo was attempting to portray Americans as being ignorant of the real facts and stuck in an insular society, then he succeeds in this regard, but having published this several years after the War on Terror commenced etc, I was a little surprised that he didn't have a little more to say.
A solid novel, that could have done a lot more. The ending sequence is wonderfully gripping and well worth the slog to get there. ...more
'To Dean Street they resembled nothing so much as a slice of human graffiti, a masterpiece in motion like a train car gone before you could check it o'To Dean Street they resembled nothing so much as a slice of human graffiti, a masterpiece in motion like a train car gone before you could check it out.'
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Fortress of Solitude. Due to many mixed reviews, I came to it with a mind half expecting problems but all in all it was a very good read. The writing is superb and places Lethem firmly as one of my favourite finds of the year. I feel as though I am getting somewhat of an education in the realities of New York City - and Brooklyn in particular - an area that I did not know a bean about.
Having said all of that, the novel does suffer from a severe editing problem. The first section is simply too long, and the slowness and/or lack of plot development makes many parts redundant. I have thought long and hard about it, and I have come to think that is due to the poor work of the Development Editor, rather than the fault of the author. I feel a bit like the publisher was trying to get it over a certain amount of pages, in order to apply a higher price. Sounds cynical and rather sad, but perhaps true.
'The world is not run from where he thinks. Not from his border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, fro'The world is not run from where he thinks. Not from his border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places he has never imagined; from Lisbon, from where the ships with sails of silk rift west and are burned up in the sun. Not from castle walls, but from counting houses, not by the call of the bugle but by the click of the abacus, not by the grate and click of the mechanism of the gun but by the scrape of the pen on the page of the promissory note that pays for the gun and the gunsmith and the powder and shot.'
I view London in a different light now, having read this novel. It brought the history of the city - and England as a nation - to full life, from the winding city streets of the everyman, to the high court of the Tudors. It was especially interesting for me that Cromwell is from Putney (where I currently live) and that much of his childhood takes place at Lambeth Palace (where I currently work). But aside from that, it brings to life the mood of the times, the development of the nation in unstable and progressive times. And it brings to life the people.
This is a wonderful character study. Mantell perceives Cromwell as a puppet master figure, an incredibly astute individual that manages to influence every person around him and move the country to his will. According to this novel, it is his influence (possibly alone) that carried Henry VIII across the moments that his reign is famous for.
Couldn't put it down, thought of it whatever I was doing, and lingers with me now. On to the sequel...