Thursday, November 13, 2008

Falling Man

Don DeLillo's 14th novel, "Falling Man," is the story of how several lives were affected by the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Because this is the first DeLillo novel I've read, I feel rather sheepish criticizing it.

I found most of the characters flat and undeveloped, and as a result, had difficulty understanding their motivation. Why does Keith, a lawyer who is injured but escapes from one of the towers, decide to become a professional poker player? Why is his wife prone to uncharacteristic episodes of violence? Why does their child withdraw from them when his fear should make him seek comfort in them?

Maybe these are flaws in the story; or maybe I have just not been able to connect the dots. This is a complex book, and it may be just a little too complex for this reader.

DeLillo relies heavily on the "pronoun lead," a device I urge writers for this newspaper to avoid. Often, the reader is left wondering who the "he" or "she" is that the author is writing about in the beginning of so many passages. Nevertheless, DeLillo is a superb writer with a talent for the uncommon metaphor and unconventional description that brings new understanding of the most common experiences.

I may not have thoroughly enjoyed this novel, but I certainly will read more of his books. "White Noise" will be next.

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