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I read books, I write about books, I would probably marry a book if I could find one who liked me enough. Three words to describe me mature, irresponsible, contradictory, unreliable...oh...that's four...

My obsession with falling

Falling Man - Don DeLillo

Like all obsessions do, this one came around by chance. The 9/11 videos had been nudging at my consciousness for a while (like every time I went on YouTube) but I avoided them because the idea of gaping at disaster disturbed me. Then I saw the image, the man against the building and I had to know.


I watched the documentary. I watched it again. And again. I watched all the footage and finally (after about the 100th time) I had to ask myself why I was watching. What was I looking for? What question did I want answered?


It seems somehow right that Don deLillo would write a book about the subject of my obsession. He deals with the iconic, the signpost moments, the images which shift our cultural track. The image of 9/11 which ended up meaning most to me - and to many others I'm guessing - was not the collapse, or the plane imploding into the glass, or even the papers whirling in the updraft. It was the man, falling.


DeLillo deals with the survivors, because after all, the survivors are all that is left to us. Keith walks out of the tower with someone else's briefcase in his hand. His estranged wife, Leanne, works with people who are losing their memories to Alzheimers. Her mother is dying slowly. One of the bombers prepares; in Germany, then in Florida. Leanne and Keith's son, Justin, watches the sky for more planes.


In another writer's hands, this book would be nothing more than a series of vignettes, but in DeLillo's they become a narrative, an exploration of how events shape us more than we can ever shape them.


The blurb on the back calls Falling Man cathartic and it is, although I know I'll still return to the videos at least once or twice more (but I'm writing a book about living in impossibly high towers, so I guess I can call it research now). The question I needed an answer to was about choice. I wanted to know how those people arrived at a decision to fall rather than to stay. DeLillo told me that the choices we make in life, despite our modern emphasis on personal responsibiility, are more or less irrelevant. Stay or fall, we're all heading the same way.


And realizing that is very freeing.