Saturday, April 21, 2007
This here is a conversation from Don DeLillo’s latest, absolutely brilliant novel, Falling Man – the 9/11 novel that will wash away all other 9/11 novels:
“He said, ‘It still looks like an accident, the first one. Even from this distance, way outside the thing, how many days later, I’m still standing here thinking it’s an accident.’
‘Because it has to be.’
‘It has to be,’ he said.
‘The way the camera sort of shows surprise.’
‘But only the first one.’
‘Only the first,’ she said.
‘The second plane, by the time the second plane appears,’ he said, ‘we’re all a little older and wiser.’”
I honestly thought I was over all that (9/11) until this book reminded me of it all – it’s easy to step back into your own life after something like that and revert back to cynicism - I often scoff at people who have bumper stickers that say things like, “We will never forget”, as if reading a sticker will make me say, “Oh yeah! September 11! Damn, remember that?” But, that time period in 2001 was the only moment of national unity I’ve ever experienced in my life, even if it was quick to fade once we went off to war – and stayed there. (Hence the reversion to cynicism, hence this blog, I guess.) I am always hesitant to read 9/11 novels for these reasons, but DeLillo is able to cull together those feelings of isolation, shock, and abandonment by the universe, into a cohesive, emotional, personal journey that leads us to the dusty hilltop where we all stand today, as a people. DeLillo writes about America – not in a political, patriotic sense of America – but in a way that reflects how we feel, think, act, love, hate towards each other. Many Americans felt more bereft of emotion & numb towards the experience after that day, rather than just feeling hateful and vengeful, as politics would have us believe – at least that’s my observation. And DeLillo captures that feeling – his characters experience loss, disillusionment, abandonment, isolation, before beginning to heal – and they do heal. But war is never mentioned – this is not part of the healing process here.
Toward the end of the book, he writes this particularly poignant, albeit bleak, conversation between Martin, a European art collector, and an arrogant American librarian at a memorial service:
(Martin) “‘Soon the day is coming when nobody has to think about America except for the danger it brings. It is losing the center. It becomes the center of its own shit. This is the only center it occupies.’
‘If we occupy the center, it’s because you put us there. This is your true dilemma,’ (the American library director) said. ‘Despite everything, we’re still America, you’re still Europe. You go to our movies, read our books, listen to our music, speak our language. How can you stop thinking about us? You see us and hear us all the time. Ask yourself. What comes after America?’
‘I don’t know this America anymore. I don’t recognize it,” (Martin) said. “There’s an empty space where America used to be.’”
Aw shit, that about nails it for me. Goodnight everybody.
Monday, April 02, 2007
That's the beautiful thing about literature like this - there are so many facets, that everyone has a different take on what they think a book is ultimately about. I haven't talked to anyone yet who has had the same opinion on The Road, with the exception that they have all recognized its overall worth. Nor am I denying the Christian undertones - or rather, overtones - I simply think that there is more to the story than it being a novel about Christian faith, regardless of what Cormac may or may not say on Oprah. I do not see this as "an affirmation of humanity" either - although I can see the validity in such an argument. It is true that there is a glimmer of hope when the boy is discovered by the last vestiges of humanity - but my point is: hope to what end? We've already done the earth irreparable harm and everything is dead. Does the man really believe that there is a "fire" to be carried or is he just trying to give his son a viable reason to continue? True, this alone may be an affirmation, but I think that the man has actually lost his faith in humanity, but still functions like a father in giving his son hope of survival. Ultimately, I see this as a story about fathers and sons - the "fire" being the spark of humanity - of human tenderness - not a divine spark, as some may argue.
I see it as McCarthy's vision of where we, as a society, are headed if we continue down our current path. And it is bleak and shitty, there's no way to deny that. As far as it being any sort of affirmation of the worth of humanity - humanity is what ultimately destroyed the world in this novel, not the wrath of God or any sort of test of faith. We fucked it all up.
Which opens up a very real debate - one that expands far beyond the pages of this fictional work. I think any of us would be foolish to think that our empire in this country is not about to collapse - indeed, it already is in a state of decline. The world is a bleak place right now - not that I don't see any hope for the future - but things being what they are, it doesn't look pleasant for future generations, regardless of the degree of their faith.
Like I've said, the beauty of books like this is that everyone has a different interpretation or reading of it - I've never seen such different interpretations of a single book as I have with this one. And honestly, I reacted more to the pure father/son storyline than I did to the that involving the horrors of humankind and the death of the planet. It hit me on a much more personal level than any book I have read, at least in recent memory - this is why I was so affected by it - and in turn, affected by the major corporate television program sharing it with their audience. So, when it appears that:
"you...seem to be coming down kind of hard on the rest of the world, it makes (you) sound kind of crazy... kind of like you'd like a selective apocalypse... "
...you're damn right - since I read this book and saw personal themes at its core, I take it personally that there is a major corporate push behind it. I'm sorry if there are people out there who think I'm "not paying attention or projecting too much of my own agenda", but this is my website and is ultimately a forum for my thoughts, just like Cormac's forum is his novels and Oprah's is her show. None of this has been about Oprah-bashing - believe me, I could devote many posts to that topic - and I honestly believe that there is some real worth to her Book Club. I am not a ravenous Cormac fan either - of the 4 books of his I've read, I've read them all in the last 2 years, none before that. So I don't necessarily hold him in some long-standing esteem - it was just this book that resonated for me on such a deep level. I read a book, sometimes two, a week - this is no boast, just a fact. But after I finished The Road, I could not pick up anything else for over a week - everything paled in comparison, and it had opened up enough personal doubts and debates that I had a hard time focusing on any other storylines. This is a remarkable thing for a novel to achieve - therefore, I take it personally, maybe erroneously, that this corporate beast has taken it upon herself to share it with the universe. Take it or leave it.