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Sept. 11 in fiction: DeLillo, Auster and more

September 11, 2008 |  9:49 am


In "Falling Man," Don DeLillo follows a handful of New Yorkers in the days and years after Sept. 11, 2001. He begins just after the towers have fallen:

It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night. He was walking north through rubble and mud and there were people running past holding towels to their faces or jackets over their heads. They had handkerchiefs pressed to their mouths. They had shoes in their hands, a woman with a shoe in each hand, running past him. They ran and fell, some of them, confused and ungainly, with debris coming down around them, and there were people taking shelter under cars.

DeLillo's style — often disconnected and circular — seems perfectly suited to evoke the events of Sept. 11. His friend Paul Auster, another New York author, took a different approach.

In one of the narrative threads of Auster's new novel "Man in the Dark," Owen Brick wakes up in a city he doesn't recognize. He's a corporal in a war, he's told. "Does that mean we're in Iraq?" he asks. "Who cares about Iraq?" is the answer. Later, he works up the courage to ask the determining question:

"Now, if I said the words September eleventh to you, would they have any special meaning?"

"Not particularly."

"And the World Trade Center?"

"The twin towers? Those tall buildings in New York?"


"What about them?"

"They're still standing?"

"Of course they are. What's wrong with you?"


Sept. 11 has affected our world so thoroughly that to imagine an America without it is almost heartbreaking. Brick, who is the invention of another character in the book (August Brill, who spins stories as he lies in the dark to keep from thinking too much), is caught up in his new world's vicissitudes without time for reflection. Nevertheless, he's fulfilling Brill's fantasy, of living in a world where Sept. 11 was just another day.

Other novels dealing with Sept. 11, after the jump.

A few more 9/11 novels:

  • "A Disorder Peculiar to the Country" by Ken Kalfus
  • "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • "L'America" by Martha McPhee
  • "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson
  • "Terrorist" by John Updike
  • "The Whole World Over" by Julia Glass
  • "Windows on the World" by Frederic Beigbeder

And, while there are many, many works of nonfiction that deal with the events of Sept. 11, Art Speigelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" deserves particular attention.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Agence France-Presse