For our Contemporary Fiction class this week, we had to read Don DeLillo's Falling Man. I read it on the plane to Rome last Thursday. Apt, eh? Well, considering we thought we'd be driving across the continent, reading a book about the 9/11 attacks whilst airborne was a real barrel of laughs. I'd read the book when it first came out, and though I didn't think it was fantastic, DeLillo's always readable, and I was happy enough to have another go-round. This time, I liked it a little less - the sections about the terrorist seemed really inauthentic, and the European maybe-terrorist art-dealer dude, Martin, seemed like a deliberate thematic device to me. It wasn't a very smooth or immersive read. But still, again, DeLillo's always worth a go, and the sections with the kids, spying out of a high-rise building to find Bin Laden, were fantastic.
Topics we looked at in class included whether fiction-writers have the right to deal with such a traumatic event in lived memory (this question INFURIATED me - of course they do! wtf? Boo-urns to censorship in all its permutations); a summary of other American post-9/11 narratives (Updike's awful Terrorist came up); the representation of New York city in the book; DeLillo's use of time and memory (cyclical structure, repetition, memory-loss, forgetting, memorialising); whether the ending offers any sort of redemption; and a brief look at the ideas of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny. It was a pretty good discussion, and our second-last CF seminar - next week we're being rescheduled to Wednesday to avoid the bank holiday, and we'll be looking at McEwan's Saturday, to get the UK response to the 9/11 attacks.
In the workshop, later, we looked at two novel extracts, anda good time was had by all. After a pub-interlude, we headed over to a reading by novelist Giles Foden (of Last King of Scotland fame) and poet Leontia Flynn - she was brilliant, really funny and chatty and engaging. If she's ever reading elsewhere, I'd recommend popping along - we all came out raving abut her.
So, good day had by all, yadda-yadda-yadda - but, really, I'd rather have stayed in Rome. Look - doesn't this just totally kick the library's ass?