1. 4.“What comes after America?” Don DeLillo in the Wake of 9/11

4.“What comes after America?” Don DeLillo in the Wake of 9/11

Taras A. Sak 九州大学

This presentation takes DeLillo’s recent novel, Falling Man (2007), as its point of departure, contrasting it with White Noise (1985), which it parallels in many respects. More precisely, I begin by asking how we might look at the two texts in relation to one another, and what might be at stake for DeLillo in this repetition or rewriting. My argument concerns the manner in which DeLillo’s more recent work might be said to reflect a larger culture of anxiety concerning the place or role of the US in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 Era. Falling Man is, of course, a response to 9/11 and, as we might expect, an extremely solemn text. However, perhaps the somber tone of DeLillo’s most recent work, reflected in its austere prose, brevity and overall economy of style, itself reflects a deeper realization that the so-called “American Century” is truly at an end. More crucially, it may express a heightened sense of crisis, accompanying that realization, which is best summed up in DeLillo’s own agonized question in Falling Man : “What comes after America?” Indeed, what had once been portrayed with a lighter, perhaps even humorous touch in DeLillo’s work――namely, the failures of American foreign policy and the question of “terror” and political violence――is no longer a laughing matter in either Falling Man or in the post-9/11 phase of his career. As was the case with White Noise, we see in Falling Man trauma on a more intimate scale, involving a family, which parallels the larger, national or historical disaster; however, the characters are rendered more fully human, more vulnerable and therefore perhaps more sympathetic or approachable than in the former work. The conclusion, as well, while in some ways more melancholy, grants the reader a sense of hope that is largely absent from the earlier novel. Thus, while many critics see evidence of decline in DeLillo’s post-Underworld (1997) work, I will attempt to focus upon his achievements, which are substantial. Texts published between White Noise and Falling Man ――particularly the essay, “In the Ruins of the Future” (2001), the screenplay for the film Game 6 (originally written around 1991; revised in 2004; film released in 2005), and the short story, “Still Life” (2007)――will also be discussed in connection with the two novels that bracket my study. I will conclude with a brief look at his latest novel, Point Omega (2010).