Ten Books: September 11 Fiction

Martin Amis was quoted as saying that after September 11, “‘all the writers on earth were reluctantly considering a change of occupation” (see this 2007 Guardian article). This has not proved to be the case, and September 11 has proved fruitful ground for a variety of fiction writers. Here is (I hope) a quite varied list of books inspired by, influenced by, or about the events. (Note the similar book covers too!)

  1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer. Nine year old Oskar tries to find the lock that fits the key his father, who died in the bombings, had. The journey to discover the whereabouts of the lock takes Oskar across New York in a multi-genre, postmodern-style narrative.
  2. Falling Man, Don DeLillo. Speaking of postmodern, Don DeLillo was deemed to be the writer who could write a September 11 book, if anyone could, and Falling Man is his offering. There are several points of view, from fractured families to Hammad, in ominous flight training.
  3. Home boy : a novel, H. M. Naqvi. Three young Pakistani men are making their way in New York, but a road trip through America in the aftermath finds their relationship with the country drastically altered. Publisher’s Weekly described the narrative as “foul-mouthed erudition” which sounds like quite an accomplishment, and a warning to the reader perhaps.
  4. Saturday, Ian McEwan. The Saturday is February 15 2003 (this is a one-day narrative in the footsteps of Ulysses (which was June 16, a splendid day)), a day in the in-between between the September 11 attacks and the impending war in Iraq.
  5. The writing on the wall : a novel, Lynne Sharon Schwartz. In which the main character is a librarian, so therefore a noteworthy book. Said librarian is walking across the Brooklyn bridge when it all happens, and in the aftermath must also deal with her own historical baggage.
  6. L’America, Martha McPhee. A love story about the relationship between an American, Beth, and an Italian, Cesare, and how culture, nationality (and world events) can conspire to make the course of true love run rough indeed.
  7. A disorder peculiar to the country : a novel, Ken Kalfus. Joyce and Marshall Harriman are going through the throes of a bitter divorce. When on September the 11th she takes a flight to San Francisco and he goes off to work at the World Trade Centre each imagines the other’s death, however not with sorrow. But neither dies and things truly escalate.
  8. Pattern recognition, William Gibson. In the interest of variety, William Gibson is usually a futuristic, sci-fi writer. A multi-layered and -genre novel (is it science fiction? po-mo thriller?), Pattern Recognition follows Cayce Pollard, an advertising executive with an allergy to brands and advertising (unfortunate for her).
  9. The Zero : a novel, Jess Walter. This has been described as a humorous 9/11 novel: a crime novel and a satire.
  10. Love is the Higher Law, David Levithan (YA). September 11 meets the young adult publishing world. The story of three teens whose lives are affected and altered by the events in New York, by influential YA author and editor.