The Lure of “Post 9/11 Literature”

Cover ImageFor obvious reasons, there’s much ado regarding 9/11 bouncing about these September days. Be it pictures, odes or song, a variety of artistic mediums are sought out and used in an attempt to lance the overwhelming emotions caught up in the dark day – that for almost a decade now – blots our calendar each year.

As an avid reader I naturally look to the language and prose of others in my attempt to sort through the chaos of history’s events. Acting as philosophical aides if you will, the angles and perspectives of differing authors ultimately give me a better grasp on how I choose to interpret something as horrific as 9/11. Simply? I turn to books.

The term “post-9/11 literature” is often tossed about and seems loosely tagged to titles. Though it seems straightforward, I personally find the term confusing so decided to turn to those in the know for some solid answers and title suggestions pertaining to the genre.

“‘Post-9/11 literature’ is a slippery fish,” shared writer/reviewer Mark Athitakis in a recent email. “While it ought to mean fiction that directly addresses the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, there actually aren’t many books that would qualify under that definition.”  Athitakis points to Don DeLillo’s “Falling Man,” Claire Messud’s “The Emperor’s Children,” and Ken Kalfus’ “A Disorder Peculiar to the Country” as titles that “attempt to depict the effect of the day’s events on individuals.”

Athitakis believes the meaning of “9/11 literature” has expanded “almost by necessity” due to its broad arch, and now bends to include “books about Muslim terrorists but not necessarily the 9/11 hijackers (Updike’s “Terrorist,” Andre Dubus III’s “The Garden of Last Days”), the effect of 9/11 on domestic life years after (Sue Miller’s “The Lake Shore Limited,” Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”), debates about media and democracy after 9/11 (Amy Waldman’s “The Submission”), American intelligence’s response (Ward Just’s “Forgetfulness”), and so on.”

Whether a book Is/Is Not 9/11, there is still a vast array of titles out there that yearn to capture the energy and angst surrounding the terrorist attacks. Earlier this week NPR wondered if Amy Waldman’s ‘Submission’ Could Be America’s Sept. 11 Novel? Guardian has compiled a list of the 20 best 9/11 books, while the New York Times notes the ongoing publishing push in the article, 9/11 Books Released Into a Sea of Others.

Regardless of one’s interest in “post 9/11 literature,” it is fascinating to bear witness to the birth of a genre – to have experienced the attacks and appreciate the attempts of others to make sense through the device of story. “I think years from now we’ll look back at this first decade’s worth of novels as a great venting of anxiety and confusion,” wraps Athitakis, “—there is no “9/11 novel,” but there clearly is a desperate effort to get one’s hands around it, to see if fiction can address its emotional and political effects.”

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s