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Commentary Last Updated: Jun 22nd, 2007 - 16:39:12

Why �Falling Man� flops
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jun 15, 2007, 01:14

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This is a political not a literary journal, right? So why would I be panning Don LeLillo�s latest novel, Falling Man? Because it poses as 9/11 history, but it is his-story (DeLillo�s via the administration). It�s not what happened, but what the administration and its scribe say happened. But where do we draw the line on reader takeaway of historical fiction as fact or non-fact? This has always been an issue, including the fiction as fact we get daily from our media, and our kids from their textbooks.

Falling Man grates because DeLillo buys the administration myth in a heartbeat, with three chapters on �Hammad,� as in Mohammed el-Am el-Sayed Atta, his full name (or one of them) given for authenticity. In fact, we pick up �Hammad� in Hamburg, with a baker (could it be Muharrem Acar?), a former rifleman in the Shatt al Arab that took place 15 years earlier. The baker prayed with Hammad in the same mosque and lived in the apartment on Marientstrasse. From the questionable factual evidence that is, which is contradicted by many, we move to the creation of these scenes . . .

On page 79, DeLillo narrates, �They look at videos of jihad in other countries and Hammad told them about the boy soldiers running in the mud, the mine jumpers, wearing keys to paradise around their necks. They stared him down, they talked him down. That was a long time ago and those were only boys, they said, not worth the time it would take to be sorry for a single one. Late one night he had to step over the prone form of a brother in prayer as he made his way to the toilet to jerk off.�

Well, Hammad�s human at least here, as human as the coke dealer he was in Florida while �training� with the rest of his buddies at US Army camps there. Also �Hammad� spent time with a very human stripper/lingerie model (girlfriend), Amanda Keller, and liked to chomp down pork chops between his stints of mosque worship. He also �consorted with women known to be linked to the Mafia.�

He was in fact much more human than that pristine photo of him in his passport that floated down in mint condition two blocks away from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Also Atta and his boys loved to party, booze, snort and screw. They are linked to the CIA and drugs, in the same old Iran/Contra style. Check the link above or this from Ironically, the information comes from a review of Daniel Hopsicker's book, Welcome to Terrorland, an expose of the Florida flights and ongoing cover up. Read the link for a quite different picture of Atta.

DeLillo�s picture plants �Hammad� predictably amongst a world jihad gang, as opposed to drug and Agency-related pilots gathered in Florida. DeLillo pictures the party-animal Atta-as-Hammad walking in a supermarket, thinking his flight training was not going well. In reality, perhaps he was thinking of Keller plus �a stripper named Linda and two Germans [who] partied for three days in Key West. Atta paid for everything. Rented three rooms, one just for the men�s luggage, which Keller says contained drugs. The men had a business meeting the women were not permitted to attend. Met with people. Keller says, who flew in just to meet Atta. Somber and quiet after meeting. (Key West Airport a known drug transit point. The Sheriff used to be under orders to keep the dope sniffing dogs off airplanes, and at one time even sent patrol cars to escort the drugs to Miami.)� And so on.

Also, Atta and friends were working out of Huffman Aviation in Venice, owned by Rudi Dekkers and his financier, Wally Hilliard, who�d purchased the school just months before Atta and the other �hijackers� began arriving. Yeslam bin Laden, Osama�s brother, sent students there for his enterprise. In fact, 14 of the hijackers made Florida their locale. They also clustered around Arne Kruithof�s Florida Flight Training Center, a block away from Huffman. Amanda K says it�s where Atta would go to replenish his cocaine stash. Previously, the school served mostly American students. After the Dekkers/Hilliard purchase, it was 80 percent foreign, mostly Middle Eastern. And so it goes.

On page 174, DeLillo tells us Atta also thinks that �He wanted to do this one thing right, of all things he�d ever done. . . . They felt things together, he and his brothers. They felt the claim of danger and isolation. They felt the magnetic effect of plot. Plot drew them together more tightly than ever. Plot closed the world to the slenderest line of sight, where everything converges to a point. There was the claim of hate, that they were born to this. There was the claim of being chosen, out there, in the wind and sky of Islam. There was the statement that death made, the strongest claim of all, the higher jihad.�

And there is this fine DeLillo prose, the box-top copy on the back of a box of Wheaties, breakfast of champions, written better than the CIA itself could. After all, DeLillo spent five years scribbling copy for Ogilvy and Mather and then freelanced after to feed his writer�s habit. Here was the myth of 19 hijackers being fabricated again, at least nine of whom are reputedly living in the Middle East today, none of whom were on the manifests of the planes that day, all of whose photographs were dug up in a matter of hours from the FBI files and presented as The Guys Who Did It, and later mentioned by FBI Chief Robert Mueller as the not-certifiable-really-for-sure-bad-guys.

But then it was the FBI that had stalled so many investigations by its own people into �terrorist� activity here and there that had frustrated investigators to the point where, like Kathleen Rawley or John O�Neill, they had blown whistles in deaf ears and/or gotten canned or quit, and as in the latter�s case, disappeared on his first day of work, which happened to be 9/11/2001, as head of security for the World Trade Center. So it goes.

But then on page 178 DeLillo writes, �Now he [Hammad) sits in the barber chair, wearing the striped cape. The barber is a slight man with little to say. The radio plays news, weather, sports and traffic. Hammad does not listen. He is thinking again, looking past the face in the mirror, which is not his, and waiting for the day to come, clear skies, light winds, when there is nothing left to think about.�

Perhaps he was thinking about some possible South American drug runs he would make in March and April of 2001, when he was a licensed pilot and living with Amanda. Even though the FBI says he left Venice in December 2000, after completing flight training. He didn�t, according to dozens of locals, his landlord, neighbors, cabbies, restaurant employees and his girlfriend. So why the purposeful disinformation? To purposely mislead?

Back to the DeLillo fiction, in the chapter called �In The Hudson Corridor,� we find Hammad finally on board one of the 767s turned towards the Towers. On page, 237 DeLillo writes, �The aircraft was secured now and he sat in the jump seat across from the forward galley, keeping watch. He was either supposed to keep watch here, outside the cockpit, or to patrol the aisle, box cutter in hand. He was not confused, only catching a breath, taking a moment. This is when he felt a sensation high on his arm, the thin wincing pain of slit skin . . . He thought that maybe the pain had been there earlier but he was only now remembering to feel it. He didn�t know where the box cutter was . . .� Perhaps in the author�s imagination.

And funny, there�s no mention that in the days following 9/11, a number of Saudis fled the country from Florida after the attacks. They flew on Wally Hilliard�s charter aircraft to private fields of military contractor Raytheon, and departed on a 747. To quote the review, �After the attacks, a virtually non-existent company that operated out of Venice Airport under Huffman�s license called Britannia Aviation was awarded a five-year, multi-million dollar contract to run the maintenance facility at Lynchburg Virginian Regional Airport, the home of Jerry Falwell�s Liberty Baptist University. Britannia did not have an FAA license to work on planes and showed assets of only $750. It was chosen over Virginia Aviation, which showed a multi-million dollar balance and boasted more than 40 employees.� And so on.

DeLillo continues to wax lyrical in �Hudson Corridor,� �If other things were normal, in his understanding of the plan, the aircraft was headed toward the Hudson corridor. This was the phrase he�d heard from Amir many times. There was no window he might look through without getting out of the seat and he felt no need to do that. . . . He believed he could see straight into the towers even though his back was to them. He didn�t know the aircraft�s location but believed he could see straight out the back of his head and through the steel and aluminum of the aircraft and into the long silhouettes, the shapes, the forms, the figures coming closer, the materials things. . . .�

Yet In spite of all the miracles of �Hammad�s� seeing, Falling Man is a fit companion piece for your CD of Flight 93, which also sees with administration eyes. On the other hand, Hopsicker�s book reports that many of the Venice flight trainers moonlighted by flying missionary flights� to Central and South America for such groups as Pat Robertson�s Operation Hope. In fact, most of Atta�s closest associates in Venice weren�t Arabs, but Europeans with connection to the drug trade. Also, you might want to pursue this article: Tracking the 19 Hijackers -- At Least 9 of them survived 9/11. It makes for at least equally interesting reading.

The rest ofFalling Man

Beyond Hammad, DeLillo gives us an American protagonist, Keith Neudecker, a 39 year-old Manhattan lawyer who escapes the burning towers and instinctively turns back to the apartment he once shared with his estranged wife, Lianne, and their son, Justin, and to the �extended grimness called their marriage.� Great, your standard dysfunctional family, a real literary surprise. Including a literary mother-in-law and her German art-dealer lover of many years. But Neudecker, covered head to toe in the gray white dust (that later helped sicken thousands of first responders, workers, and neighborhood folk) is carrying an attach� case handed to him by someone in one of the blasted buildings, to whom he will subsequently return the case.

Neudecker will also have an affair with that person, while returning to his wife�s bed and son�s arms, and subsequently become a professional poker player, flying to Vegas and other gambling holes for days, weeks, months of games, even to play on the TV screen, in the big poker game of life, in which he is both loser and winner of his life. So it goes.

To top all this, we have the central image for the book title, The Falling Man, a fictional performance artist who �appeared several times in the last week. . . . suspended from one or another structure, always upside down, wearing a suit, a tie and dress shoes. He brought it back, of course, those stark moments in the burning towers when people fell or were forced to jump. He�d been seen dangling from a balcony in a hotel atrium, and police had escorted him out of a concert hall and two or three apartment buildings with terraces or accessible rooftops.�

Of course if you think about it, the performance artist David Janiak, who is The Falling Man is an inverted Philipe Petit (check out the photo), that marvelous man who on August 7, 1974, tight-rope walked from one tower to the other. And was seen high-wire walking between various towers of the city and the world (in Paris, from the Palais de Chaillot to the Eiffel Tower), defying gravity with his raw courage, fantastic sense of balance, and flare for theater. Perhaps this is a turn in the times, from looking up to falling down. Whether DeLillo intended this meaning or not I don�t know, but I do whole-heartedly believe it. There is a falling-down, too, in DeLillo�s work in TFM into the same trap that brought us Libra, his faux novelized bio of Lee Harvey Oswald, which missed the entire JFK conspiracy by a mile, and for which Jim Garrison and Oliver North nailed the government right on the head. Bravo for them.

And yet I genuinely admired DeLillo�s last novel, Cosmopolis, even quoted it an article. It was about a young billionaire hedge fund manager, Eric Packer, who manages his life, his fund in his white stretch limo outfitted with plasma screens of financial markets. He�s on his way to his roots on the far West Side of New York to get a haircut. It takes all day because this is a day when the town is besieged by George Bush and his armada of defenders, and opposed by a highly potent force of protesters. What a great picture of revolution in the Big Apple. Yet the young manager Packer is hedging the Chinese currency, betting it will fall when it continues to rise and rise. It is a destructive act to himself and his investors, perhaps on an unconscious level a revolutionary act to take down the US currency, out of control itself. After all if one major hedge fund fell, it could start an economic chain reaction that would make your head spin and your dollars fly out of your bank account.

Ah, but you ask, can revolution be unconscious if Eric Packer is unconscious of his actions? Why not? In fiction anything well written can be. In fiction, all things are possible, even the unconscious revolt of the callow hedge fund billionaire, what with his occasional sex in limo with his managers; his eerie advisor who tells him it�s merely the price of his $200 million apartment that is important, the orgasm of ownership that price tag induces, not the reality of its museum of rooms that really counts.

Thus with the real fiction Cosmopolis, DeLillo makes a more potent, honest, believable assessment of American and world politics, finance, and the societies they manage than in the half-baked tale of Falling Man, so unaware of the other his-story, of the alternate culture, the Internet, the underground, that knows and documents the facts that the towers were blown up, from bottom to middle to top in an inside job. And that Hammad, his friends, and fellow patsies, bin Laden (thought of as Bill Lawton by Keith Neudecker�s son and friends), were just that, pawns in a government ops, made men, to play some unknown role in the larger drama.

So there�s your novel, Don, reality. Sprawling, involving myriad government agencies, drug ops, money laundering, multiple terror hijacking �drills,� a false flag operation to create a war on Islam, the War on Terror, the two words becoming one as the explosive devices went off, crackling in the ears of everyone nearby, bringing the towers down in 10 second free falls, atomizing them and the deadly asbestos in the first 40 floors of each tower, to land in the lungs of the city. It is a novel of the real plotted by an inner cadre of demonic authors. It includes chapters on making billions hedging on airline and defense stocks before and after the event. It includes chapters on the hundreds of billions in gold stolen from the towers� basements and the insurance money placed on the betting table just a month before the event to earn still more billions.

It is a docu-novel like Norman Mailer�s Armies of the Night, based on the 1968 march on the Pentagon. It involves many of the same players, Rumsfeld, the Bushes (father and son), the Nixon graduates, Cheney, et al, CIA, FBI, generals, defense industry, oil barons, elites hovering above like vultures. In its landscape, the innocent are thrust like angels from the sky to the ground. This is the book to write. Or, if one must write a historical fiction, think of Phillip Roth�s The Plot Against America, in which the author gives us a brilliant �what if,� that being what if the Nazi-leaning hero Charles Lindberg had been elected president instead of Roosevelt in 1940? It happens in the novel and Roth creates an America moving towards Nazism, which feels much like what�s happening today. So the facts are not violated. They�re used to create a fiction that mirrors reality.

In short, DeLillo needs to rise not fall, spread his wings and fly and not crash �terrorist� taken-over planes more likely piloted by remote control. In reality, the Flight 77 757 airliner in Washington somehow morphed into a missile bearing craft that fired on contact into the Pentagon to make that 18-foot wide entry hole, an even smaller exit hole, leaving no bodies, no baggage, no fuselage, no wide wings and high tail. Read the other his-story, Don. Find out what really happened and why. To conquer the world and its oil and raise a conservative Christian Empire, a fourth Reich. Achtung! Open your eyes and rise, oh fallen man. The landscape of life is under your wings.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at

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