I have some conflicted feelings about September 11th. While I believe that it was a sad event and that the people who died should be remembered, I also hate how it is used as a sign of patriotism, and a reminder of how we should all be afraid.
We should not be afraid. We should look forward with courage, and try to seek peace instead of retribution and more fear. But enough politicizing.
Recently, I've been thinking about how the events of September 11, 2001 have crept into our cultural conscious. In other words, how it is being represented in art, namely literature. More specifically, two books I've read in the past month both have representations (albeit small) of the events of September 11th from two different perspectives.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini describes the events from the perspectives of an Afghani refugee family. I found this one interesting because it was from a perspective of the people whose country was then affected by the ensuing retaliation against the Taliban. Their reactions--and the author's call for readers to remember Afghanistan--marked a contrast with the American reaction. Sometimes, we forget that there are other victims of world events besides our own citizens and our own soldiers.
The second book, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger*, tells the event from an American perspective. In a brilliant artistic move, Niffenegger simply shows Clare and Henry looking at the television, watching the planes crash into the towers. She leaves it to her reader's imagination to place their own reactions to the events into the story, a cleverly engaging device. It brings a stark element of the real world into this already wonderful book.
I'm interesting in observing how those events will continue to creep into art and effect the public imagination. How do audiences who could name specifically where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news react to such representations? I know that in both of those sections in both novels, I felt strangely connected, as though I had a shared experience with the characters, whose lives were otherwise different from my own.
*In an intriguing aside, Niffenger is a book artist, who teaches in Chicago. How cool is that?