Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th in Literature

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?


Timothy said...

check out this poem written in response to 9/11. It's simply gorgeous.

by Dorianne Laux

When a dead tree falls in a forest
it often falls into the arms
of a living tree. The dead,
thus embraced, rasp in wind,
slowly carving a niche
in the living branch, sheering away
the rough outer flesh, revealing
the pinkish, yellowish, feverish
inner bark. For years
the dead tree rubs its fallen body
against the living, building
its dead music, making its raw mark,
wearing the tough bough down,
moaning in wind, the deep
rosined bow sound of the living
shouldering the dead.

the secret knitter said...

The funny thing is how films about 9/11 have often been met with the charge that it's too soon or the question of why one would want to watch anything about that in the first place. I'll admit that UNITED 93 is tough to watch, but it's an extraordinary film.

Books don't seem to have that problem.

The Aimful Wanderer said...

The Time-Traveller's Wife is my favorite book ever. Its so beautiful. Thus, I am furious that they are making a movie out of it. There's no possible way to fix the complexities and nuances of that book into a two hour movie. Sometimes I hate my own chosen profession, lol.