9/11 Too 'Meaningless' to Inspire Great Novels

Because 'life, not death, is the novelist's subject': Laura Miller
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2011 4:00 PM CDT
James Hynes' "Next" is a better "9/11 novel" for not being literally about the attack of 9/11, writes Larua Miller at Salon.   (Flickr)

(Newser) – Ten years later, and still no great 9/11 novels? Yes, because "at its heart, 9/11 was meaningless," writes Laura Miller at Salon. "I realize that sounds inflammatory, but hear me out." A novelist explores "the winding and unwinding of long strands of cause and effect, in the reasons people do things and the often unanticipated results they get." And it's hard to infuse that into the 2,996 deaths of 9/11. Those deaths were simply "abrupt and unanticipated, as is the case with most disasters."

Miller admits that police and firefighters "are the great exception" because they sacrificed their lives on 9/11—yet a firefighter who dies in any fire "is no less brave or heroic." Some novelists have tried to find meaning in 9/11 deaths anyway, but Miller considers their efforts sentimental or self-aggrandizing. She prefers less literal books, like James Hyne's Next, about a self-absorbed man about to die in a 9/11-like attack. Yet the novel never reaches his demise, because there is "next to nothing, perhaps nothing at all," to say about death itself. "Silence, too, can be eloquent."

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