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Environment, Space, Place

Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring 2009

Randy Laist
Pages 121-137
DOI: 10.7761/ESP.1.1.121

“The Style of What is to Come”
Representations of the World Trade Center in the Novels of Don DeLillo

Since the very week of September 11, 2001, commentators have remarked on the apparent clairvoyance evidenced in the novels of the American writer Don DeLillo. DeLillo’s novels have always represented the Twin Towers as gargantuan symbols of latent catastrophe. The towers have been significant to DeLillo as a particularly gargantuan representation of the manner in which modern mass-consciousness expresses itself in the form of material technologies. Throughout his career, DeLillo has described the World Trade Center not only as a physical structure, but as a kind of schematic of the future of the culture that created it. In the lines and angles of the towers, DeLillo seems to discern the “lines of intentionality” inherent in the culture of advanced technology itself, and traces them out to the conclusions toward which they seem to lead. In this paper, I will examine the manner in which DeLillo has “read” the World Trade Center as an architectural confession of a distinctly American wish to negate the human scale, to make the world over as an artificial environment, and to look forward to the surpassing of bodily and social existence. In four novels written before 9/11, DeLillo crafts an image of the World Trade Center as a sculptural representation of America’s own will to self-destruction and in his most recent novel, Falling Man, DeLillo illustrates the kind of existence that lies on the other side of this self-destruction.