While self was waiting for “Justified” Season 3, Episode 1 to come on, she caught the preview of a movie called “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close,” which has Tom Hanks playing a father who is caught in his office in one of the towers, on that terrible day.
It so happens that self is on a closet-cleaning binge. At the back of one of her closet drawers, she found newspapers from that week: The New York Times of Sept. 12, Sept. 13, and Sept. 14. She uncreased the folds, and contemplated.
A month ago, she tried to write a story about 9/11, the same story she’s been trying to write for 10 years. She finally chopped it to four pages and sent it out. She happened to send it to Wigleaf, together with “Stonehenge/Pacifica,” and they chose the latter piece. But self still has hope that the other piece will find a home. It’s called “Wavering,” and it’s about a man whose wife saved his life that day, but not in the way you’d expect.
So, she takes a look at the Poets & Writers magazine, the one with Joan Didion on the cover. P & W calls her “America’s Most Resilient Writer.” Self wonders whether Didion herself would appreciate the appellation. Why “Most Resilient”? Why not just “The Best”? But perhaps it is a tribute, to be a “resilient” writer. Self supposes it must be, for writing is a tough, tough business. For every “Writer Under 40” who gets into The New Yorker, there are thousands, thousands who end up being lawyers, program assistants, nurses, teachers.
Self remarked to the husband, after watching the preview of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” : “Of all the places in the world that the terrorists could have chosen for their strike, they ended up choosing the one city that probably has more writers per square foot than any other city in the world.”
Is it chance? Fate? Who knows. That one event has spawned circles and concentric circles of angst, despair, neurosis that will last decades. Perhaps, even, centuries.
Self has read some good 9/11 writing (And some really terrible 9/11 writing). Among the good, Claire Messud’s novel, The Emperor’s Children. As well as Will Self’s short essay in his collection, Psychogeography. As well as Colum McCann’s short piece, “Dessert,” in The New Yorker issue that commemmorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11. McCann’s essay and the nonfiction book 102 Mintues: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers have touched her more than anything.
Here, in Poets & Writers, are some more 9/11 literature, recommended by a Pennsylvania reader who wrote a Letter to the Editor:
- Rebecca McClanahan’s “And We Shall Be Changed: New York City, September 2001” (Kenyon Review, Summer/Fall 2003)
- Donald Morrill’s The Untouched Minutes, a memoir “written almost exclusively in the third person” (University of Nebraska Press, 2004)
- David Foster Wallace’s “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s,” an essay in the Oct. 25, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone
- Mary Cappello’s “Moscow 9/11” in Raritan, Summer 2002
- Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon Books, 2004)