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Friday, December 7, 2012

Processing A Nightmare

Without drawing much attention to the actual event, Joseph O'Neill's novel "Netherland" (2008) is the first book I've read since 9/11 to give me the eerie sense of dislocation I felt a long time after that awful day.

Hans van der Broek is a 34 year old equities trader, originally from Holland, who lives in Tribeca with his wife Rachel and their two year old son. After the Twin Towers fall, the family is forced to re-locate and like many people, Hans has trouble processing what occurred. When Rachel is unsuccessful getting Hans to be more fully present, she takes their son and returns to her family in London. O'Neill's depiction of Hans' subsequent isolation and loneliness is an accurate reflection of how adrift I felt after the attacks.

Hans then meets Chuck Ramkisson, a Gatsby-like East Asian from Trinidad, as feral as Hans is cerebral. Their unlikely bond is built on a love of cricket and their adopted home, a melting pot in shock. As the city begins rebuilding, Chuck is scheming and Hans is healing. Here the author skillfully reminded me a little bit what the gradual rehabilitation process felt like at both macro and micro levels in the years right after.

Though O'Neill's novel is not about 9/11 per se, I seem to be mentally filing it alongside the many powerful and moving essays written about that day. What have you read to help you process that nightmare?                   


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