Due the length of ´Your Cities, Your Tombs´ - twice as long as ´False Magic Kingdom´ and ´Bad Alchemy´ combined - the story itself is way more complex and challenging. And confusing. And slightly bizarre. In that sense that the surreal aspects are more coming to light, as surreal as the real 9/11 attacks have been. The different storylines come together, like Tina who has finally her surgery to have her two penises removed, a married couple with a failing sex life due his impotence (symbolism, baby!), or three doctors with an rather interesting fetish (?) for videos of demolition of buildings. Often times there are rather off-beat sexual ... not relationships exactly, but more .. not sure how to describe it, acting as a way to describe the acts which cannot be really named.
´The Sins Of Our Fathers´ might have been as much an appropriate title as ´Your Cities, Your Tombs´. Almost everyone seems to have been shaped by what previous generations (symbolized via their/our fathers) have done, or not. Which I find not without irony since the truth of the matter is the core of our existence, why we act the way we do, and this is as true for the characters in Jordan Krall´s book. They need to find a reason why things happened that way and why they are who they are, and almost always come back to what happened in their childhood/adolescence. There is clearly a search for identity, which again, seen from a different POV is probably as true for whole societies as much as for individuals. Insofar their quest to find out who they are is as fitting as it can be intertwined in a larger, non-linear reading of history, and our societies.
The self-awareness of the characters is why they are doomed. They seem to be the only ones who realize that "everything is dangerous all the times", as opposed to those of us who see skycrapers as only skyscrapers and cannot identify the horrors behind our lives. Because we choose not to. And maybe that is better that way as not to drive ourselves into some unhealthy obsession about "death squads". However we choose to live, the book is aiming at something bigger, something more, about the society we live in, and we are a part of, and why we close our eyes shut when we should open them and look. Truly look at everything that is wrong within ourselves and our world.
Where it becomes truly frightening is with some of the chapters which are written in a way that it makes it impossible to tell to which characters and storyline they actually refer to. Those could be as fitting to those who "commit acts of terror", as to those who fight them. The lines are extremely blurred, and an easy recognition of who is who is not possible anymore. Their justifications, their rhetoric, their excuses are one and the same, it just depends on which side you are on, and what you actually believe in. There is as much fear as there are almost conspiracy alike theories, like a study of paranoia.
Where Krall indeed succeeds is - again - that he doesn´t sit judgement but tries to understand and shines light into personal existences as much as in the general state of the time when the towers came crushing down. At the end the city takes over as another character. The city itself is the chaos, the fear, the confusion of the why - and of the how.
Krall puts his fingers into the wounds of our existences, and makes ´Your Cities, Your Tombs´ into something that is larger than "only" being a book about 9/11. The personal as much as the general sense of dread is what makes it so interesting. It is not an easy read, it cannot be. First of all due the decided way of story telling; extremely non-linear and "experimental" (which I use loosely but as an umbrella term it is probably the one that fits), and second due the story itself. There is simply not an easy way to really talk about 9/11. Or why it happened.
The intensity - especially towards the end - feels truly real, and very frightening. As if one is lost into something bigger, something which only can be told in hindsight for the next generations to come. I don´t think Krall has the solution hidden somewhere within the pages, maybe there is no solution at all, I don´t know. The questions are there, even who knows if those are the right questions we are able to ask, but in the end we should, no, we must ask them.
Obviously I can only scratch the surface but ´Your Cities, Your Tombs´ is one of the most interesting fictional pieces I have read so far about 9/11. It is hard to talk about the book itself, about my feelings for it, or how lost I felt during the long reading, and many hours I have spent with it. I am mostly confused, less so about the short chapters (that too) but about how I really, truely FEEL. Everything collapses, relationships, buildings, lives. Krall does so at times with some poetic use of language, with phrases that surprised and shocked me, and made me think about myself, the world I live in, and what made me the gal I am today.
As a whole ´Your Cities, Your Tombs´ is an overwhelming experience. It is frustrating and challenging and makes one very uncomfortable.