AFTER: How America Confronted the September 12 Era
Brill, journalist and entrepreneur (founder of the ill-fated Brill's Content magazine), has written a sprawling, panoramic account of life after September 11. Proceeding on an almost day-by-day basis through the year after the attacks, he employs documentary-style crosscuts between episodes in the lives of a dramatis personae that is impressively and appropriately large and diverse. There are poignant but unsentimental portraits of the families of three of the victims. Brill follows several government agents on the front lines after the attacks, including a whistleblower from the hapless INS. Executives from Raytheon and a bomb-screening business angle for gain from the new homeland security regime, while the CEOs of an airport and an insurance company confront perilous losses. Brill, founder of Court TV, perceptively explains the legal battles of World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein and the theory behind the Victim Compensation Fund. Among the powerful, most notably rendered is Attorney General John Ashcroft, who comes off as heedlessly overzealous in his pursuit of terrorists. In contrast, Sen. Charles Schumer and homeland security chief Tom Ridge get respectful, sometimes cozy, treatment. To the extent that there's a theme to Brill's headlong narrative, it is the resilience of America's system of clashing interest groups. But the real achievement here is to convey the scope of the tragedy's consequences, which somewhat excuses the book's scattershot quality. Brill is no prose stylist, and the episodic, chronological method makes for a repetitive and long book. Still, Brill often displays formidable journalistic research, sharp reporting and lively characterizations. (Apr. 7)
Forecast:Brill is a columnist at Newsweek, which ran first serial in its March 10 issue, and an NBC consultant—so, no surprise there will be a Dateline special and an appearance on the Today show, as well as other national media. S&S should have no trouble selling its 75,000 first printing.
Release date: 04/01/2003