WINDOWS ON THE WORLD

Frederic Beigbeder, Author, Frank Wynne, Translator , trans. from the French by Frank Wynne. Miramax $24.95 (307p) ISBN 978-1-4013-5223-3

"You know how it ends: everybody dies." Thus begins Beigbeder's gripping apocalyptic novel, which takes place on September 11, 2001—the date on which New York realtor Carthew Yorston has taken his seven- and nine-year-old sons for a long-promised breakfast at the eponymous eatery atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Alternating with Smith's narration is the voice of Beigbeder himself—or a thinly disguised version of the French author—musing about the tragedy one year later over his own breakfast in Le Ciel de Paris, on the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse, the tallest building in Paris. Each chapter of the novel represents one minute on that fateful morning, from 8:30 to 10:29; nearly all are less than three pages, and several prove startling in their brevity ("In the Windows, the few remaining survivors intone Irving Berlin's 'God Bless America' (1939)"). Both men riff on everything from trivia to politics and make often poignant philosophical observations. Abundant doses of gallows humor at once add levity and underscore the drama. Yorston's overheard snatches of fatuous cell-phone conversations, for example, would be funny in another context, while the enforced exit of a cigar-smoking guest at Windows on the World "thereby proves that a cigar can save your life." Though some readers may be put off by this novel's subject matter, Beigbeder invests his narrators with such profound humanity that the book is far more than a litany of catastrophe: it is, on all levels, a stunning read. (Mar.)

FYI: Beigbeder's novel debuted at #2 on the French bestseller list. The English edition is slightly different from the French original because, Beigbeder writes in an Author's Note, when he reread the book in English, "there were, I felt, moments when it was starker and perhaps more likely to wound than I intended."

Reviewed on: 01/24/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Paperback - 307 pages - 978-1-4013-5988-1
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-2-246-63389-1
Hardcover - 360 pages - 978-2-253-18277-1
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