In the slew of Sept. 11 books being released this summer, "110 Stories" may be an anomaly. Composed of two- or three-page poems, short stories, and dramatic prose, it turns literary - rather than documentary - eyes on the terrorist attacks. "In its ways of incessantly building and transforming a world, literature helped me confront reality without promising wholeness or denying absence, shock, and loss," writes Ulrich Baer, the book's editor, in the introduction. So he put out a call to New York's poets and novelists - Paul Auster, Peter Carey, A.M. Homes, and Susan Wheeler among many others - asking for their responses to the tragedy. The guidelines were loose; some of the selections are related only peripherally, if at all, to Sept. 11. A few of the stories may have been better left as personal exorcisms rather than published. But others achieve remarkable poignancy in the short space they are allowed. They don't try for universality, but simply offer slivers of response: a writer's meeting with a neighbor, who exhorts him to tell her daughter's story; the origin of the black-on-black New Yorker magazine cover; the death of nostalgia. As a kaleidoscope of images, thoughts, impressions, and gut responses, the collection begins to achieve Baer's goal: "finding meaning in - and beyond - the silent, howling void." (368 pp.) By Amanda Paulson
by Ulrich Baer
New York University Press, $22.95
OUT OF THE BLUE, Henry Holt & Co.
Howell Raines, executive editor of The New York Times, writes in this book's introduction, "Sometimes tragedy must be confronted directly, for it is an indelible part of the human experience." Indeed, author Richard Bernstein, 20-year veteran reporter of the Times, opens the book with a contemplative look at the horrifying first few moments following the attacks in New York on Sept. 11. From there, Bernstein takes us back to 1979, to a modest storefront office in Peshawar, Pakistan, where a charismatic religious scholar named Abdullah Azzam first began recruiting volunteers for a new Islamic army. It is here, Bernstein says, that many of the men who would eventually play a role in the Sept.11 attacks (including Osama bin Laden) first joined the holy war that was ultimately directed at America. Clearly distinguishing between fact and informed guesses, Bernstein provides a comprehensive, engaging narrative of Sept. 11, the events that led up to the tragedy, and its aftermath. Throughout the book, he compares and contrasts the lives of the terrorists with the lives of some of the Sept. 11 victims, and provides striking glimpses into the unimaginable human details of the tragedy. (304 pp.) By Christian Scripter
by Richard Bernstein
AMONG THE HEROES
The story of United Flight 93 has a special resonance in a day full of terrible and heroic deeds. The flight crashed in a field near Shankesville, Pa., killing all aboard. However, the passengers' uprising against the hijackers saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives in Washington, D.C. "Among the Heroes" depicts the hijacking of Flight 93, moving from the morning of Sept. 11, when the passengers depart for the airport, to a December memorial at the crash site. New York Times reporter Jere Longman conducted hundreds of interviews with the families, friends, and colleagues of the passengers and crew on the flight. …