I've been a longtime fan of DeLillo and so when I saw he had a new book coming out I tracked down an advance copy at the bookstore where I work. This is a slim and spare novel. Clocking in at only 117 pages, it's the smallest stand-alone novel that DeLillo has ever written (The Body Artist is the next smallest). Depending on how you look at it, there is either a lot contained in this little book...or not much at all. I say that because the story is bare bones, the plot so thin as to be almost non-existent. But DeLillo has always been a novelist of ideas first and plot second. Each of his books is a philosophical meditation on a subject, with characters and story orbiting around that. Point Omega is about the construct of time and how we experience it. How it can be slowed in certain moments and sped up in others, how it's different in different places, how we are all looking for that moment of transcendence in our life where time ceases to be and we are just there in the moment.
Now if that sounds cheesy, it's only because I'm not as good a writer as DeLillo. The novel begins with an unnamed character watching the movie Psycho slowed down so the film takes 24 hours to play out. We then are transported to the desert, where a filmmaker attempts to persuade a man who had a hand in the creation of the Iraq war to speak for a documentary he wants to make.
This is a novel that is as vast and empty as the desert in which it is set. It's easy to get lost, even among its small page count. DeLillo's prose is not for everyone. Some may criticize that he is overly intellectual, that he shouldn't be writing novels, but nonfiction essays instead. All I can say is that there is something in his writing that really connects with me. This book may not be a fast-paced thriller, but it is engaging nonetheless.
I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point if you have never read DeLillo before. White Noise would be the obvious book you should begin with.
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Time is the leading thread of this novel. It tells how it affects people and how people are trying to manipulate Time.
I believe that Don Delillo didn't write a novel but a long poem instead. Not modern poetry but an epos if you will or better: a play from antiquity (both limited in Space and Time). And like a Greek tragedy it has only a few characters: Richard Elster an old scientist and philosopher, Jim Finley a film maker and finally Jessica, the daughter of Richard. The main character is Time. Richard, gloomy and taciturn. Jim, idealistic and has his head in the clouds. Jessica seems to carry a secret and is a little reclusive.
At the beginning of the novel - as a sort of introduction - an unnamed person (Elster or Finley?) - talks about a video performance at The Museum of Modern Art in New-York-City. The performance is an attempt to reach unlimited Time; The movie 'Psycho' by Alfred Hitchcock is electronically slowed down to full 24 hours. So if you stare for only a short while at the video screen it's as if nothing happens. Almost infinite or unlimited Time. There are not many visitors to the room of the video-show and they stay only for a minute at the most. The mysterious person who explains to the reader the video performance and the behavior of the public, stays in the dark shadow of the room (Jessica?) and only now and then he/she walks around the room for a while.
Richard Elster and Jim Finley live in a house with a corrugated metal roof above a clapboard exterior and located at the edge of a desert. They only stay for a few weeks. Jim tells Richard that he would like to make a video-film with Richard as the only character. He doesn't have to say or do anything.Read more ›
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
The Desert LifeFeb. 3 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
A filmmaker tracks down one of the architects of the Iraq war in an attempt to convince him to be involved in a documentary about his role. Rather than take this thin idea of a plot and politicize it, use it as a pedastal to rant on about how wrong the war was/is, Mr. Delillo has written a very powerful meditation on time and death.
Out in the desert, under the vast expanse of sky, surrounded by geology and nature, the young filmmaker becomes enamored with the philosophical ramblings of the old man. He begins to understand that there is more to be seen than what is obvious. The war itself may be a metaphor for something even larger, more looming, but it is only suggested and whispered.
Mr. Delillo's writing, as always, is stunning. His descriptions are atomic, carefully constructed phrases that linger long after you've moved on.
This brief novel is a mystery because it is mysterious, it requires involvement. You cannot read it for the sheer pleasure of escapism, Mr. Delillo asks something of you in return. Listen, pay attention. See.
I feel strongly that Mr. Delillo is the seminal writer of our time, however his last book, "Falling Man," felt cold and distant. Perhaps it was because 911 is still so fresh in our minds that it didn't enlighten as much as it simply reminded us of the tragedy, which is still difficult to make sense of.
Delillo is at his best when writing coldly of cold people. Men and women who regard their own lives from a distance. If pure story is what you want, look elsewhere. If you appreciate intelligent and insightful writing, Point Omega is a book that demands to be read and re-read.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Perfectly expresses the sensibility of a writer comfortable grappling with big questions and big themesFeb. 8 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
If our descendants are reading serious fiction hundreds of years from now, they would do well to revisit the work of Don DeLillo to seek out insights into the temper of our times. In an impressive body of work created over some 40 years, DeLillo has demonstrated an uncanny ability to tap into our collective psyche and explain us to ourselves. That talent surfaces again in his latest novel, a spare exploration of the mysteries of time and space.
POINT OMEGA continues the pattern displayed in DeLillo's more recent works, interspersing substantial novels (his monumental UNDERWORLD the most noteworthy) with slighter and more enigmatic ones (THE BODY ARTIST, COSMOPOLIS). The new novel settles indisputably into the latter category.
Set in 2006, most of DeLillo's brief story unfolds in the harsh and starkly beautiful California desert. There, an aging professor, a "defense intellectual" named Richard Elster, has retreated to a ramshackle house to reflect on his career and contemplate the folly of his tangential involvement in planning for the 2003 Iraq War: "We tried to create new realities overnight," he recalls with more than a trace of irony, "careful sets of words that resemble advertising slogans in memorability and repeatability. These were words that would yield pictures eventually and then become three-dimensional. The reality stands, it walks, it squats. Except when it doesn't." Describing his close encounter with that artificial world of "acronyms, projections, contingencies, methodologies," Elster confesses with disarming candor, "Violence freezes my blood."
Accompanying Elster is Jim Finley, a documentary filmmaker barely half his age, who wants to make a single take film of Elster talking about his life and career, unscripted, seated in front of the wall of a Brooklyn loft. What Elster anticipated would be a brief visit stretches into weeks as the two men spend hours in elliptical conversation musing on the enigmas of existence. "This is deep time, epochal time," Elster observes. "Our lives receding into the long past. That's what's out here. The Pleistocene desert, the rule of extinction." The arrival of Elster's daughter, Jessie, "an exceptional mind, otherworldly," as he describes her, injects a palpable tension into Finley's relationship with his subject. Jessie's mysterious disappearance and the frantic effort to find her supplies most of the story's limited dramatic energy.
The central section of the novel is bookended by encounters with an art work entitled "24 Hour Psycho," which features Hitchcock's iconic film slowed down to stretch to the length of a full day. Its unsettling presence serves to underscore the theme of time that pulsates at the heart of the story.
At its core, DeLillo's novel is fundamentally a philosophical one, calling to mind the work of Camus. The term that supplies its title was coined by the French Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. As DeLillo put it in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, he was taken by Teilhard's notion "that human consciousness is reaching a point of exhaustion, and that what comes next may be either a paroxysm or something enormously sublime."
Known for meticulous --- almost obsessive --- prose craftsmanship, in any DeLillo work there are moments of sublime writing. Most notably here, those examples focus on the rugged majesty of the desert landscape in descriptive passages like this one: "Beyond the local shrubs and cactus, only waves of space, occasional far thunder, the wait for rain, the gaze across the hills to a mountain range that was there yesterday, lost today in lifeless skies."
Although it does so at best obliquely, POINT OMEGA revisits some of the motifs DeLillo has explored in novels like WHITE NOISE and UNDERWORLD: free-floating anxiety about malign forces abroad in the world and the existence of powerful men in shadowy rooms whose desires shape our world more directly and forcefully than we'd like to admit. A less accomplished writer might deliver these messages accompanied by a whiff of paranoia, but in DeLillo's hands they're the soul of realism.
Readers looking for conventional story structure or characters sketched in more than the broadest or most impressionistic brushstrokes either won't be likely to engage with DeLillo's work or if they ever did it's probable they abandoned him long ago. But in its austere beauty, POINT OMEGA perfectly expresses the sensibility of a writer comfortable grappling with big questions and big themes, content to leave us to seek out the hints of answers in the dark recesses of an unsettling still life portrait.
--- Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
It's another thin DeLillo, a meditation on war, solitude, and the mysteriousJan. 29 2010
Michael A. Duvernois
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a hard book to love. It's easy to respect the brilliant author whose thick works (e.g. Underworld) and thin works (e.g. Body Artist) have been seen as prophetic markers along the dark and twisted path of American paranoia, greed, and spectacle. But the humor is very dark, and the humanity is very thin in DeLillo's recent works. And this is where I start with Point Omega. Dehumanized with few laughs on display among the small-scale movements and moments of the novel. It's a long, long way from the fleshy, earthy, body functions of White Noise. But it's been a long journey for this country as well.
The novel is set deep in the desert, the retreat of Richard Elster, a former academic and intellectual author of plans for the Iraq War (we can picture a neoconservative talking head, Paul Wolfowitz perhaps). He has slipped under corrugated steel to avoid the news and the traffic, and perhaps a conscience as well. A filmmaker is present to record the thoughts and philosophies of Elster warning that Iraq is just the beginning, the "whisper" of horrors to come. (Though it'll be a long time, I think, before we'll see an Iraq War version of Robert McNamara's hand-wringing Fog of War.) The prognosis isn't good, but can anyone expect otherwise from this book?
I am impressed at the sparse writing, the intelligent discourse around the inertia of the setting. But I really would have liked to have had something to laugh about, something pleasurable, something to hang my hat on during a cold winter here in Minnesota. That wasn't in this book. And sure, it probably shouldn't be, but we read for pleasure, don't we? We want more than just a scathing look at our crimes and inevitable downfall, don't we? Maybe DeLillo is saying that we don't deserve that from a novel now. That shopping and eating, consuming, is our pleasure and that reading is our medicine.
I took my two aspirin and reread the book. You should read it, but I won't promise that you'll love the book or find it fun. But Don DeLillo is clearly in touch with America.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Vivid, Elegant, Unsettling and RecommendedApril 17 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
In this book, DeLillo sets the initial scene in museum in which the art work, "24 Hour Psycho" is being shown. The piece consists of a projection on a scrim of Hitchcock's film, "Psycho", in vastly slowed frame-by-frame style lasting 24 hours. DeLillo eloquently describes how the setting, presentation and altered time transform the film from its original form, creating an entirely different perceptual and conceptual experience. In the gallery, as a man experiences the piece, the reader is confronted with questions of the role of perspective, expectation and time on one's personal perception. In the process, DeLillo very effectively projects a sense of the disorientation and intellectual challenge provoked by the art piece. The next location is in the desert, where a film producer attempts to involve a academic war planner in a proposed documentary. A kind of symmetry occurs here, with the war planner's own concepts forming the basis of his individualized abstract notion of what war would be and what his role would be in planning it. The planner's abstract concept of military planning and government then parallels his difficulty in interacting and understanding his own daughter, and is no less personalized and disconnected from reality than that of the film producer and, for that matter, the man viewing 24-hour Psycho. DeLillo's presentation of the thoughts and perceptions of the man in the museum, the war planner, the film maker all focus on questions of perception and reality, and the characters are themselves disoriented and sometimes confused about what they are experiencing. Interestingly, the daughter is described but her thoughts and perceptions are never revealed. The narrative in this book is important but not foremost. It is a skeleton on which to hang important ideas and questions that are hard to shake off.
This book is austere in its writing and DeLillo's prose is beautifully economical. There is not an excess word, but at the same time the writing is vivid and frequently arresting. Although the writing is clear and very accessible, the book is not a "read" or page-turner, it needs a deliberate and attentive approach and rewards with a rich experience.
This book is food for some interesting thoughts about the influence of time, personal experience and point-of-view perception as they relate to whatever reality might be. It is another important work by DeLillo and it should be read.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I Liked it i thinkMarch 7 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an aerated novel that wants to be a condensed, stylized short story, or maybe even a play... It is a novel that is supposed to be finished in the reader's head, completed by all the connections the reader finds between the long aftershocks of Bush's war on terror and the modern-day obsession with images and information flickering across screens large and small... I do wish it were longer - that is, I wish DeLillo had more omnivorously taken in the contemporary moment and fed it into the gears of his literary intelligence, because his spare rooms and stark screens are too concept-driven, too slight for the monumentality of his observations... But I will take what I can get from the master.As a raging DeLillo fan, I'd be more excited to see him branch out to another genre--an experimental autobiography, or essayistic micro-observations of his favorite art and literature--than write another short novel about detached and largely interchangeable characters.