POINT OMEGA by Don DeLillo

Book Quote:

“Lying is necessary. The state has to lie. There is no lie in war or in preparation for war that can’t be defended. We went beyond this. We tried to create new realities overnight, careful sets of words that resemble advertising slogans in memorability and repeatability. These were words that would yield pictures eventually and become three-dimensional. The reality stands, it walks, it squats. Except when it doesn’t.”

Book Review:

Review by Daniel Luft (FEB 19, 2010)

Don DeLillo’s Point Omega is a slim and subtle novel. It is so slim that very little happens and so subtle that the reader will be left to question exactly what happened here and what any of it means.

The book begins and ends with with the viewing of a film exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit is called 24 Hour Psycho and it screens Hitchcock’s famous movie in slow motion, without sound, for a full twenty-four hours.

In between these brief, stark, descriptive, passages is the story of the narrator Jim Finley who has installed himself in the isolated, desert home of Richard Elster who, until recently, had been an advisor to President Bush. Elster came from academia and his presence in the administration was to add credibility and depth to the decisions made by the government. His exact job in the administration was to place the war into some kind of context, to give it meaning, find a metaphor that the administration could use. To Finley, he refers to his job as “bulk and swagger” which is closer to cloak and dagger than to “shock and awe.”

Finley is a novice filmmaker who wants to make a documentary of Elster speaking to the camera and telling the story of his role in the administration, his thoughts on the war, politics, everything. But Elster has fallen silent even before he consents to do the film. The two men spend a lot of time together, alone in the house, drinking on Elston’s deck, watching the sun set.

After a week of this near silence, Elster’s daughter, Jessie, comes for a visit, which only reminds Finley of his own loneliness and urges. He continues to pursue Elston professionally while he fantasizes about the daughter.

This routine ends a couple days later when Jessie very suddenly disappears and the story takes an abrupt shift into the realm of personal mysteries and loss.

This shift must be a cue from Psycho where the lead character was killed off early in the story. Psycho began as a heist film, turned into a private detective story and then morphed again into something quite unsettling. With its impersonal violence it raised questions about the genre of crime fiction and how quaint its methods were next to random violence.

Point Omega seems to raise the question of how anyone can find meaning in violence and loss. The book also toys with the idea of stories and their meanings. It begins like a reversal of Darkness at Noon with the meek artist trying to goad answers from the powerful party official. Then, with the arrival of Elster’s daughter, the story meanders into a retelling of Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer, where young Nathan Zuckerman gets to meet his idol but is eventually sidetracked by lust for the old man’s daughter.

But then Point Omega changes once more with Finley and Elster, alone together again, searching for some kind of expressible meaning in the disappearance of a single woman. Next to this emptiness how could anyone explain the overwhelming violence and unfairness of an entire war?

Most of DeLillo’s major writing has been event-oriented like the toxic plume in White Noise or the windup pitch of Underworld. Vivid characters have never been his strength. For this short book with only one real plot point occurring, more characterization would have helped. Elster himself points to the book’s flaw when he tells Finley what a bad idea their film would be: “But isn’t there a real movie you’d rather do? Because how many people will want to spend all that time looking at something so zombielike?”

DeLillo is a major American writer but he still has yet to create a character that captures the collective heart of his readership. No Garp, no Zuckerman, no Sam Spade. With all the premature deaths in Psycho, the audience still got to hold on to Norman Bates.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 43 readers
PUBLISHER: Scribner; First Edition (February 2, 2010)
REVIEWER: Daniel Luft
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo’s America

EXTRAS: Excerpt

Complete Review on Point Omega

MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our short review of:

White Noise


February 19, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary, New York City, y Award Winning Author

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