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Point Omegaby Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo's latest is eerie, beautiful, and full of surreal and complex dialogue — in other words, vintage DeLillo. Point Omega is a slim novel, but it is both rich in ideas and riveting in its language and implications. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Synopses & Reviews
Don DeLillo has been weirdly prophetic about twenty-first-century America (the New York Times Book Review). In his earlier novels, he has written about conspiracy theory, the Cold War and global terrorism. Now, in Point Omega, he looks into the mind and heart of a defense intellectual, one of the men involved in the management of the country's war machine.
Richard Elster was a scholar — an outsider — when he was called to a meeting with government war planners, asked to apply ideas and principles to such matters as troop deployment and counterinsurgency.
We see Elster at the end of his service. He has retreated to the desert, somewhere south of nowhere, in search of space and geologic time. There he is joined by a filmmaker, Jim Finley, intent on documenting his experience. Finley wants to persuade Elster to make a one-take film, Elster its single character — Just a man and a wall.
Weeks later, Elster's daughter Jessica visits — an otherworldly woman from New York, who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. The three of them talk, train their binoculars on the landscape and build an odd, tender intimacy, something like a family. Then a devastating event throws everything into question.
In this compact and powerful novel, it is finally a lingering human mystery that haunts the landscape of desert and mind.
"It's hardly a new experience to emerge from a Don DeLillo novel feeling faintly disturbed and disoriented. This is both a charm and a curse of much of his fiction, a reason he is so exciting to some readers and so irritating to others (notably George Will). And in the 117-page Point Omega, DeLillo's lean prose is so spare and concentrated that the aftereffects are more powerful than usual. Reading it is akin to a brisk hike up a desert mountain — a trifle arid, perhaps, but with occasional views of breathtaking grandeur. There is no room for false steps, and even the sure-footed will want to double back now and then to check for signs they might have missed along the way. Holding down the book's center is a pair of inward-looking men: Jim Finley, a middle-aged filmmaker who, in the words of his estranged wife, is too serious about art but not serious enough about life; and the much older Richard Elster, a sort of Bush-era Dr. Strangelove without the accent or the comic props.We join them at Elster's rustic desert hideaway in California, where Elster has retreated into the emptiness of time and space following his departure from the Bush-Cheney team of planners for the Iraq War. Elster had been recruited to serve as a sort of conceptual guru, but he left in disillusionment after plans for the 'haiku war' he preferred bogged down in numbers and nitty gritty. Finley hopes to coax Elster into sharing that experience while the camera rolls. He envisions a minimalist work in which Elster will speak in one continuous take while standing against a blank wall in Brooklyn. Anyone recalling the Bush aide who anonymously boasted in 2004 that the Administration would 'create our own reality' to reshape the post 9-11 world will easily detect echoes of that dreamy hubris in Elster's big declarations. As the two men float ever further from the moorings of the cities they left behind, the going gets a little tedious. One suspects DeLillo is setting them up for a fall, especially when Elster maintains they're closing in on the omega point, a concept postulating an eventual 'leap out of our biology,' as Elster puts it, an ultimate evolution in which 'brute matter becomes analytical human thought.'DeLillo delivers on this threat with a visit by Elster's twenty-something daughter, Jessie. From there, the dynamics of human tensions and tragedy take over, laying bare the vanity of intellectual abstraction, and making the omega point loom like empty words on a horizon of deadly happenstance. Along the way, DeLillo is at his best rendering micro-moments of the inner life. That's all the more impressive seeing as how Elster himself seemingly warns off the author from attempting any such thing, by saying in the first chapter, 'The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever.'From time to time, at least, DeLillo proves him wrong." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An icy, disturbing and masterfully composed study of guilt, loss and regret — quite possibly the author's finest yet." Kirkus Reviews
"Though it be but brief, DeLillo's latest offering is fierce. An excellent nugget of thought-provoking fiction that pits life against art and emotion against intellect." Library Journal
"[T]his slim novel is rich with ideas about objectivity and complicity, and time and transformation. Its subject is a satisfying next step from DeLillo's 9/11-themed Falling Man" Booklist
From one of the country's greatest living writers comes a brief, unnerving, and hard-hitting new novel about a secret war adviser and a young filmmaker.
Writing about conspiracy theory in Libra , government cover-ups in White Noise , the Cold War in Underworld , and 9/11 in Falling Man , “DeLillo’s books have been weirdly prophetic about twenty-first century America” ( The New York Times Book Review ). Now, in Point Omega , he takes on the secret strategists in America’s war machine. .
In the middle of a desert “somewhere south of nowhere,” to a forlorn house made of metal and clapboard, a secret war advisor has gone in search of space and time. Richard Elster, seventy-three, was a scholar—an outsider—when he was called to a meeting with government war planners. They asked Elster to conceptualize their efforts—to form an intellectual framework for their troop deployments, counterinsurgency, orders for rendition. For two years he read their classified documents and attended secret meetings. He was to map the reality these men were trying to create. “Bulk and swagger,” he called it. .
At the end of his service, Elster retreats to the desert, where he is joined by a filmmaker intent on documenting his experience. Jim Finley wants to make a one-take film, Elster its single character—“Just a man against a wall.” .
The two men sit on the deck, drinking and talking. Finley makes the case for his film. Weeks go by. And then Elster’s daughter Jessie visits—an “otherworldly” woman from New York—who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. When a devastating event follows, all the men’s talk, the accumulated meaning of conversation and connection, is thrown into question. What is left is loss, fierce and incomprehensible..
About the Author
Don DeLillo is the author of fifteen novels, including Falling Man, Libra and White Noise, and three plays. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by the New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.
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