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Point Omega

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Point Omega Cover

ISBN13: 9781439169957
ISBN10: 1439169950
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

1


The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we're alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly selfaware, the submicroscopic moments. He said this more than once, Elster did, in more than one way. His life happened, he said, when he sat staring at a blank wall, thinking about dinner.

An eight-hundred-page biography is nothing more than dead conjecture, he said.

I almost believed him when he said such things. He said we do this all the time, all of us, we become ourselves beneath the running thoughts and dim images, wondering idly when we'll die. This is how we live and think whether we know it or not. These are the unsorted thoughts we have looking out the train window, small dull smears of meditative panic.

The sun was burning down. This is what he wanted, to feel the deep heat beating into his body, feel the body itself, reclaim the body from what he called the nausea of News and Traffic.

This was desert, out beyond cities and scattered towns. He was here to eat, sleep and sweat, here to do nothing, sit and think. There was the house and then nothing but distances, not vistas or sweeping sightlines but only distances. He was here, he said, to stop talking. There was no one to talk to but me. He did this sparingly at first and never at sunset. These were not glorious retirement sunsets of stocks and bonds. To Elster sunset was human invention, our perceptual arrangement of light and space into elements of wonder. We looked and wondered. There was a trembling in the air as the unnamed colors and landforms took on definition, a clarity of outline and extent. Maybe it was the age difference between us that made me think he felt something else at last light, a persistent disquiet, uninvented. This would explain the silence.

The house was a sad hybrid. There was a corrugated metal roof above a clapboard exterior with an unfinished stonework path out front and a tacked-on deck jutting from one side. This is where we sat through his hushed hour, a torchlit sky, the closeness of hills barely visible at high white noon.

News and Traffic. Sports and Weather. These were his acid terms for the life he'd left behind, more than two years of living with the tight minds that made the war. It was all background noise, he said, waving a hand. He liked to wave a hand in dismissal. There were the risk assessments and policy papers, the interagency working groups. He was the outsider, a scholar with an approval rating but no experience in government. He sat at a table in a secure conference room with the strategic planners and military analysts. He was there to conceptualize, his word, in quotes, to apply overarching ideas and principles to such matters as troop deployment and counterinsurgency. He was cleared to read classified cables and restricted transcripts, he said, and he listened to the chatter of the resident experts, the metaphysicians in the intelligence agencies, the fantasists in the Pentagon.

The third floor of the E ring at the Pentagon. Bulk and swagger, he said.

He'd exchanged all that for space and time. These were things he seemed to absorb through his pores. There were the distances that enfolded every feature of the landscape and there was the force of geologic time, out there somewhere, the string grids of excavators searching for weathered bone.

I keep seeing the words. Heat, space, stillness, distance. They've become visual states of mind. I'm not sure what that means. I keep seeing figures in isolation, I see past physical dimension into the feelings that these words engender, feelings that deepen over time. That's the other word, time.

I drove and looked. He stayed at the house, sitting on the creaky deck in a band of shade, reading. I hiked into palm washes and up unmarked trails, always water, carrying water everywhere, always a hat, wearing a broadbrimmed hat and a neckerchief, and I stood on promontories in punishing sun, stood and looked. The desert was outside my range, it was an alien being, it was science fiction, both saturating and remote, and I had to force myself to believe I was here.

He knew where he was, in his chair, alive to the protoworld, I thought, the seas and reefs of ten million years ago. He closed his eyes, silently divining the nature of later extinctions, grassy plains in picture books for children, a region swarming with happy camels and giant zebras, mastodons, sabertooth tigers.

Extinction was a current theme of his. The landscape inspired themes. Spaciousness and claustrophobia. This would become a theme.

Copyright © 2010 by Don DeLillo

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h2oetry, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by h2oetry)
In short? It's about a secret war advisor and a young filmmaker.

Well before the book graced shelves, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin coined the term Omega Point, described as a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which the universe appears to be evolving.

The novel records the exchanges between a retired academic, Elster, and a documentarian, Jim. Elster, at the end of his storied career as a scholar and wartime philosophizer for the U.S. government, retreats to the desert to enter his final stage of personal consciousness and introversion – his own Omega Point.

Finley’s goal is to persuade Elster to make a one-take film with Elster as its single character – “Just a man and a wall.”
The novel’s framed by scenes of an art installation by Douglas Gordon, shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2006, entitled “24 Hour Psycho.” In it, Hitchcock's movie is slowed down to complete a single showing over 24 hours. This stands as a reference point for the novel’s many meditations on time. “Point Omega” is small yet intense novel that emphasizes that the important things in life are not the big sweeping events, but the small moments and micro-moments that we live. The type of things that make time stand still.

Perhaps he presents his ideas in such a condensed format because he wants us to slow down and read them again. You can read this in a day, but when you do, slow down and really pay attention to DeLillo, I think you will be rewarded. He's easily one of my favorite living authors.

http://bit.ly/dLOqej
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Tyler Jones, February 17, 2010 (view all comments by Tyler Jones)
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 myseterious, 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.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781439169957
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
DeLillo, Don
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
War & Military
Subject:
Popular Fiction-Military
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20100202
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
128
Dimensions:
8.44 x 5.5 in 9.975 oz

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Point Omega Used Hardcover
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Product details 128 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781439169957 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review" by , "An icy, disturbing and masterfully composed study of guilt, loss and regret — quite possibly the author's finest yet."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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"
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by , 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..

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