Don DeLillo, Point Omega
2010, 117 pages, hardcover, $24
don delillo is one of the few authors with a distinctive tone. Many writers have a style, and all writers have some sort of voice, but DeLillo, author of such novels as White Noise and Underworld, has his own tone. Mr. DeLillo’s novels are always written to the tune of paranoia and the dim silence before a storm. He is a novelist of dread and unease. In many ways he is a suspense novelist who puts more emphasis on anticipating the “boo,” rather than on the “boo” itself. However, his newest novel, Point Omega, expects the reader to see depth in the absence of anticipation.
Point Omega is not so much a failed novel as it is simply not a novel in the first place. At a mere 117 pages, Point Omega is really a short story with a lengthy prologue and epilogue. And, I’m afraid to say, it fails as a short story, too. The book also wishes to be a play—a one act with heavy inspiration from Harold Pinter.
The narrator is Jim Finley, who is residing in the desert with the intellectual Richard Elster. The isolation of the desert provides a great deal of DeLillo’s fictive paranoia, as well as a feeling of isolation throughout the book. Finley is a filmmaker who plans to make a movie involving Elster, who has had some involvement with America’s counterinsurgency and is now a cynic and a hermit. The two men talk about the film, but the film is never made. Eventually, as a ploy for something to happen, Elster’s daughter arrives. Then, as if merely to keep the plot moving, she disappears. Since she is introduced late and not fleshed out as anything more than a prop, her vanishing means little to the reader. All the pieces of the story are classic DeLillo, but the structure and pace of the work are its major faults; the narrative knows the melody, but not the words.
One of the major bits of the book is the conceptual art piece of Psycho being slowed down to the point that it takes twenty-four hours to watch. This was a real project entitled “24 hour Psycho” by the artist Douglas Gordon in 1993, and was installed a few years ago in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Readers can easily decide whether they would enjoy Point Omega by asking themselves if they might enjoy this conceptual video work. DeLillo aims to make parallels between the video and the book’s characters and plot, but the continual silences and waiting do not bring a Beckett-esque depth to the story.
There is plenty of good writing in Point Omega. DeLillo describes landscapes and nature as well as anyone this side of Hemingway, and some parts of the book ask to be read out loud. Yet the characters seem to function as mere mannequins, and this stops Point Omega from having any aesthetic effect other than boredom.