Wednesday 9 November 2011

Point Omega – Don DeLillo (2010)

Don DeLillo’s writing is endlessly rewarding. DeLillo’s novels are insightful, beautiful, complex and in some cases meditative. His prose is effortless and DeLillo is justifiably recognized as one of the great American writers of the last fifty years. I’ve not caught up with DeLillo for quite some time however. The last book I read was Great Jones Street (1973), one of his minor works, although still well worthwhile. I’ve also read Underworld (1997), which is regarded as his key work and one of the great novels of the 20th century. Ratner’s Star (1976), which is intense and bizarre; White Noise (1985), which is one of the defining post-modern novels, and The Names (1982), a minor classic that brings together linguistics and cults. It’s also my favourite DeLillo novel.

Point Omega follows on from a series of novellas released since the huge tome that is Underworld. Point Omega comes in at 115 pages and begins with an anonymous man obsessively focusing on an installation in an unknown museum (in New York?). The installation is a slowed down screening of Psycho - the original movie. Referred to as 24 Hour Psycho it, well, runs for 24 hours. This takes 15 pages or so, some of which is spent obsessively examining the spinning shower curtain rings after the shower curtain is ripped away in that famous murder scene. Then we cut to the desert to find Richard Elster, his daughter and a young filmmaker intent on making a documentary about Elster’s time working for the military in the aftermath of 9/11.

What’s this book about and why is it worth reading? Due to its brevity it’s hard to talk much about the content without giving too much away. The book is not really plot driven, although the narrative does move towards a defining event. Instead it stands as a meditation on the relationship between consciousness and time. Holed up in a decaying house in the desert, the characters are overwhelmed by the depth of time; they give into it and slow down to just basic existence, eating, sleeping and talking about ‘point omega’. You’ll have to read the book to find out what ‘point omega’ means, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Sounds boring? Well, actually no. DeLillo’s prose draws you in and resonates in interesting ways. It’s subtle and doesn’t show off, simply because it doesn’t need to. Towards the end it’s what he doesn’t say that becomes important. I loved it but I also recognize that it isn’t for everyone. If you are after an action packed plot rich with tension and release then look elsewhere. There is no release to be found within the pages of Point Omega.

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