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Point OmegaPoint Omega by Don DeLillo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever.”

There is a touch of the abstract, a large dose of surrealism that goes towards constructing the plot of ‘Point Omega’ that made me gawk the first time I read it. The fact that it opens on an art installation showing a super slowed-down version of Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ and through this manages to a) offer some seriously sharp observations on human nature and art and b) almost solve the mystery of time and space itself, is quite a mean feat. Yes, the opening paragraphs read rather like a bit of high-brow art criticism. But don’t let that put you off, I have heard DeLillo’s work described as being cryptic and rather impenetrable but this one apparently is his most straight-forward attempt yet. While I cannot vouch for his other works, I can honestly say that DeLillo’s reasoning will have you pondering some very strange topics that seem both out-of-this-world yet incredibly close to home at the same time. Which is exactly what I like about this book.

Told in a style that I consider to be unique to DeLillo, the story basically recounts the strange relationship between a freelance film-maker intent on creating a seamless, one-take film and a secret war advisor, who decides to withdraw to the engulfing anonymity of the desert. Themes of obsession, isolation and metaphysics are explored between man to fellow-man, nature and the ever-present, all-encompassing flow of time. Things flow slowly, conversations are fragmented, feelings and thoughts break down in such a static environment. The desert seems to swallow all sense of reality, takes away the passing of the time (or rather the recognition of its passing) as these two men bond in a quasi-primitive way.

However the arrival of the war advisor’s daughter on the scene begins a cycle that slightly disrupts this Beckett-esque, ‘two old grumpy men’ thing which to be truthful, I didn’t really get. I wanted to see the filmmaker get his one-take movie. I wanted to see these two crazy men do their weird collaboration. There was magic to be had there, and I believed DeLillo was well within his capabilities to explore that weirdness, a further breaking down of reality. But the daughter comes along and ruins that. This is the point I feel slightly ‘robbed’; like I was promised something and it wasn’t delivered. Nevermind, I got some recompense at the end with a bit more art theory cum life theory and managed to forgive DeLillo a little.

This short novel has lots of space to move, being wonderfully under-crowded character-wise (only four real characters populate the scene), yet DeLillo finds ways of introducing claustrophobia and discomfort into the sweeping desert landscape where he bases his story.

With Delillo, we finally understand how through the abstract, the surreal or the ‘theatre of the absurd‘ that we understand life and modes of living that are perhaps, too big to comprehend as they are. It is essentially the ‘jarring’ of reality that offers us a broader glimpse at truths that were previously hidden. So it is that DeLillo begins and ends his story with the art installation and his nameless protagonist who ponders the meaning and moreover the inexplicable profundity of such a piece where time is (quite literally) slowed down to the point of stopping.

I gave this book 3/5 stars, yet had DeLillo followed through with the film-maker/ war advisor storyline instead of interrupting it, this could have been a much greater novel, as well as a longer one.

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