DeLillo has really a great ability in writing interesting and passionate novels.
Point Omega doesn't say much and is not so related to my interests, but it was really a good book which captured me and made me wander through its thoughts.
Breve e desolato come la steppa in cui è calato.
Deserto, laconismo, rapporti aridi. Non mi ha lasciato molto (e forse non era il fine dell'autore); anzi non ricordavo nemmeno di averlo già finito, ma con piacere durante le prime pagine mi sono accorta che già conoscevo l'istallazione cinematoidale (immersione in Psycho) di Douglas Gordon.
Beautiful words alone don't make a novel. In this mercifully compact yet by its own meanderings endless-feeling book, nothing much ever happens in a secluded desert house where three not very communicative people find themselves. When they do talk to one another, it's usually done with sentences that seem to come out of nowhere, fraught with difficult vocabulary and not necessarily connected to the ones before or after them.
This whole chunk of narrative and emotional void is sandwiched between two shorter accounts about a piece of installation art that, besides a trivial detail, also share no apparent common ground with the main storyline- if one can say there is one. So the whole book is basically just loose strands of thoughts, random observations, philosophical musings pieced together in a frustrating discourse on...what?
It certainly could be that the author just functions on a much higher level of language for me to even grasp what he's doing. But a book is not an installation project, the only way it allows interpretaion and appreciation is through its words, and when a piece of literary work is done in such an unwelcoming fashion that denies any easy access, stays so cold and keeps such a self-satisfied distance from its readers, it just angers me....Continua
Check out what I wrote in my blog in Spanish: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2011/11/point-omega-de-don-delillo.html
Intelligent people say that this book is really good, that it is written with the same structure as a haiku, and that it has to do with conspiracy and government manipulation. I am not that intelligent, because what I read was a collection of great images and descriptions. I have to confess that I enjoyed the beauty of the language, and the intensity of the visual images, but I was unable to lift myself from the flat surface of the novel: it was just too slow for my pace. I tried to lift up with all my will but I couldn't. I really think it deserves a second reading, but I also think that I must let my brain rest for a little bit because the footprint left by this effort will take a while to wear out from my brain....Continua
All of DeLillo’s novels (all the ones I’ve read at least, 8 out of 15 plus three plays) have a closed, geometrical structure, overtly self-conscious. Not incidentally they never have an index. The one exception was White Noise, and with good reason: the deconstructed, wilfully episodic narrative was well served by the loose structure. Point Omega is divided in three sections, with a Prologue and Epilogue bracketing a longer narrative. DeLillo confessed he considers the midsection as in full colours, and the other two parts as in black & white. These two, called Anonymity and Anonymity 2 respectively, take place on the 3rd and 4th of September 2006 in one of the rooms of the MoMA of NY, where 24 Hour Psycho by Douglas Gordon is shown.
The central chapters portray Richard Elster, an elderly scholar, who has spent two years at the Pentagon with the task of giving an intellectual framework to the war in Iraq: “He was there to conceptualize, his words, in quotes, to apply overarching ideas and principles to such matters as troop deployment and counterinsurgency” (19). Now, at 73, in the late summer/early fall of 2006, he retires to his house in the desert “somewhere south of nowhere”, 25 miles from the nearest town, in order “to stop talking” (18) and just let the time pass. He is accompanied by Jim Finley, a filmmaker “less than half his age” (20), who is trying to persuade a reluctant Elster to star in his next project: a single shot of his head, standing against a wall and talking about his experience with the Pentagon. “Just a man and a wall. Any pauses, they’re your pauses, I keep shooting. One continuous take” (21-2).
Days pass, then weeks. The two men talk, or more often they don’t. Elster is sympathetic as a dried bone and nearly as talkative, and the fact that the story is told in the first person by Finley doesn’t help in getting the man across. The two discuss Elster’s work at the Pentagon (about which more to come) and Finley’s film project: he mentions Russian Ark by Sokurov, “a single extended shot, about a thousand actors and extras, three orchestras”; to which Elster replies drily, “but that was a man named Aleksandr Sokurov. Your name is Jim Finley” (22).
At some point they are joined by Elster’s daughter Jessica, a young woman in her mid-twenties who lives with her Russian mother (i.e. Elster’s ex-wife n. 2) and doesn’t seem very responsive to her father’s love. Nor to Finley’s discrete but growing attraction towards her, which however never develops beyond voyeurism and sterile daydreaming. Sterility and aridity are in fact recurrent if unspoken tropes in the novel. The men are both separated from their wives. Jessie is sent to her father by her mother, so that she’ll stay away from the guy she’s seeing. Jim and Jessie talk, but do not even start to get along. And the aridity goes much deeper. In his “sandlike” voice, Richard mentions the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, only to reverse his theories. De Chardin believed that the universe tends towards ever increasing complexity and conscience, an evolution culminating in the Omega Point: the entire universe as a self-conscious entity (a concept de Chardin identified in turn with Christ). Elster turns the theory on its head and interprets the Omega Point as a negative longing: “Now comes the introversion. Father Teilhard knew this, the omega point. A leap out of our biology. Ask yourself this question. Do we have to be human forever? Consciousness is exhausted. Back now to inorganic matter. This is what we want. We want to be stones in a field” (52).
No wonder Elster is drawn to the desert. The desert, in DeLillo’s work (cf. Love-Lies-Bleeding, the Pocket in part 4 of Underworld), is the epitome of what is irreducible to human scale, of everything that resists modification and adaptation, understanding and conceptualization. Unlike the cities that Elster flees, where everything is man-made and designed around the human being, the desert is terminally inhuman and alien. Not only in biological but in intellectual terms as well: it cannot be interpreted, read, rationalized. It can hardly be inhabited. It imposes its own scales of space and time. “Time falling away. That's what I feel here,” Elster says. “Time becoming slowly older. Enormously old. Not day by day. This is deep time, epochal time. Our lives receding into the long past. That's what's out there. The Pleistocene desert, the rule of extinction” (72).
Time is slower in the desert, incomparably slower. The same slowing down re-presented by 24 Hour Psycho, Gordon’s installation that stretches the Hitchcock classic to last a full day: 2 frames per second rather than the usual 24. Watching it for extended periods of time is an alienating experience, akin to that of the desert: after the initial rejection, mind and body begin to adjust to a different time dimension, not to be measured in minutes and hours, not even in days and weeks. In the desert, Finley soon stops counting the days. Bu then, something tragic happens...
Slow, spare and painful
DeLillo’s fifteenth novel has also been an alienating experience to certain readers. Slow to the brink of stillness, dry to the limit of sterility. The point being, the novel as a self-revealing metaphor. As he enters the fifth decade of his career, DeLillo’s mastery over the medium is astonishing. The density of his prose is breathtaking, the command over his topics imposing.
Point Omega is also DeLillo’s novel about the G.W. Bush administrations and the war in Iraq. Elster’s remarks about his own involvement are almost as hard to take as his utter lack of self-remorse: “This is something we do with every eyeblink. Human perception is a saga of created reality. But we were devising entities beyond the agreed-upon limits of recognition or interpretation. Lying is necessary. The state has to lie. There is no lie in war or in preparation for war that can't be defended. We went beyond this. We tried to create new realities overnight, careful sets of words that resemble advertising slogans in memorabilty and repeatability. These were words that would yield pictures eventually and then become three-dimensional. The reality stands, it walks, it squats. Except when it doesn't” (28).
In fact, his words seem to echo those of Delillo’s essay In the Ruins of the Future, which is kind of unsettling: “I still want a war. A great power has to act. We were struck hard. We need to retake the future. The force of will, the sheer visceral need. We can’t let others shape our world, our minds. All they have are old dead despotic traditions. We have a living history and I thought I would be in the middle of it” (30). Eventually Elster becomes disappointed not for having joined but for being irrelevant. After willingly accepting the position he was offered, he grows disillusioned about his ability to provide a different, personal, conceptualization of the war. The power of language, his ideas about a ‘haiku war’, are entirely swallowed by the artificial jargon of the military apparatus, what he calls “News and Traffic, Sports and Weather” (18). Leading him away from the conflict in the Fertile Crescent and to the stillness of the American desert. In both cases, death. This is one of the (not omega) points the author makes: Elsters’ personal loss, which I will not reveal, and his inability to even start dealing with it, mirrors the loss of young lives in the war.
Point Omega is yet another master stroke on DeLillo’s part, and his third novel in a row to analyze the successive stages of U.S. life in the new millennium.
Soundtrack: Desert Music by Steve Reich....Continua