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Point Omega: A Novel by Don DeLillo

Point Omega: A Novel (edition 2010)

by Don DeLillo

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9694015,434 (3.26)32
Three unusual people--"defense intellectual" Richard Elster, who was involved in the management of the country's war machine; young documentary filmmaker Jim Finley, who is intent on documenting Elster's experience; and Elster's daughter Jessica, who behaves like an "otherworldly" woman from New York--train their binoculars on the desert landscape of California and build an odd, tender intimacy, something like a family. Then a devastating event throws everything into question.… (more)
Title:Point Omega: A Novel
Authors:Don DeLillo
Info:Scribner (2010), Edition: 0, Hardcover, 117 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Novel

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Point Omega by Don DeLillo



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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
A few brief notes on Point Omega:

-The label 'novella' would be very generous. It's double spaced, large font, the whole bit--like a freshman term paper trying to stretch itself out to cover the minimum page count. Weak.

-More of an essay than a work of fiction. Sure, the basic fictional elements are there (plot, character, setting) but they read like an afterthought. Very thin, like 'butter smeared over too much toast.' Most of the work consists of characters making pronouncements, stating theory. But these theories lack any coherence. More like a collection of random observations. The book reminded me of Coetzee's more 'philosophical' work, with Elster standing in for Elizabeth Costello. That's not a compliment.

-So, not substantial enough to be a work of fiction, not coherent enough to be converted to an essay. The question I asked myself: what is this supposed to be? Why publish this at all?

DeLillo wrote Underworld, so he can publish whatever he wants. And deservedly so. But if this is representative of his post-Underworld work (I haven't read the other two yet), it would be sad. A great storyteller just sort of trailing off. ( )
  ralphpalm | Nov 11, 2019 |
  Queenofcups | Jun 25, 2018 |
Elegant writing but going nowhere. Mercifully short! The framing device is an art installation in which Hitchcock's Psycho is shown at an excruciatingly slow pace. This, for me, stands as emblem for the book itself: slow and pointless. Three main characters: narrator, a film maker dedicated to shapeless experimental film-making; his subject, an intellectual who advised the US government about Middle Eastern matters, now ageing and disillusioned (how exciting is that!); his daughter, who comes across as sexually attractive to the narrator but he does nothing about it, she says hardly a word and then disappears in suspicious circumstances, but then disappears from the story before anything is found out (bit like Antonioni's L'Aventura). De Lillo has been highly recommended to me; this first encounter doesn't lead me to seek him out further. ( )
  vguy | Feb 21, 2016 |
Idea-driven novels have traditionally been regarded as precarious. (It would be good to know the history of this idea; it was in force in the reception of Kundera in the 1980s, but it probably derives from the reception of 19th century realist novels.) "Point Omega" is very brief -- cleverly set by the designers at Picador, with a large trim size and ample kerning, so that it scrapes by at 117 pages. That brevity points to its conceptual nature, and so do the opening and closing chapters (12 pages and 16 pages) that describe Douglas Gordon's "24 Hour Psycho," the slowed-down video of the Hitchcock film.

An idea-driven or conceptual or philosophical novel that is also brief runs a special risk, because the brevity declares that the resources of the full novel are not needed (no extensive character development, minimal psychological depth, minimal descriptive prose, a reduced capacity to be immersive absorptive). It announces, in effect, that the author has had an idea that needs to be put as fiction, but in such a spare way that it is only the novel's freedom of invention and narrative that matter.

Here the opening rumination on Gordon's video introduces themes of patience, of not knowing what meaning something has, of listening and looking without judging, of being alone in reflection. The same themes reappear in both principal characters. Human connections are programmatically absent: both men are apart from their wives; the narrator doesn't quite connect with the only woman in the novel; in the end, the "anonymous" viewer doesn't quite connect with a woman he meets in the Museum of Modern Art. The video piece makes the experience of film unreal, and the desert setting of most of the book makes ordinary city life unreal, and both places are unreal in themselves.

The book does sometimes behave like a longer, richer, less conceptually-driven novel, especially in the rare passages when DeLillo takes time to describe people or places other than the video screening room or the desert. The same effect, of the possibility of a different kind of novel, also surfaces when DeLillo inserts examples of alienated experience: a woman who walks downstairs backwards (p. 32), the extinct North American camel, the age of the universe. These function as condensed or tentative allegories of the book's themes.

The widely distributed, apparently random moments of description and of allegory seem odd or imperfectly realized, just because there could have been many more of them: it seems DeLillo thought he had to be parsimonious because his book was short, but that also means every such passage attracts attention, and its placement, length, and motivation seem less secure.

Philosophically, philosophical novels are problematic because the ideas they offer seem (I suppose mainly to philosophically-inclined critics) to be uninteresting as philosophy. In this case, the principal character has theories about how real life, real existence, is revealed when you attend to the low-level continuous sense that you're going to die. "Point Omega" proposes, in effect, that the temporal dilation of Gorgon's video, and the spatial and temporal dilation of the desert, can bring on that low-level awareness. In that state of mind, people become shells or tokens, their inner life inaccessible, their words unimportant, their physical existence insecure. Philosophically, it is not really news. And yet to say "Point Omega" "proposes" such-and-such a thing "in effect" is a way of saying it doesn't propose any such thing, because it doesn't propose anything, because it isn't about effect, because it's a novel. ( )
  JimElkins | Jul 17, 2015 |
An odd little book, but enjoyable. DeLillo has a point to make about observation, it's impact on the viewer and on the viewed. This is a book with voyeurs, artsy film screenings, star gazing and endless self reflection. I'm sure I haven't digested all of it, but you can't see without being changed. ( )
  jscape2000 | Dec 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
So many have projected upon DeLillo a notion of his fiction as 20th-century prophecy, his books as paranoia redeemed by real events. It’s no shock, then, to find him in this new century transfixed by slowness and continental drift, places where events are perpetual, but invisible. Elster has retreated to a landscape to ponder an endpoint where consciousness is transcended and “we pass completely out of being. Stones.” Unfortunately, the concept of DeLillo as a passive desert rock is far less compelling than when he’s demanding we see what’s underneath them.
Although Mr. DeLillo extracts considerable suspense from his story, while building a Pinteresque sense of dread, there is something suffocating and airless about this entire production. Unlike the people in his most memorable novels, the three characters here do not live in a recognizable America or recognizable reality — rather, they feel like roles written for a stylized and highly contrived theater piece... They are roles desperately in need of actors to flesh them out and give them life.
Don DeLillo's Point Omega is a hard book to critique because it is chock-full of brilliance and ought to be supported simply because we need books that allow humanity to think about the condition of being human. But, in fact, Point Omega's excess of thought and brilliance is its biggest problem. Slight though it may be, the book totters under the burden of its complexity.
While I'll always admire DeLillo, I don't think I've enjoyed reading him since the rightly famous opening of 1997's Underworld. Since then it's been too much medicine and not enough sugar. Maybe that's the point. Maybe DeLillo is arguing that our prediabetic asses don't deserve any more sweets, no respite from our well-earned sufferings. He wouldn't be the first prophet, or novelist, to have said as much.

The problem with this position is that it doesn't leave much incentive to read him.
added by Shortride | editEsquire, Benjamin Alsup (Feb 1, 2010)
"Point Omega" is a splendid, fierce novel by a deep practitioner of the form.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
DeLillo, Donprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mikolášková, LucieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Three unusual people--"defense intellectual" Richard Elster, who was involved in the management of the country's war machine; young documentary filmmaker Jim Finley, who is intent on documenting Elster's experience; and Elster's daughter Jessica, who behaves like an "otherworldly" woman from New York--train their binoculars on the desert landscape of California and build an odd, tender intimacy, something like a family. Then a devastating event throws everything into question.

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Plus énigmatique que n'importe quel secret-défense , plus assourdissant que le fracas des guerres , ce roman en forme d'arrêt sur image édicte la sidération du signe face à la langue impitoyablement étrangère que , depuis les origines , profère la matière qui donne forme à l'univers .
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