This page tracks the news and reviews of Don DeLillo's 2010 novel, Point Omega.
Oftentimes DeLillo's characters take on the aspect of an unfunny Buster Keaton, staring out at us from the page in white-faced shock. What is intended to convey existential bafflement and dismay can strike us as merely mannered. In particular, his dialogue is becoming increasingly stylized, frequently reading like the subtitles from one of Antonioni's more jadedly peudo-sophisticated movies of the early 1960s.Palm Beach Post: April 5, 2010, "Chaos is no longer theory in Don DeLillo's Point Omega" by Scott Eyman.
The book's brevity is not the same thing as thin; DeLillo traffics in density - of thought, of emotion, of musings on the way we live now. For that matter, DeLillo carries through with the Hitchcock metaphors, for "Elster" is the name of the heavy in Vertigo, who throws his wife off the mission tower and draws the innocent James Stewart into his plan.Providence Journal: April 4, 2010, "DeLillo is brilliant and elusive" review of Point Omega by Sam Coale.
DeLillo focuses so intently on details, movement, the lack of motion, individual thoughts and comments, and the vast, almost paralyzing expanse of the desert that plot and direction remain elusive, as do the four main characters. Their perceptions take precedence over their personalities. Consciousness becomes a thing of bits and pieces, angles of vision, sudden epiphanies: "The true life takes place when we're alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments." Conversation becomes elliptical, opaque, curious.A BBC Radio 4 interview with DeLillo ran on Feb. 22, 2010. It's about nine minutes long, and discusses 24-Hour Psycho, Point Omega and more.
(April 25, 2010)
The most crucial area of overlap or conflation is the one between DeLillo's gift for analysis and his taste for hollow theorising and mystic mouthwash. The narrator of Libra summarises the possibilities of the former: "Our lives, examined carefully in all their affinities and links, abound with suggestive meaning, with themes and involute turnings we have not allowed ourselves to see completely." DeLillo favours this empirical approach. But he also displays a fondness for theology and theory. His idea of the conspiracy or human network is little more than a quasi-secular spin on the belief that all mankind is one. At its best and worst, DeLillo's fiction aspires to make sense of chaos.Buffalo News: Feb. 14, 2010, review of Point Omega, "Everything that rises must converge in DeLillo's post-9/11 novel" by Joseph Conte (no longer online).
Viewing 24 Hour Psycho at roughly the pace of one's heartbeat for each frame reminds us that terror is a state of mind in which time appears to be suspended, an example of what Henri Bergson called duration, an expression of one's inner life, and no less real. Unlike in clock-measured time, whose precise increments are demanded by our industrial, and yes, military pursuits, we encounter in the duration of Point Omega a nearly pure expression of terror.
(March 9, 2010)
Some of Don DeLillo's reviewers expect their handy stencil of the words prescient, prophetic and panoramic - his famous three Ps - to align exactly with whatever work of his they hold it over; they're aggrieved if their well-worn reviewers' cutouts don't fit. Having established a reputation as the novelist with an undisputed claim to certain subjects - terrorism, dread, anxiety, paranoia and the intersection of art and violence - his readers have certain expectations, or so reviewers routinely claim, and he either satisfies or disappoints them by staying in the territory he's staked out or by straying from it. In other words, the writer can't win.The Quarterly Conversation: March 1, 2010, "DeLillo's 24-Hour Psycho: Point Omega by Don DeLillo by Lance Olsen. Here's an excerpt:
If Falling Man is about the 9/11 attacks themselves, Point Omega is about the military and - more important - deep existential responses, and those responses are nothing if not unremittingly bleak for the individual and the species. For DeLillo, it feels as if we're living Gordon's iteration of Psycho, slo-mo, vicious, impossible, the only consolation that it will all be over soon enough.The New Yorker: March 1, 2010, briefly noted, unsigned review of Point Omega.
The reader, troublingly, is left to chew on Elster's utterances: "A moment, a thought, here and gone, each of us, on a street somewhere, and this is everything." Is it?
(March 3, 2010)
Point Omega is very much about lateness: late life, late empire, hindsight, dread, disappearance. It is also something of an object lesson in the methods of late-phase literature in general, where the high-gloss productions of the imagination in full spate give way to a sparser, stonier art of suggestion and juxtaposition. The idea is to shift some of the work from maker to consumer: to prompt reflections on a garden rather than create a full-colour garden on the page.Las Vegas Weekly: Feb. 23, 2010, an interesting review of Point Omega quickly placing it in the overall DeLillo scheme; 'We're all played out': The panic of Don DeLillo by S.T. VanAirsdale. Here's an excerpt:
And so DeLillo himself stands at the threshold of oblivion, the tippy-top of the leaning tower of panic he so lovingly, beautifully crafted by hand. Many will call Point Omega what they will - slim, light, minor, a light breeze amid gusts of apocalyptic portent. But wait and see if, in the end, it's not the one that finally blows him over the edge.Vanity Fair: March, 2010, offers a brief review of Point Omega by Colm Tóibín, along with a nice photo of DeLillo in his study at home (typewriter nearby!), p. 154. Not online.
(February 28, 2010)
Somewhere between the overwhelming structure of the city and the natural expressions of time manifested in the desert, between the two, exact days that mark the beginning and end of the book and the melting of months that comprise its body, DeLillo tries to grasp the blend of individual and society. There exists a communal desire to understand others while trying to maintain one's sense of self.San Francisco Chronicle: Feb. 14, 2010, review of Point Omega by Alan Cheuse. Here's an excerpt:
In the best of Don DeLillo's work - The Names, White Noise - narrative distortions and reshapings of everyday life help us to see reality more clearly. Alas, in Point Omega, the latest work of fiction by one of the most deservedly lauded writers of our time, the curse of self-parody appears to be taking hold.
(Feb. 23, 2010)
Point Omega and Underworld do not read like the work of the same author. One is a carnival, the other a chess game. DeLillo, interestingly, feels the same way. He has recently reread Underworld, to answer questions from foreign-language translators. It was, he says, a sobering experience. "In truth, it made me wonder whether I would be capable of that kind of writing now - the range and scope of it. There are certain parts of the book where the exuberance, the extravagance, I don't know, the overindulgence... There are city scenes in New York that seem to transcend reality in a certain way."Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Feb. 20, 2010, an interview with Don DeLillo on Point Omega and much more, "Im Angang war das Wort" (In the beginning was the word) by Angela Schader. Here's an excerpt (if anyone would like to do a translation, that would be great!):
There is no bitterness in his voice. "In the 1970s, when I started writing novels," he explains, "I was a figure in the margins, and that's where I belonged. If I'm headed back that way, that's fine with me, because that's always where I felt I belonged. Things changed for me in the 1980s and 1990s, but I've always preferred to be somewhere in the corner of a room, observing."
Q: Wer Ihre literarische Arbeit verfolgt, dem fällt die Konsistenz auf, mit der Themen variiert und ausgearbeitet werden, ohne dass sich dabei ein Gefühl blosser Wiederholung einstellt. Greifen Sie gelegentlich bewusst auf frühere Themenstellungen zurück?Loyola Phoenix: Feb. 17, 2010, a review of Point Omega "Bridge to eternity" by Daniel Moysaenko. Here's an excerpt:
A: Nein; insbesondere meine frühen, in den 1970er Jahren verfassten Romane habe ich in grosser Hast geschrieben. Ich denke kaum an sie zurück, eigentlich auch nicht an die späteren Bücher. Jeder Roman hat seine eigenen Anforderungen und Bedürfnisse, und ich stelle keine bewussten Bezüge zwischen einzelnen Werken her. Wie gesagt - während der Arbeit am Omega-Punkt wurde mir irgendwann bewusst, dass dieses Buch einiges mit Körperzeit gemein hatte. Aber das war alles; ich habe weder Körperzeit wiedergelesen noch der Verwandtschaft weitere Beachtung geschenkt.
After such sweeping epics as Underworld and White Noise, critics expected grand scale and action. DeLillo has been hailed as prophetic, and so he is expected to deliver prophecy, sweeping and direct. Some have been disappointed with DeLillo's recent novels, which seem comparatively slight, spare and oblique. Point Omega, however, must be read apart from the works that made DeLillo famous. This novel moves beyond the explicit. It resides where it should: within. It shows people adrift in the aftermath, and in the slow actions of the haunting lull immediately before. DeLillo's decisions are daring, writing a slim novel absent of terrorist activity or Cold War hysteria. The novel comes off that daring: It is that quiet and unsure expanse that swallows past, present, and future.Washington Post Book World: Feb. 16, 2010, review of Point Omega by David Ignatius. Here's an excerpt:
What an achievement it would be for a writer of DeLillo's talent to truly take the measure of a Wolfowitz or Donald Rumsfeld; we have enough cartoon representations of these men already and could use the novelist's fine eye and ear. But DeLillo's brief account of the warmaker Elster is a writer's sketchbook fantasy. "Bulk and swagger," Elster says of his time on "the third floor of the E ring at the Pentagon." Stuff and nonsense.
A rather funny story on the Feb 11 Brooklyn BookCourt reading appeared on the VF (Vanity Fair) Daily blog, "Brooklyn's Date with Don DeLillo: a Reading of Point Omega" by Rebecca Sacks, posted on Feb. 12, 2010. Here's a bit of it:
BookCourt employee Anna Cory-Watson gave DeLillo a charmingly giddy introduction, pointing out that the bookshop had never hosted more people. Then DeLillo began, in a surprisingly old and phlegmy voice. But we were rapt. The huge crowed squirmed and shifted, trying to catch a glimpse; the room was becoming a sweatlodge. And of course, like every first date ever, things began to go wrong. A young woman at the front fainted and a kind of anxious, impatient concern took hold. Our whispers said, "I hope she's OK." Our eyes said, "If DeLillo freaks out and leaves because of the interruption, I swear I'll break her legs."Dallas Morning News: Feb. 7, 2010, review of Point Omega by Walton Muyumba. Here's an excerpt:
Though one could point to DeLillo's formal arrangement, a looping, introverting three-part prose-poem, as answer to the story line's mysteries, the author's intellectual ideas and aesthetic games never achieve a level of urgency. He doesn't shove the characters, 24 Hour Psycho, Iraq and transcendence from theoretical play to compelling literary drama.
(Febuary 20, 2010)
Boston Globe: Feb. 11, 2010, a fun piece on DeLillo's use of films in Point Omega and other novels by Mark Feeney, first ran as "Extravagant attraction, lavish panic" on the Movie Nation blog on Feb. 4, then as "An author who knows his cinema" on Feb. 11. Here's an excerpt:
I've met DeLillo twice. The first time was for an interview, at his publisher's offices. The elevator door opened, and there he stood. He looked much as he does in his author photos: graying hair, chiseled features, Italianate good looks. There was one difference. He wore oversized glasses with dark frames, like the kind Martin Scorsese wears or . . . . "You look like Dean Martin!" I blurted out. DeLillo nodded. "Have you read the book?" he asked.
There was only one he could have meant: Nick Tosches's magnificent, nihilistic Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams. That was the one, all right. DeLillo was a big fan. Martin's partner, as you might imagine, figures almost as prominently in the book as Martin himself does. Let there be no doubt: Don DeLillo is a man who knows his Jerry Lewis, raccoon and all.
Note: I note in passing that the image of Libra on the Movie Nation blog post is indeed my copy - it has a distinctive color change in the upper left corner because it was exposed to the sun for awhile.
(Febuary 11, 2010)
NPR: Feb. 8, 2010, ran a short interview with DeLillo by Steve Inskeep on Point Omega and other topics. A story and the audio are available here: "DeLillo's Man In The Desert, Up Against The Wall". Here's an excerpt:
"I'm still 22 in my mind," DeLillo says. "When I'm walking along a street, I'm not a novelist of a certain age. I'm just the same guy I always was. That's how I feel. I don't feel different; I'm not aware that I think different. I don't think about these matters in a very conscious way."Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feb. 6, 2010, review of Point Omega "DeLillo finds a haunting rhythm" by Mark Athitakis. Here's an excerpt:
Time is an obsession for Elster and DeLillo alike. The novel is bookended by scenes set in a museum showing "24 Hour Psycho," a work of video art that slows Hitchcock's classic to near-motionlessness. Similarly, Elster wants to slow time, if not stop it, keeping Finley around well past his intended stay and ruminating on the divide between desert time and city time. To be in the desert is to do battle against what the Jesuit philos-opher Father Teilhard de Chardin called the "omega point," a sort of apocalypse of information overload we're rapidly approaching.Athitakis comments further on his blog American Fiction Notes, in entry "DeLillo in Slow Motion".
(Febuary 9, 2010)
The New York Times Book Review: Feb. 7, 2010, review of Point Omega "A Wrinkle in Time" by Geoff Dyer. Here's an excerpt:
Eventually they end up in the Sonoran Desert in a house together, sitting on the deck mainly, drinking and shooting that unmistakable DeLillo breeze. They're joined by Elster's daughter, Jessie, and for a little while it's almost idyllic - "vast night, moon in transit" - in a zero-humidity sort of way. There's even a hint, a "random agitation in the air," of erotic possibility. Then something happens or doesn't happen to Jessie, and she disappears. The men search for her; the desert presses in on them, a desolate end zone of ancient time.
(Febuary 6, 2010)
He added, "The last two or three novels are more philosophical, for better or worse, and more interested in the subject of time," and he admitted that might have to do with his own age.... "A writer changes as he gets older," he went on, "but he still feels he's writing with absolute naturalness when in fact that naturalness is not the same as what it was 15 years ago." He added: "I guess I'm slightly aware that the last few books have been a little different, but I try not to think about that too much. I wouldn't know how to talk about it."The New York Observer: January 26, 2010, review of Point Omega "Don DeLillo Returns" by Michael Miller.
This short novel is a feverishly understated return to form, an icy exploration of the past decade's paranoia and melancholy, the "nausea of News and Traffic," as Elster calls it. If Underworld was DeLillo's extravagant funeral for the 20th century, Point Omega is the farewell party for the last decade.
(Febuary 4, 2010)
Barnes and Noble Review published a review of Point Omega by Greil Marcus, dated Feb 1, 2010. An excerpt:
A desert lassitude takes over the characters. Conversation meanders, then fades into the air even as people continue speaking or listening, because the speaker is in the past, remembering saying the same thing at another time, and the person listening is somewhere in the future, imagining how he will remember what, now, he is not really experiencing. The three characters themselves begin to move and speak in a kind of slow motion, to the point where the descriptions of the microscopic two-frames-a-second pace of the twenty-four-hour Psycho seem like a trailer for an action movie.
There's also an interview with Thomas DePietro at Barnes and Noble Review.
New York Times: Feb. 1, 2010, review of Point Omega "Make War. Make Talk. Make It All Unreal" by Michiko Kakutani. An excerpt:
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
Boston Globe: Jan. 31, 2010, review of Point Omega "Cinéma vérité" by Richard Eder. An excerpt:
In Point Omega the characters are translucent wraiths, and the story a bare sketch; it is the ideas that are the actors. The closest resemblance may be to Albert Camus' philosophical monologues in such novels as The Fall. The ideas in Point Omega have to do with the leaching of material human reality by the manipulated abstractions of modern life. They radiate, sometimes obscurely, from the book's burning and not in the least obscure core: the scathing recollections and reflections of 73-year-old Richard Elster after his time as a pet Pentagon intellectual.
(Febuary 1, 2010)
Wall Street Journal published both a profile on DeLillo and an interview transcript on January 29, 2010. The profile What Don DeLillo's Books Tell Him is by Alexandra Alter.
Point Omega takes its title from the Omega Point - a concept coined by the French paleontologist and Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who described the Omega Point as the final stage in the evolution of consciousness. Mr. DeLillo, a lapsed Catholic, says he first read Mr. Chardin's work "quite a long time ago," after he graduated from Fordham University. He reread it as he was writing Point Omega, and says he was captivated by "the idea that human consciousness is reaching a point of exhaustion, and that what comes next may be either a paroxysm or something enormously sublime."
You can find the interview transcript at this link.
There's also this blog entry How "Psycho" Inspired the Master's New Novel from the WSJ by Alter dated January 30, 2010.
Bookforum review by Aleksandar Hemon "Last Exit" dated Feb/Mar 2010.
The problem of Point Omega is not in its execution but in its conception, in the implicit belief that evolving consciousness inescapably becomes unmoored from material reality and language and is therefore truly present only in complex models that refer to other complex models: 24 Hour Psycho is described by the obsessive mysterious man as "the departure from the departure." High art, particularly film, is thus the main playing field of elevated thought. Indeed, DeLillo references Sokurov, Dreyer, and Bergman, while Jessie's inexplicable disappearance harks back to Antonioni's L'avventura.
Los Angeles Times review by Matthew Sharpe, "Don DeLillo's Point Omega is an Iraq war tale stressing insight over action" dated Jan 31, 2010.
Critics of The Body Artist, Cosmopolis and especially Falling Man seem to want DeLillo to be the Babe Ruth of novelists, to keep writing Underworld and Libra, those long, magisterial books about big American events. Such people will probably not regard his new novel, Point Omega, which weighs in at not much more than 100 pages, as a literary home run. Yet Point Omega is a splendid, fierce novel by a deep practitioner of the form.
The National review by Giles Harvey, "Missing persons from Don DeLillo" dated January 28, 2010.
Point Omega was presumably conceived of as an emotional education - a story about a coldly intellectual man whose daughter's disappearance leads him to recognise the limits of the intellect and his own human fallibility. "I thought of his remarks about matter and being," says Finley in a hollow valedictory passage, "those long nights on the deck, half smashed, he and I, transcendence, paroxysm, the end of human consciousness. It seemed so much dead echo now." Indeed. It is indicative of DeLillo's failure that he should feel the need to state so baldly the novel's intended emotional arc.
Entertainment Weekly review by Chris Nashawaty dated January 27, 2010, with a grade of C+.
The rhythm of DeLillo's writing is, as always, hypnotic. But his narrative seems like an excuse to drone on and on about the end of the American empire. Point Omega feels like the abandoned sketches of a longer novel that wasn't quite ready to be taken out of the oven.
(January 29, 2010)
Esquire's review of Point Omega by Benjamin Alsup is titled "Somebody Please Get Don DeLillo a Drink" and dated Jan 27, 2010. He'd like a few more laughs. Here's an excerpt:
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.
A review of Point Omega by Gordon Hauptfleisch at Blogcritics dated Jan 26, 2010. Here's the conclusion:
In fact, far from being disjointed and lacking continuity, the enigmatic Point Omega ultimately comes away as skillfully interconnected and coherent. Indeed, whether the book clicks in right away or continues to be a works in progress, it really is the best kind of novel: the finely-honed kind that sticks with you like a harrowing memory; whose particulars you'll be mulling over with insistent preoccupation; or reviewing to see if you got this fact or that figure right; to see if the metaphoric puzzle piece you put in fits.
(Jan 28, 2010)
A thoughtful review of Point Omega 'White Noise' by Sam Anderson in New York magazine dated Jan 24, 2010. Here's a short excerpt:
Point Omega, DeLillo's new novel, fits right into this glacial aesthetic. You could even say it's something of a breakthrough: It brings us, in just over 100 pages, as close to pure stasis as we're ever likely to get.
DeLillo is, after Beckett and Robbe-Grillet, the indisputable master of grinding a plot to the brink of stasis and then recording its every last movement. Point Omega seems like a logical endpoint of that quest. How much further into the desert of plotlessness is DeLillo willing to go, and how far are we willing to follow? Where else can he possibly take the novel?
(Jan 25, 2010)
An early review appears in Publishers Weekly by Dan Fesperman, in the Fiction Book Reviews for 12/21/2009. Here's a short excerpt:
Along the way, DeLillo is at his best rendering micro-moments of the inner life. That's all the more impressive seeing as how Elster himself seemingly warns off the author from attempting any such thing, by saying in the first chapter, "The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever."
From time to time, at least, DeLillo proves him wrong.
(Dec 27, 2009)
Here's the Scribner page for the book which now features a short excerpt of the book (direct link to excerpt here).
(Dec 10, 2009)
The Scribner Spring 2010 catalog is now circulating, and it lists Point Omega first, with both the cover image above and the following longer book description:
Writing about conspiracy theory in Libra, government cover-ups in White Noise, the Cold War in Underworld, and 9/11 in Falling Man, "DeLillo's books have been weirdly prophetic about twenty-first century America" (The New York Times Book Review). Now, in Point Omega, he takes on the secret strategist in America's war machine.
In the middle of a desert "somewhere south of nowhere," to a forlorn house made of metal and clapboard, a secret war advisor has gone in search of space and time. Richard Elster, seventy-three, was a scholar - an outsider - when he was called to a meeting with government war planners. They asked Elster to conceptualize their efforts - to form an intellectual framework for their troop deployments, counterinsurgency, orders for rendition. For two years he read their classified documents and attended secret meetings. He was to map the reality these men were trying to create "Bulk and swagger," he called it.
At the end of his service, Elster retreats to the desert, where he is joined by a filmmaker intent on documenting his experience. Jim Finley wants to make a one-take film, Elster its single character - "Just a man against a wall."
The two men sit on the deck, drinking and talking. Finley makes the case for his film. Weeks go by. And then Elster's daughter Jessie visits - an "otherworldly" woman from New York - who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. When a devastating event follows, all the men's talk, the accumulated meaning of conversation and connection, is thrown into question. What is left is loss, fierce and incomprehensible.
Also, the image below was found out on amazon.com - it appears to be the UK cover image.
(Oct 12, 2009)
News first officially hit the web from a tweet, I believe, on June 10th, 2009. It looked something like this:
Don De Lillo delivered his next novel,
POINT OMEGA. We are excited. And if
you haven't read UNDERWORLD,you
8:16 AM Jun 10th from web
Back to DeLillo's novels.