Between the Covers

Point Omega

Don Delillo

I find myself much attracted to short books lately. I’d like to pretend there are intellectual reasons for this, but in fact it is more to do with time. Don Delillo is a much-awarded American author and Point Omega is his 15th novel. This slim volume of just over 100 pages spent a week on the New York Times bestseller list.

DeLillo is noted as a central figure in ‘literary postmodernism’. He has said that his main influences are abstract expressionism, foreign films and jazz. The Point Omega of the title is a concept used to describe a point of maximum complexity, towards which the universe is evolving. What better – both an intellectual and time efficient read!

Point Omega opens with a man watching the film Psycho slowed down to take place over 24 hours. This is the first thread. At this stage the reader may get the impression they are about to embark on a thriller with nods to Hitchcock.

In the second thread, the action moves to the desert where filmmaker Jim Finlay is trying to persuade retired military strategist Elster to take part in his new project. Elster was employed by the government to ‘form an intellectual framework for their troop deployments’. He tells Finlay “I wanted a Haiku war... a war in three lines... things in war are transient. See what’s there and then be prepared to watch it disappear.” Deep stuff indeed.

The arrival of Elster’s daughter, a young woman who “heard words from inside them” changes the dynamic. Finlay is attracted to her, noticing “a random agitation in the air”. His talks with the daughter are “quiet with eerie depth.” The mood becomes tense as the two threads of the story converge.

Or do they? Point Omega is not for those who like their stories all sewn up. This subtle commentary on American culture instead offers a slice of action – you can make of it what you will. I enjoyed the astute and unusual observations on relationships; for example when the daughter describes an old couple she cares for as “one watching the other watch the other”.

Point Omega is an excellent choice for those wishing to dabble their toes in the writing of one of America’s best novelists. I liked it enough to want to pursue his longer works.

Books reviewed are available at the Book Warehouse in Keen Street, Lismore, and at Lismore Shopping Square.

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