Friday, February 12, 2010

Point Omega by Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo's novels have been remarkably strong given the length of his career, and the only one I think is subpar is his 9/11 novel; nicely fitted, of course, with some of the author's famed verbal brilliance, but it seemed more per-formative than anything else, with the estranged characters and their respective stages of psychic exile twined in pro forma fashion around that date's catastrophe. The novel seemed to have been written out of sense of obligation, that the author who had made a career out of writing about a world that fits the 9/11 cliche "everything has changed" felt compelled to give his remarks in fictional form. It alone among his books was a labor to read, as it seems to have been a labor to write.

Otherwise, I salute his post-Underworld writings The Body Artist and Cosmopolis, a delicately etched character study and a black comedy respectively who's central characters, a performance artist and a digital guru commodities broker, reach the end of the belief systems that filled in the interior absence of purpose and commitment to the world.In this instance I find much to like about "Point Omega", although I think it helps if you've read several of his books , are aware of his larger themes and appreciate the way he has condensed and concentrated his themes into a hard,splendidly spare narrative line. It is, I think, a continuation of DeLillo's examination of a culture that has had the mystery and mythology stripped from it by the harsher trends in Modernism, replaced with various wrap around belief systems ranging from political ideology, art-for-art's sake, technology and assorted other absolutist-tending habits of mass-think that each attempt to replace what had been the spiritual, the religious, the intuitive.

Our character Elster, here, is a polymath, a genius versed in a seeming unlimited variety of cross-indexed disciplines, someone whom the intelligence and defense apparatus of the State brought on as someone who's musings about their agendas and techniques might somehow give them an advantage over opponents both current and future. Elster,though, is someone who finds his learning, the knowledge and he garnered in an effort to weave his way through an infinitely complex network of warring belief systems, collapsing upon itself. Now he considers the finite essence of all things, stripped of meaning as he has been stripped of his inner life;he watches an endless artful deconstruction of an iconic movie, he prefers the limitless waste of the desert, he desires an existence that can be mute, meaningless, flat and precisely without resonance. I think this is powerful stuff, really, a lyric poem.

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