is a novella by Don Delillo that explores dread, paranoia, death, and violence. The book follows three main characters: former defensive intellectual Elster, film-maker Finley, and Elster’s troubled adult daughter, Jessie. The novella primarily takes place in the desert, at a house “somewhere south of nowhere” where Elster has retired to explore the idea of slowly growing old not just physically, but in the sense of geologic time. The book is highly conceptual in structure and style, and includes long descriptions of a real art installation from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The novella was published in 2010 and is Delillo’s fifteenth book published under his own name.Point Omega
begins with Richard Elster, a seventy-three-year-old intellectual whose academic work attracts the interest of high-ranking government and military officials. He’s called into a meeting with a group of war planners, during which the group asks him to conceptualize their war strategy. Essentially, they want Elster to create a framework through which they could understand deployment and counterinsurgency. Elster spends two years reading highly classified military documents and ultimately offers the government a framework of the war written as a haiku. Elster says in the novella, “I wanted a war in three lines…”
After his military service, Elster retires to the desert, where he lives alone and spends his days thinking and slowly growing older. He is seeking space and time, and is fascinated by the idea of geologic time, which stretches long before human life and will continue for millennia afterward. He is joined by an acquaintance and film-maker named Finley, who is obsessed with making a one-shot film of Elster’s time finding meaning in the desert. The men spend much of the novella talking together on the porch, where Finley tries to convince Elster to let him record their experiences.
Soon Elster’s daughter Jessie joins the pair, which significantly alters the novella’s dynamic. Elster adores his daughter, who is smart and highly intuitive, and can predict what someone will say before they say it by reading their lips. Finley enjoys Jessie’s company too, but in a different way—he is attracted to her and spends much of the book watching her like a voyeur, but never makes a move. Jessie, however, is troubled. She goes through periods of incredible numbness, feeling isolated from the world around her. During one of these moments, Finley takes her hand and she does not respond. The men soon learn that Jessie was sent to live with Elster because her mother was worried about a man named Dennis, a love interest who is threatening Jessie’s life and likely stalking her.
The novella’s climax comes when Elster and Finley return to the house to find that Jessie has disappeared. They suspect Dennis has tracked her down, but there is no trace of Jessie anywhere.
Over the course of the novel, Delillo builds in a prolonged description of an exhibit called “24 Hour Psycho,” a real conceptual art film created by Douglas Gordon that showed at MoMA. The piece is a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s cult film Psycho
slowed down to such a degree that it takes twenty-four hours to come to completion. Elster suggests that Finley see the exhibit, which he does. Later, Jessie and her dangerous love interest Dennis meet in front of the screen. Jessie points out that the installation seems to imply that nothing happens, an idea that’s mimicked in the style and plot of Point Omega
Don Delillo is a novelist, playwright, and essayist whose work White Noise
won the National Book Award for fiction in 1985. Before White Noise
, Delillo was a cult writer with a strong niche following, and his work is deeply concerned with, as he says, “living in dangerous times.” His subject matter is usually political in scope, and deals with issues of power, corporate greed, institutions, and a critique of late capitalism and American consumption. Delillo describes Point Omega
as a philosophical novel similar in style to his book The Body Artist
, and said in an interview that the book was inspired in part by an idea from Jesuit thinker and paleontologist Pierre Teillhard de Chardin. To date, Delillo has written seventeen novels, one collection of short stories, and five plays. He’s also produced a screenplay called Game 6
about a playwright who is obsessed with Boston Red Sox and the 1986 World Series.