We move too fast. It’s a common complaint among just about everyone these days, as they usually have their eyes glued to a high-speed computer or their ears anchored to a cell phone. And it’s the kind of common problem to which there seems to be no solution. Stopping to smell the roses isn’t even an issue; most of the time we don’t even know where the roses grow. Leave it to Don DeLillo to hush us up for a moment.
DeLillo, a man who doesn’t do email and once famously carried a business card that said “I don’t want to talk about it,” has never really been one for the fast track. And it makes perfect sense that he returns with a quiet and stirring rumination on time and death and the meaninglessness of words. The book is called Point Omega
, and it just might remake your day.
DeLillo’s 15th novel is inspired dually by MoMA’s showing of Douglas Gordon’s “24 Hour Psycho” — in which the Scottish video artist slowed down Alfred Hitchcock’s same-named film to last a full day — and the French paleontologist and Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who coined the term “omega point” to represent the final stage in the evolution of consciousness (which may or may not be God). As the author told the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Alter in one of his very rare interviews, 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.'”
It is this endpoint where we get off. The story concerns an aging scholar, a theoretical filmmaker, and the scholar’s daughter, who all find themselves shacked up in the Anza-Borrego desert. Bookending the proceedings is a set piece dominated by a man who stands at a museum wall watching the crawl of Psycho with an ever-increasing agitation.
The plot, such as it is, takes place at a glacial pace, giving the reader ample opportunity to ponder right along with the protagonists. It’s not the action that matters here; it’s the thought. And the deeper and more still it is the better. Then when something monumental does occur, it’s a veritable shock to the system.
At 117 pages, Point Omega is easily DeLillo’s slimmest book. Oddly though, it may be perhaps his most vast yet. Not historically vast in the way of, say, Libra
, but vast in its depth. Like Gordon’s slowdown of Psycho, DeLillo gives us “time to lose interest in things.” And in so doing involves us all to our very core.