By Edward Nawotka
Starting with 2002’s Cosmopolis about the 2000 Internet-stock-bubble burst, Don DeLillo has used his considerable skills as a fiction writer to dwell on current events. His previous novel, 2007’s Falling Man, concerned 9/11, and his latest, Point Omega, looks at the recent war in Iraq.
Richard Elster, a 73-year-old academic who served as a war strategist, has removed himself from “the nausea of News and Traffic” and the “third floor of the E ring at the Pentagon” to a dilapidated vacation home in the California desert. He summons Jim Finley, a Brooklyn documentary filmmaker, and, later, his 20-something daughter Jennie, to help stave off loneliness and provide an audience for his self-examination.
When not eating omelets and drinking scotch, Elster is discussing the planning, promotion and execution of the Iraq war — something he views as a metaphor for the literal and figurative war between reality and abstraction (or fiction, if you will). “Their war is abstract,” says Elster of the Iraq war’s planners. “They think they’re sending an army into a place on a map… There were times when no map existed to match the realities we were trying to create.”
As a result, Elster (who in the book happens to be the same age as DeLillo), comes to believe that the “Omega Point” — a kind of philosophical end-of-days — may be near.
In all, DeLillo’s Point Omega comes in at a svelte 117 pages, which may lure readers who might not otherwise touch this notoriously difficult novelist.
Be warned: This is a genuine novel of ideas that will frustrate a reader looking for entertainment or distraction. It will only reward patient readers in the proper contemplative mood.
This review originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.