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Monday Book Review: Point Omega March 22, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Book Reviews.
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One might ask, “what is Point Omega?” Is it a book, a novella, a collection of unexplainable moments in time? One might also ask, “what is Omega Point?” The answer to either question is just as circular and elusive as the other. DeLillo bookends this short work with an unnamed character watching Hitchcock’s movie Psycho slowed down so that the frame changes only every few seconds. Between these bizarre, thought-provoking scenes is the story of an amateur filmmaker who has traveled to the desert to convince a scholar and government war adviser to be the only person in his documentary. What entails is pages of playful, thought provoking philosophical discourse between two reticent men. The action, if it can even be called that, occurs when Elster’s (the scholar) daughter comes to visit and then mysteriously disappears.

While this book was not unpleasant to read, I would not describe it as a page-turner. If anything, it is more like a fable or an allegory, in that the ideas behind the story are far more important than the story itself. Alexandra Altar, writing for the Wall Street Journal, made an apt point–that the novel is “…a meditation on time, extinction, aging and death, subjects that Mr. DeLillo seldom explored in much depth as a younger writer” (Wikipedia). But perhaps it is just this abstruse exploration of such heavy subject matter that DeLillo meant to convey. Omega Point is, “a term coined by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to describe a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which the universe appears to be evolving” (Wikipedia). And DeLillo certainly depicts a complexity in the brief, succinct discussions that occur between the two protagonists. Though their conversations could be taken as polite and superficial, the kind of conversation you would expect two men to have over whiskeys in the desert, the conversations always allude to more complex and universal ideas.

While this was one idea I toyed with, it is important to note that DeLillo named his work Point Omega and not Omega Point. Why did he reverse the word order of this singular idea? Was it to negate the whole idea that the universe is moving towards one global, complex consciousness? Was he really trying to say the opposite–that the world is increasingly chaotic and senseless? While the dialogue between the men would seem to support the idea of an Omega Point, the actual action of the book, Elster’s daughter’s incomprehensible disappearance, would argue for the latter.

I don’t know what DeLillo meant for sure with this complicated work, but I do know that I wish I could read it in a Literary Criticism class and that I would suggest it for anyone who likes an intellectual challenge.

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Comments»

1. mike - March 23, 2010

You know, you can go for a long while without hearing someone mention Teilhard. At my own wedding years ago, one of the readings was from the philosopher. Thanks for reminding me.


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