The Reading Life

By Stewart Lindstrom, Variety Editor Originally published in Issue 1, Volume 34 of The University Register on September 17, 2021 As the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks passes by us, I’m reminded of a novel I read earlier in the summer: Point Omega, American novelist Don Delillo’s take on the War on Terror. Coming in at a slim 117 pages, this 2010 novel begins and ends with characters sitting in a theater at a modern art museum watching Hitchcock’s Psycho slowed down to 24 hours. Delillo’s vision of the future of warfare as vapid and totally without purpose (“Shape without form, shade without color, Paralyzed force, gesture without motion,” to quote T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men) echoes what military historian Andrew Bacevich writes in his book America’s War for the Greater Middle East: Rarely has there been any uniformity of goal or policy consistency during America’s military escapades in the Middle East. Point Omega bears many of the hallmarks of classically Delillian prose, for better or for worse: enigmatic, beautifully crafted sentences, heavily stylized dialogue that goes on for pages, and overly grave, sometimes depthless characters. Fans of his classic novels, such as his social satire of post-war American consumerism and the disintegration of the nuclear family (White Noise), or his long-form excavation of the Cold War (Underworld), will know that Delillo hasn’t lived up to the reputation he earned in the 1980s and ‘90s ever since the 2000s hit. Many of his more recent novels lack the power of his earlier work, perhaps because times themselves have changed, and it is clarity we now desire, rather than deliberate obfuscation. But Point Omega stands out among Delillo’s recent creations as something that is at least worth reading. It will not be to everyone’s tastes, but especially if you can find the audiobook version read by Campbell Scott, Point Omega is short enough that Delillo’s classically humorless white male protagonists never have time to get too obnoxious, and the novel is just weird enough that it left me disturbed in a way I could not place after reading it. At 117 pages it feels strangely drawn out, almost deliberately way too long: much like America’s wars in the Middle East.