It’s Not That Don DeLillo Doesn’t Want to Talk About It…

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02/04/2010 11:16 AM |

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“I wouldn’t know how to talk about it,” the admission which closes the Don DeLillo profile in today’s Times, has already shown up a couple of times in the first two dozen pages of DeLillo’s new novel, Point Omega.

The book is 117 small pages in large type; it takes place, thus far, at a MoMA gallery showing a slowed-down 24-hour loop of Psycho, and in the desert. Time is dilated, and the tone is musing and elemental. The piece points out that, following the midlife explosion of creativity that culminated in Underworld, DeLillo has retreated somewhat, into slender, more abstract and searching novels. Having tackled “Americana,” sports and nuclear war and rock and roll and baseball and Kennedy and Oswald and Warhol and terrorism and Americana again in sprawling (and very funny) prose, DeLillo, now in his 70s, is stepping, quite tentatively, onto a more metaphysical plane.

The tentativeness—which comes through in the books’ construction more than on a sentence-by-sentence level—makes sense. For instance, today’s Times piece really only exists because its author is former New Yorker fiction editor and New York Times Book Review editor Charles “Chip” McGrath, who is presumably an acquaintance of long-enough standing to gain access to the mostly private DeLillo. (An appearance a week from tonight at BookCourt has been advertised as his only NYC reading in conjunction with the novel.) His privacy is, as his self-effacing answers to McGrath’s questions indicate, of the modest kind—he’ll lecture a bit, contribute essays or interviews here and there, as tabulated on the best website on the internet—and it may not surprise you to learn that the author-laureate of technological creep in American life doesn’t have email: “[It] encourages communication I’d just as soon not have.”