By Don DeLillo
If it’s hard to know what to make of Point Omega, it may be because Don DeLillo isn’t entirely sure himself. “He almost knew why but not quite,” we’re told, in the novel’s first section, of a man contemplating the mysteries of Craig Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho installation at MoMA in September of 2006. The Hitchcock film, slowed to two frames a second, seems in its refusal of time to promise, in return for devotional patience, “something outside conscious grasp until now.”
So does the desert where most of Point Omega takes place: filmmaker Jim Finley has followed “defense intellectual” Richard Elster there, to plan a film on Elster’s Pentagon years: a monologue, “just a man and a wall,” free of abstraction and metaphor. In the desert, time dilates: “no mornings or afternoons one seamless day, every day, until the sun began to arc and fade”
24 Hour Psycho
In 1973’s Great Jones Street, the rock star Bucky Wunderlick retreats to a downtown walkup and awaits the revelation of some great elusive truth beyond sound; in Point Omega, Elster is escaping “cities built to measure time, to remove time from nature.” Both works end ambiguously—Bucky’s silence is broken; the desert keeps its secrets—but in the meantime 24 Hour Psycho is, by nature, more voluble and digressive than the arid, underpopulated Point Omega, which is meditative not just in its transcendental goals but in its elemental tone.
On the trail of baseballs and bullets, DeLillo has long stalked hidden passageways through American public and private life. But Finley’s film, that unmediated glimpse of our warmaking, dead-ends, and the vision-quest is frustrated. So, perhaps, are we, by placeholder characters removed from flesh and blood to a degree beyond even what DeLillo’s blinkered critics have previously accused. But there is a profound human element to the knowledge that DeLillo and Elster, both 73 years old, are facing the same horizon. It’s a perspective to which Point Omega—telling title, that—is honest: a little bit searching, a little bit tentative.