While in college, I took it upon myself to start working through the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list (the 2006 version). I abandoned that fairly quickly when I realized it made me feel restricted in my reading habits, but not before attacking The Body Artist, by Don DeLillo. Ugh, awful. I think this book is a big part of the reason I stopped going through the list in the first place. I can’t even put my finger on why I didn’t like it, but I didn’t. It took me a long time to pick up another of his novels, and only then, it was probably because I found Point Omega at the dollar store (seriously! the dollar store! I thought it was an excerpt instead of the whole book but it wasn’t!).
At 117 pages, Point Omega is a quick read. And unlike The Body Artist (or at least, what I remember from The Body Artist, I blocked most of it from my memory), it doesn’t trip over itself in its attempts to be deep and philosophical. If you’ve never read DeLillo, he can take a fairly basic premise and just dwell on it for a bit. In Point Omega, a filmmaker wants to make a documentary about a now-retired scholar who helped choreograph the Iraq War. That’s it, that’s the entire story. Rather than accomplishing this, said filmmaker and said scholar waste away in the desert, pondering the purpose of life and other lofty topics. It’s not an exciting book, it doesn’t even excel at being a deep character study, but it’s well written so you can’t help but get caught up in it.
For the characters (all three of them), time seems to stop as they embrace the lives of hermits, and as a reader, you feel like time in the real world may have stopped too. After putting this book down, I almost felt drunk. That’s weird, I know, but don’t you feel that way sometimes when you’re reading? Not tipsy, but more like “what just happened? Am I in my apartment or am I actually in the desert with these people? Oh, did I miss Jeopardy already? Wait, how did I get home?”
Point Omega is hard to describe beyond that; every description I thought of feels contradictory. It rambles, but it’s concise at the same time. It features emotionless, robotic characters, but somehow they’re still empathetic. It forces you to look at ordinary things in a new light, but it also tells you not to bother. There’s no denying that DeLillo is a wordsmith, but he’s not for everyone. That being said, I’d certainly recommend it. Like I said, contradictions all around.
Also? People on Goodreads were saying it was $24 when they bought it. That is what it says on the book jacket, but surely it isn’t worth that much. It’s $10 at Amazon now, that’s much better (although finding it in your dollar store is always a plus).
Jessie was trying to read science fiction but nothing she read so far could begin to match ordinary life on this planet, she said, for sheer unimaginableness.
All those pertinent details:
- Title: Point Omega
- Author: Don DeLillo
- Length: 117 pages (hardcover)
- Genre: literary fiction, contemporary fiction
- Rating: 3 stars out of 5