Saturday, December 11, 2010

Point Omega - Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo seems at his best dealing in bits of minutia, character revealed in the slightest gestures, every detail mined for its significance. It's little wonder then that his newest book Point Omega, sets itself the task of digesting a heady peice of contempory art, where mining for meaning is the name of the game.

The brief novel, singles out a recent video work, a real-life installation by a German video artist entitled 24-Hour Psycho, a slo-mo rendering of the Hitchcock classic with a 24-hour run time. The artwork becomes the jump off point for the story, weaves throughout it, illuminates the story's central themes, to the point that the novel seems as much a work of art appreciation as it does a narrative.

DeLillo's attentiveness to seemingly insignificant detail within his observations reliably cut straight to the heart of the matter. His characters are real and sympathietic, but I feel that however ideosyncratic, they are at bottom a means to a conceptual end. I don't mean this to say that somehow he is a lesser writer for it, rounding the edges off his characters to fit nicely in a conceptual framework. On the contrary, i think he's one of the few writers who can take a top-down idea and see it from the bottom up. In this way he shares a vein with his conceptual artist counterparts.

Having never viewed 24-Hour Psycho, I feel I can appreciate it anyhow. Much like his similar book The Body Artist, all the conceptualizing does take place within the confines of a traditional novel. There are descriptions of art and interpretations of art. But through the words and because of the words, there seems to be very little lost in translation, its almost as if you were experiencing the art first hand with all those fleeting associations, quiet reverences, and little epiphanies caught in their tracks and brought to bear on the page.

Oh i almost forgot...there is a story too! A filmmaker follows an old man(a powerful ex idea-man for the war in Iraq) to his vacation home in Arizona in hopes of making an experimental film about him. Heady Ideas about time and space are rendered realistically and convincingly, and a hunger for film and media criticism is handsomely rewarded. Point Omega is the work of an aging yet powerful writer who still has much to tell us.

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