Review Overview: Don DeLillo's Icy Novel of Ideas

Where are the jokes?

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Point Omega, the new novel from acclaimed postmodernist Don DeLillo, has neatly divided American critics. One group lauds the book's stark, controlled prose and the strength of its intellectual architecture; the other is turned off by bloodless characters and the glacial creep of the story, which can't be said to have a plot so much as a duration. Point Omega's nominal subjects are the Iraq War and its philosophical consequences. But really, as many critics note, it's a book about things winding down, losing momentum, and coming to a full and complete stop.

  • A Meditative Exercise Disguised as a Novel Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Matthew Sharpe is exhilarated by DeLillo's nothing-much-happens approach to plotting. "The book's methodology is also one of its themes: The life-defining events are the ones usually considered interstitial. The action is in the dead spots... it has been enlivening, challenging, harrowing and beautiful to imagine Point Omega."
  • Human Beings Not Included At The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani is less enthralled, criticizing the novel's "suffocating and airless" quality before noting that "the three characters here do not live in a recognizable America or recognizable reality -- rather, they feel like roles written for a stylized and highly contrived theater piece... They are roles desperately in need of actors to flesh them out and give them life."
  • It Takes Fewer Muscles to Smile Esquire's Benjamin Alsup remembers when DeLillo would cut his sobering parables with a few jokes. "If you go back to DeLillo's earlier work... you'll be struck by the laughs that accompany the impending doom. This is gallows humor for sure, but humor nonetheless. The mature DeLillo, by contrast, is maybe a little ripe. Amidst all the high seriousness, I miss the high ironies."
  • Time to Try Other Forms? In New York Magazine, Sam Anderson, a self-described "raging DeLillo fan," thinks he understands what the author is trying to do. "I get the sense that he wants his oeuvre to culminate in a pure act of attention, and I'm not convinced that the novel is the best medium in which to do that... I'd be more excited to see him branch out to another genre--an experimental autobiography, or essayistic micro-observations of his favorite art and literature--than write another short novel about detached and largely interchangeable characters."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.