This is one of those "people sitting around talking deep shit" books. And one of those books that I'd give 2 stars on face value, because I found it mostly pretty boring and pointless and it left me not at all inclined to go rush out and try some more Don DeLillo, yet I still appreciated the craft of his writing, so I probably will try another one of his books at some point. After all, I hated the first Cormac McCarthy novel I ever read (that was The Road
, btw), but I gave McCarthy another shot because there was something compelling about his style, and now I kind of like him (in small doses). So maybe Don DeLillo can still win me over.
"I wanted a war in three lines..."
is very short, really a novella. It's about a scholar named Richard Elster who was recruited by war planners (which war is never specified, but given the contemporary American setting it can be taken as a given) to "conceptualize" the war for them. Elster spends a lot of time talking about what he did without ever describing exactly what he did; one gets the impression he sat around making up euphemisms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" or helping spin doctors work on the PR of troop movements and bombing villages, but it's all very vague and, well, conceptual
. Elster has retired to a hermit-like existence in the desert, where a filmmaker named Jim Finley has come to visit him and try to talk him into doing a sit-down documentary.
So for the next few weeks, these two dudes sit around uttering profound sentences and vaguely gesturing at the incomprehensibility of time and human existence. Then Elster's daughter Jessie comes to visit, Finley turns into something of a creeper with never-expressed sexual desires for her, and then she disappears. At this point I thought, okay, here's the plot. No, actually, there was no plot. There is no resolution. The entire story is a framing device of some kind, and you're supposed to immerse yourself into this highly intellectual mind-screw of a book, but it did not engage me.
Framing either end of the novella is another, nameless protagonist who sits around watching 24 Hour Psycho
at the Modern Museum of Art.
Now, it's not like I can't handle intellectual novels, and I can do some deep textual diving when I am in the mood, but I just failed to see what DeLillo was trying to get at, and it would be more worth my time to read some other literary critic do a dissection of Point Omega
than try to parse it myself. I think DeLillo is just screwing with us.
It does conjure up some strong moods in places, and there were occasional small bits of characterization that were wonderfully visual. There was something about the enigmatic, futile tone of the story and DeLillo's precise writing that earned it one more grudging star from me, and I'll carefully choose my next attempt at this award-winning author, but this one just didn't do much for me. The links to contemporary politics are both obvious and abstract, so it won't be dated quickly and it's not exactly a political novel, any more than it is precisely
a psychological novel. Hell, I'm still not sure what it is.