Until about a week ago, I figured Facebook was good for little more than checking out how your high-school sweetheart is looking these days, being “poked” by near-strangers and convenient (if useless) one-click political protests. And then I came across a colleague's status update alerting his friends to the publication of Point Omega, Don DeLillo's new novel. The comments this announcement attracted were (unlike those relating to, say, the werewolf kid's abs in New Moon) thoughtful, respectfully contentious and, based on the publisher's description of the book, a little anxious.
The concern was based on the trend, over the past decade or so, of DeLillo producing increasingly static fictions, stories free of story, in which characters are stuck: stuck in revisited death (The Body Artist), stuck in traffic (Cosmopolis), stuck in midair (Falling Man). Some commenters speculated that 9/11 had stolen DeLillo's ability to look ahead, the point of view of his arguably greatest works (Ratner's Star, Underworld). Others wondered if the author's decision to populate his recent books with conceptual-artist main characters was showing where he wanted to go: less action and more theory.
For me, the worry was that DeLillo, one of the finest sentence-makers of the past half-century, had given up on being a novelist altogether to become an art curator. Far worse, he had started writing like an art curator.
From this Facebook pregame warm-up, I opened Point Omega to be immediately met by a discouraging scene: people entering the “cold dark space” of an art gallery to take a look at a work of conceptual art and then walking away moments later, unmoved.
Sure wish we could get a peek at the debate he refers to: