The summer novel-reading season is here. Though this latest effort of Don DeLillo’s is probably better designated as a novella, coming in at just less than 120 pages, and they’re pretty tiny pages.
There’s some interesting stuff here – the book is bookended by its protagonist viewing an art installation at the Met in New York, called “24-Hour Psycho” (apparently this is real – it’s credited at the end of the book to one Douglas Gordon. It’s a slow-motion projection of the original Psycho, slowed down to the point where the movie takes 24 hours to show. He resents the other causal viewers who come and go – the Midwestern families wearing khaki shorts, who say things like “what’s this supposed to be?” and so on.
The middle 80% of the book takes us to Arizona, where the main character narrates in the 1st person, as he has set out to make a film (which never gets made) about the other main character, Elster, a 70+ Robert McNamara-like former Defense Department intellectual. His daughter comes to visit and some predictable sexual tension arises between her and the narrator. There are some philosophical conversations about the “omega point” where humans turn back into inorganic matter. Some plot action ensues that I won’t spoil.
And then it’s back to New York at the “24-Hour Psycho” exhibit.
Books like this often insulate themselves from criticism – if I say “nothing happens” I’m just like the midwesterners in the khaki shirts who came to the Met to see the impressionists and call them “beautiful.” But nonetheless – nothing happens. I suppose the prose is the point, and that’s interesting as far as it goes, I just don’t know where it goes.
Now I’ve read plenty of DeLillo books – Underworld, Libra and Falling Man are all fully realized classics. This just wasn’t.