FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Hollow Man Reaches His Omega Point

by RON JACOBS

Point Omega is Don Delillo’s latest novel.  It is nominally about an inexperienced filmmaker who journeys to the US Southwest in the hopes of making a film about a former official who helped run the US war in Iraq.  The novel opens and closes with a description of people watching a video installation by Douglas Gordon titled 24 Hour Psycho.  This artwork stretched the Hitchcock film Psycho to a speed that made it last twenty-four hours.  In between, the narrator treks to the Southwest with the intention of making the aforementioned film but ends up just being the official’s companion for a few weeks.  During this period, the official’s daughter comes to visit and then disappears.  The film is never made.

The subject of the film that is never made is to many people an American war criminal.  He is an academic hired to sell the Iraq war to the citizens and the press while creating terminology that would diminish the force of the war’s actuality.  The offer of the position to him from the warmakers was based on a paper titled “Renditions” he wrote that began with the words “A government is a criminal enterprise.”  The reader is left to assume that this was not a critique but a statement of fact. Furthermore, the intention of this statement was to provoke a discussion as to how this enterprise should be undertaken, not to criticize it.

The academic and protagonist, named Elster, describes his task as one that re-defined the reality of  the war–its torture and death.  As any relatively keen observer would acknowledge, this  “re-definition” allows the regular citizen to pretend that the war being fought in their name is a good war.  Of course, Elster tells the narrator, that is the case except when it isn’t.

Elster has the trappings of an academic.  He reads poetry and knows more than one language.  His cynicism is his most obvious trait.  Yet he accepts the argument that the war he helped describe and rationalize is a necessary war.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of two poems by two different poets while reading this brief novelistic exercise.  The first of these poems was TS Eliot’s “Hollow Men.”  Like the landscape Eliot describes in Parts Three and Four, the bulk of Delillo’s novel takes place in a dead land, a land of cactus where the stars are dying.  In fact, the location is the desert somewhere east of San Diego, California.

Also like Eliot’s verse, this is a work about a member of a conspiracy of humans who are blinded by their cause; just like the conspirators in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar,  to which the title of the poem alludes.  The other poem is “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarrell.  In this case, it is the men and women who died for the lies Elster helped create that remind me of Jarrell’s short and pointed disavowal of wars and those who demand we fight them.

Delillo plays with time here.  Indeed, the entire book seems to exist in the spaces between when something happens.  Like a baseball game after an at-bat and before the next pitch.  The entire playing field is waiting, ready to catch any ball it or thrown their way.  The spectators sit on their hands or look into the sun, hoping the next pitch and any subsequent play will bring their team that much closer to the last out in the ninth inning.  The umpires crouch, ready to apply their understanding of the game’s rules to the sequence of events bound to occur after the ball is pitched.

If there is ball that is pitched in this tale–a tale where the dogs never bark–it is when Elster’s daughter disappears. Her exit is never resolved.  It just occurs. Elster suffers emotionally and the narrator does his best to support him.  Meanwhile, her mother calls and lets the narrator know there is a questionable lover in the daughter’s life.  Elster remarks somewhere in the text that the narrator merely wants to film a man “breaking down.”  The narrator pauses, reflecting that, yes, perhaps that is what he wants to film.  Perhaps he does want to film a man who still believes in a cause most would prefer to pretend never existed–his war.   There is no judgment on the part of the author or his filmmaker narrator here.  Elster is shown to be both a caring human and a hollow human, like so many who roam the earth.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail