Don DeLillo’s Point Omega

In 1991, Don DeLillo wrote Mao II, a prophetic little novel that examines (among other things) the tension between terrorists and novelists. Everything that’s happened after 1991 considered, it’s a pretty prescient book, especially when main character—a reclusive novelist in the Salinger/Pynchon vein—gets around to talking about the battle for the soul of culture: “For some time now I’ve had the feeling that terrorists and novelists are playing a zero-sum game… What terrorists gain, novelists lose. The degree to which they influence mass consciousness is the extent of our decline as shapers of sensibility and thought. The danger they represent equals our own failure to be dangerous.”

Nearly twenty years later—after 9/11, after our overreaction to 9/11, after the fear and the paranoia, after fewer and fewer people reading novelists, after cable news, after seemingly everything—DeLillo’s conclusion seems pretty foregone. Of course terrorism infiltrates and determines our mass consciousness. Of course. Of course novelists can no longer rise above the din of violence and cable news or blogs or whatever form of media you love to hate. Of course. Even the idea of a novelist so prominent that he or she could tangle with terrorists seems a little quaint now.

With the possible exception of DeLillo himself. Continue reading