Nihilism anyone?


Cosmopolis by Don Delillo was less of a surprise than Point Omega, which I read earlier in the year.  The voice of the author, and his views and interests, are pretty distinctive, and though he tries to surprise, it’s more difficult to surprise the second time around.  There is much more to Cosmopolis, but it’s as bleak as his later novel, and in many ways just as strange.

The plot seems to take place in one night – but it’s quite a night; the hero is 28, and has – I think it was 4 sexual encounters – each with a different woman: the final one is with his wife who he bumps into occasionally through the night and finally meets, by chance, at the filming of a street scene consisting of nothing but naked bodies.

Delillo’s great strength is his refusal to judge, but he shows enough of his characters to let us judge for ourselves.  The hero is self obsessed and cruel, without scruple or moral sense, and this is clear from the beginning.  New York  is the eternal city, and the representation here echoed Catch 22‘s portrayal of Rome at night.  Eric, the protagonist (I can’t call him a hero) is a billionaire, cut off from reality.  His is a world of ticker tape and stocks and shares, of bodyguards and bullet proof limousines.

Delillo is tough – his spare prose, and the way he lets the actions speak for themselves, reminds me of Hemmingway, and in a similar way he sees the world as brutal and empty of meaning.  For Hemmingway the heroes can be redeemed by courage amidst violence. Delillo does not seem to have that element of redemption.  Nihilism is all there is in the eternal city, but does Delillo’s ironic treatment point to other moral possibilities?

Point Omega

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