Richard Elster was a scholar -- an outsider -- when he was called to a meeting with government war planners, asked to apply "ideas and principles to such matters as troop deployment and counterinsurgency."
We see Elster at the end of his service. He has retreated to the desert, "somewhere south of nowhere," in search of space and geologic time. There he is joined by a filmmaker, Jim Finley, intent on documenting his experience. Finley wants to persuade Elster to make a one-take film, Elster its single character -- "Just a man and a wall."
Weeks later, Elster's daughter Jessica visits -- an "otherworldly" woman from New York, who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. The three of them talk, train their binoculars on the landscape and build an odd, tender intimacy, something like a family. Then a devastating event throws everything into question.
In this compact and powerful novel, it is finally a lingering human mystery that haunts the landscape of desert and mind.
Novelist Don DeLillo reading from Point Omega
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Reading Group Guide
Documentary filmmaker Jim Finley is divorced and adrift in New York City and looking for a subject for his next film. When he learns about Richard Elster, a scholar who was an advisor to the military for the War on Terror, he thinks he has found it. He follows the reclusive Elster out to a desert cabin in an attempt to convince him to be in a new film. The men spend their time discussing philosophy and politics, spinning their mental wheels, until the arrival of Elster’s daughter Jessie. Sent by her mother, who dislikes Jessie’s new boyfriend, Jessie changes the dynamic and sets Finley on edge with a confused attraction. When she suddenly disappears, it throws the men into a tailspin that forces them to confront the realities they’ve been hiding from.
Questions for Discussion
1. What was Elster’s motivation for inviting Finley out to the desert? Did he ever intend to be in the movie, or was he simply lonely?
2. Characters are introduced abruptly in Point Omega, with context see more