This essay turns to Don DeLillo’s novel Point Omega to revisit a blind spot of narrative theory—narrative’s relation with lyricality and poeticity. Responding to recent debates on this topic by shifting the emphasis toward modes of reception and readerly engagement, my essay examines how the novel’s experimental mix of literary forms changes the game of what narrative commonly does. Point Omega’s unusual brevity (it is the shortest of DeLillo’s recent short novels) and eventlessness (nothing much happens, and much of what happens evades reconstruction) are key to this operation. I argue that the novel endorses lyric and poetic strategies—among them slowing down the reading process by amplifying the demand for speakerly appropriation, and spacing the narrative by exploiting the cinematic frame as the prime compositional measure—with the effect of impairing the temporal reign of emplotment along with the knowledge-generating logic of cause and effect. As a result of downplaying narrative dominance (and frustrating our expectations to find out what has happened), we read for cohesion (a sense of unity) rather than for coherence (a system of rules). I contend that this poetological agenda and the receptive mode that it harbors mark a break with—or plot against—the concern with paranoia that was the staple of DeLillo’s earlier, longer, Cold War novels. And I suggest that Point Omega’s post-paranoid style thrives on a lyric-poetic instance on the fundamental unknowability of reality that the late DeLillo casts against the blazing knowledge regimes of our crisis-ridden age.
- narrative theory
- reception aesthetics