18 July 2021 ☼ notesfrom 20102010 booksmy 2021

a grey-ponytailed, septuagenarian academic (Elster) retreats, to recover from his participation in the build-up to the Iraq war, to the Arizona desert. he did not move troops - his role as Defence Intellectual’ was to conceptualise the Iraq War: to suggest how to think of it while it happened. he is visited by filmmaker Jim Finley who wants to use the academic as a talking head in a documentary about the war - the author says: he wants a face on the screen, and if Elster decides to veer in his monologue from Iraq to any other subject, young Jim Finley is happy to film it. he believes that on film, the face is the soul. he calls it a primal film, and this is what he hopes Elster will agree to do.”

the story of three parts (arranged as a haiku) begins & ends with the perspective of an observer of Douglas Gordon’s film project 24 Hour Psycho (MoMA, 2006), in which the 109-­minute Hitchcock film Psycho (1960) was slowed to twitch frame-by-frame through a full 24 hours. 24 Hour Psycho is to Hitchcock’s film as Point Omega is to a novel about the Iraq war: brutality & all moments between become equal, and nothing is relegated to the status of build-up’ or stray moment’ or aftermath’; all is treated as the main event, as worth studying. the author seems mesmerised by radically altered planes of time: The less there was to see, the harder he looked, the more he saw.” the slowed Psycho, the desert pressing in on them, that desolate end zone of ancient time, painstaking inventories of Elster’s and Finley’s movements. simply reading the story, i was quite bored. conceptually, as narrative essays, i can see what is gained by the choreography of suspense & narrative. even the author is noted as considering it one of his lesser achievements.

If writing is a concentrated form of thinking,” DeLillo told The Paris Review in 1993, then the most concentrated writing probably ends in some kind of reflection on dying. This is what we eventually confront if we think long enough and hard enough.”

(18 July 2021: 746)