As usual, DeLillo’s language is often beautiful and its meaning is often obscure. This is a very short novel. It begins and ends with an unnamed man watching a slow-motion presentation of Psycho at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Between these two chapters, an aspiring filmmaker tries to get an intellectual older man to be the subject of a documentary film. The older man is to speak about his work with the Defense Department in support of the younger Bush’s Iraq war, or anything else he wants to talk about. These central chapters are set in the California desert and also feature a visit from the intellectual’s disengaged daughter.
I’ve read most of DeLillo’s novels and have never found it easy to say what their theme is. Maybe I’m wrong about the theme of this novel, but DeLillo draws an obvious contrast between the casual manner in which the defense intellectual participates in a war that costs thousands of lives and his intense reaction to the apparent loss of someone he cares about.
Interwoven with the novel’s narrative are thoughts on film-making and film-watching, and the passage of time in natural and artificial settings. DeLillo again left me with the feeling that I had experienced something important about modern life, but not sure exactly what that was. (5/9/11)