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The Body Artist [Paperback]

Don DeLillo
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Jan 2002
A sad, beautiful novel, The Body Artist is a meditiation on love, time and human perception from one of the great masters of modern storytelling

Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 4 edition (25 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330484966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330484961
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In The Body Artist, Don DeLillo sacrifices breadth for depth, narrowing his focus to a single life, a single death. The protagonist is Lauren Hartke, who we see sharing breakfast with her husband, Rey, in the opening pages. This 18-page sequence is a tour de force (albeit a less showy one than the author's initial salvo in Underworld)--an intricate, funny notation of Lauren's consciousness as she pours cereal, peers out the window and makes idle chat. Rey, alas, will proceed directly from the breakfast table to the home of his former wife, where he'll unceremoniously blow his brains out.

What follows is one of the strangest ghost stories since The Turn of the Screw. Returning to their summer rental after Rey's funeral, Lauren discovers a strange stowaway living in a spare room: an inarticulate young man, perhaps retarded, who may have been there for weeks. His very presence is hard for her to pin down: "There was something elusive in his aspect, moment to moment, a thinning of physical address." Yet soon this mysterious figure begins to speak in Rey's voice, and her own, playing back entire conversations from the days preceding the suicide. Has Lauren's husband been reincarnated? Or is the man simply an eavesdropping idiot savant, reproducing sentences he'd heard earlier from his concealment?

DeLillo refuses any definitive answer. Instead he lets Lauren steep in her grief and growing puzzlement, and speculates in his own voice about this apparent intersection of past and present, life and death. At times his rhetoric gets away from him, an odd thing for such a superbly controlled writer. "How could such a surplus of vulnerability find itself alone in the world?" he asks, sounding as though he's discussing a sick puppy. Still, when DeLillo reigns in the abstractions and bears down, the results are heartbreaking.

At this stage of his career, a thin book is an adventure for DeLillo. So is his willingness to risk sentimentality, to immerse us in personal rather than national traumas. For all its flaws, then, The Body Artist is a real, raw accomplishment, and a reminder that bigger, even for so capacious an imagination as DeLillo's, isn't always better. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A novel that is both slight and profound, a distiled meditation on perception and loss, and a poised, individual ghost story for the twenty-first century' Observer; 'A masterful talent is behind its language, so magnificent in simplicity. Inspiring... God, but it's a beautiful book' Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How much ambiguity can you accept? 20 Oct 2002
The Body Artist is one of the strangest--and most seductive--books I've read in a long time, a "ghost story" with a character who is described as if he were real, and whom the main character believes to be real, and who may, in fact, be real--but who may also be a figment of imagination. Events which are described as real may be fantasies, and even the relationships the main character has or has had with people who seem to be real may, in fact, be colored by wishful thinking. Ultimately, even the linear progression of the narrative itself is called into question since, DeLillo tells us, "Past, present, and future are not amenities of language."
The story begins with the intimately described minutiae of breakfast, as a couple, married just a short time, gets ready for the day. We learn that it takes two cycles on the toaster to get the bread the right color, that the cup is his and the paper is hers, that a blue jay comes to the bird feeder, that she puts soya on her cereal and that it smells like feet. When Rey Robles, the husband, dies later that day (something we know from the beginning), the world of the wife, Lauren Hartke, changes from one of communication and an outward focus to a world of grief and an inward focus. When she discovers a stranger living on the third floor of her rented house, we aren't sure whether he is real or whether he materializes to show Lauren's unresolved feelings about her loss and the depth of her trauma. The stranger, dubbed Mr. Tuttle, is handicapped, unable to understand or communicate in language in any traditional way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea. 24 Aug 2011
This book has a great start, and a great first chapter. I was very intrigued by it at the beginning, especially because DeLillo has an amazing way to describe the most common and daily situations as if they were works of art. But then it starts little by little to lose its grip on reality, and I suppose that's when it started losing me as well. I can't say DeLillo can't write - he can, of course, and quite well - but this book left me with a sense of misunderstanding, as if I've been reading and reading without understanding exactly what I was reading about. I reached the end and asked myself: what was this all about? Sorry, definetely not my cup of tea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ambigious Nonsense 17 Mar 2009
I found this novella extremely irritating.
Following his epic 'Underworld' which notches up some 827 pages, Mr Delilo could be forgiven for wanting to invest his time in something a little more low-key and approachable. However much I wanted to enjoy this little book I just found it impossible to digest the meanings and implications buried beneath page upon page of rambling medatations on perception, the human ability to understand and transcend time, and the logistics of sanity following the bereavment of a loved one. Put it this way, if Lauren Hartke (the novella's protaganist) was writing this review Delillo would write something like this; 'She wrote a review. Except she wasn't writing a review. She was doing that thing when you think you're writing a review but you're actually not and this is what she thought. she thought it because this is how you think. that you might not be writing a review. Even though you are...... etc. etc. blah blah blah. He seems incapable of forming clear coherent sentences in this book, perhaps fatigued by the effort of his former masterpiece. The most shocking indictment on the whole is that I devoured the enormous 'Underworld' in minimal time but actually struggled laboriously to complete 'The Body Artist' and its 124 pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant 25 Feb 2001
By A Customer
A stripped back , pared piece of writing that is also wonderfully rich in its reverberations , The Body Artist is undoubtedly the best work of fiction I have read in years . Why has it taken so long for a novel this good to emerge ? At one level the story is a gripping and eerie ghost story for the 21st century ; at a deeper level it is a profound and thought-provoking exploration of the nature of time , reality language and loss . In this work Delillo manages to say more in one page than most novelists can manage in a whole novel . It combines the meditative power of Proust with the laser-like incisiveness of Beckett . It probes and questions with a lightness of touch that gives the writing pace and momentum . Delillo has said that writing is a concentrated form of thinking . In The Body Artist the thoughts of the narrator and the main protagonist are visceral and lie at the core of the novel . In terms of plot the novel is spare - after her husband mysteriously shoots himself dead , the protagonist is left alone in the matrimonial home she and her husband had been renting . Equally mysteriously , a young man appears in the house who uncannily mimics the voices of the protagonist and her late husband and then strangely disappears . - but it is the thinking that grows out of this that is complex erudite and exhilarating . Delillo conducts a forensic analysis of perception and time peeling back the layers of reality to reveal the irreducible core of things .The language is inventive and powerful and glass-sharp while retaining an emotional sensual quality . At times , the fractured syntax betokens the dislocation and disjunction at the heart of thinking . At times , the language has a sinuous elusive quality that is haunting . The writing attempts , magnificently , to deal with the places that exist underneath ostensible reality , and with what ghosts spookily behind and in between language . This novel is not merely well written ; it makes you think . Few novels do that .
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A study in Phenomenology
The depth of this work is unbelievable. It is one of DeLillo's shorter volumes, but as far as contemporary fiction goes, this is in a league of it's own. Read more
Published on 2 Dec 2010 by Dave
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange
A ghost story far from my favourite genre but I thought I would try it as it is a minuscule novella and would take very little time to read. Read more
Published on 18 July 2009 by LindyLouMac
4.0 out of 5 stars The Body Artist
This slim novel opens with an ordinary morning between a recently married couple. It is told from the point of view of the female, avant garde artist Lauren Handtke. Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2007 by Damian Kelleher
3.0 out of 5 stars A lean, sad, beautiful novel
The Body Artist opens with a breakfast scene in a rambling rented house somewhere on the New England coast. Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2004 by
1.0 out of 5 stars Read something else.
Whilst recognising the evident craftsmanship of the author I found this the most dissatisfying book I've read in a long time, so much so that I threw it away rather than allow some... Read more
Published on 20 Mar 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale of loss
This is the haunting, yet warming tale of a woman's attempt of making sense of her husband's sudden suicide. Read more
Published on 20 Mar 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Only after finishing the book do you realise its clarity!
This is a journey into the inner world of the grief process brought to life by a remarkably creative individual (Lauren). Read more
Published on 18 Feb 2002 by Beverley Pettiford
1.0 out of 5 stars Great disappointment
I had never previously read any of De Lillo's work but knew he was feted worldwide. Body Artist is a slim volume and I thought it would make a good introduction to his work. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2001 by Colin Neighbour
2.0 out of 5 stars A yawning chasm of emptiness
I suppose you could call this "stripped back" and "pared." But you could also call it trendily minimalist and boring. Read more
Published on 8 April 2001
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