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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How much ambiguity can you accept?
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...
Published on 20 Oct 2002 by Mary Whipple

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea.
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...
Published on 24 Aug 2011 by Alessandra F.


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How much ambiguity can you accept?, 20 Oct 2002
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
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.
Fascinating in its focus on internal action, the reader must ultimately just accept the story for what it is while enjoying the glories of the meticulous prose, the acutely felt portrait of a woman grieving, the suggested symbolism in birds and nature, and the author's depiction of the ambiguities and uncertainties of life and time. This is a work which uses language in new ways, ultimately even calling into question the use of language itself to make sense of the world. Like Lauren, DeLillo himself is a performance artist. Mary Whipple
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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 review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
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
By 
Pussycat Niffums (Brighton, England.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
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
This review is from: The Body Artist (Hardcover)
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 25 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Body Artist (Hardcover)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A study in Phenomenology, 2 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
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. I highly recommend this novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Strange, 18 July 2009
By 
LindyLouMac (Wales and Italy) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
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.

The protagonist is Lauren Hartke, The Body Artist and the story centres on her being alone in a large house after the death of her late husband. Is she alone though as she discovers someone is living in the spare room. His physical presence never seems to be proved by Lauren and you are never quite sure if he is real or a figment of her imagination. He certainly seems to know a lot about her late husband Rey and even starts talking to her in his voice. A real person, a ghost, the ramblings of a recently bereaved woman; who knows?

In all I found it very strange, but maybe I did not fully understand the style this was written in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Body Artist, 22 Oct 2007
By 
Damian Kelleher (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
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. The couple's morning is disjointed, stilted, yet routine. There is a lot that could be recognised in anyone's morning, though the presentation is strange. Following this, we learn that the man has killed himself, leaving Lauren to live alone in their home in the wilderness.

DeLillo's writing is often stilted, with the first chapter of The Body Artist among his most jarring work. 'The lever sprang or sprung and he got up and took his toast back to the table and then went for the butter and she had to lean away from the counter when he approached, her milk cartoon poised, so he could open the drawer and get a butter knife.'

DeLillo keeps us a step away from the characters, from what is happening to them and from who they are. We learn Lauren's thoughts during the morning but they, too, come at a remove: 'You separate the Sunday sections and there are endless identical lines of print with people living somewhere in the words and the strange contained reality of paper and ink seeps through the house for a week and when you look at a page and distinguish one line from another it begins to gather you into it and there are people being tortured halfway around the world, who speak another language, and you have conversations with them more or less uncontrollably until you become aware you are doing it and then you stop, seeing whatever is in front of you at the time, like half a glass of juice in your husband's hand.' There is a lot of information in this long sentence, a compressed intensity of thought and feeling. But we learn of it in a way that does not allow us to identify with Lauren so much as observe, as see how she thinks, not feel how she feels.

Later, following a brief newspaper article discussing her husband's life, we watch Lauren as she learns how to live without her husband. She is alone, horribly so, spending quantities of time watching an internet web cam that shows a quiet street in Kotka, Finland. The phone rings and she doesn't answer it, though she spends some time calling a friend and listening to the recorded message before hanging up. Is Lauren emotionally dead? Is she suffering from the loss of her husband? She is, but we don't know it from her thoughts. Rather we gather it from the way her story is told. DeLillo is hard at work to remove us as far as possible from the characters, but at the same time he pushes us incredibly close, because by observing from a distance we are actually observing Lauren as she sees herself. If we were embraced within the warmth of her arms and the heat of her mind, then we would not understand what it is like to be Lauren following the death of her husband. But by being so far away, by observing her as though through a looking glass, we understand, we know.

A youth appears. Lauren believes he has a connection to her husband, he can 'speak with the same voice'. Their interactions are almost dreamy, as she tries to coax the boy into speaking with her husband's voice, to say the words he said. She becomes frustrated with him, but she clothes him and looks after him and even becomes carnal with him.

Towards the end of the novel, Lauren steps back into reality, to the real world. She is a body artist, she creates art using her body. DeLillo alternates long scenes of her interactions with the youth, and short descriptions of how she prepares herself to become a body artist. 'She had a fade cream she applied just about everywhere, to depigment herself. She cut off some, then more of the hair on her head. It was crude work that became nearly brutal when she bleached out the color.'

We should consider what it means that Lauren is a body artist. At the beginning of the novel, her husband loses his body quite literally: he is killed. Towards the end, Lauren transforms herself with her art, stripping away her hair, forcing her freckles to fade, making her skin white. She seeks an end to self, an end that her husband has already achieved. Which suicide is more honest? Which result is the intended? Is Lauren's art her own rejection of personality and self?

When we learn of her art, we must also wonder whether the boy was real. Lauren combines the characters she has observed with the sounds she has heard into a display of nothingness. The boy is a mimic, he repeats what is said and does what has been done before. Was he then, an externalisation of Lauren's burgeoning concept of her art? Or was he merely the inspiration? DeLillo doesn't say, though to my mind, the evidence leans towards the former.

A word on the distancing technique used by DeLillo. There is a chapter which opens with this sentence: 'The dead squirrel you see in the driveway, dead and decapitated, turns out to be a strip of curled burlap, but you look at it, you walk past it, even so, with a mixed tinge of terror and pity.'

Many authors make statements such as these, though perhaps not with DeLillo's stilted use of language. But what separates DeLillo is that he does not use this observation as a chance to wax eloquent on what it means to confront death, or the tricks our mind plays on us through the falsity of perception, or anything along that line. No, DeLillo merely notices it, he captures the way we feel when it occurs, and then he leaves it, for us to think about while we read. Many times throughout the novel this occurs. He observes, he does not explain. These observations often cut to the core, but what they mean is up to us.

This is what DeLillo is saying. He - Lauren - observe, and it is up to us to interpret what has been observed. We would not expect a photograph or a home video to interpret the visuals shown, so why should we expect a body artist or an author? No, perhaps sometimes they are able to function as a receptacle for observations and happenings, showing us things we may never see, so that we may understand the things that we ourselves observe.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A yawning chasm of emptiness, 8 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Body Artist (Hardcover)
I suppose you could call this "stripped back" and "pared." But you could also call it trendily minimalist and boring. Clearly a book published on the coattails of his greater works. Almost a struggle to get through.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale of loss, 20 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Body Artist (Paperback)
This is the haunting, yet warming tale of a woman's attempt of making sense of her husband's sudden suicide. She, the Body Artist is left reminiscing in a large isolated house where she and her husband, a former director/ writer, had retreated to to have peace and quiet.
The novel sets off with an intriguing mind dialogue between the couple over breakfast.
When Lauren is left after her husband's suicide she spends the days restless in the house, working her body to its extreme limits, only the way a Body Artist could.
Into her silent solitide appears a man, who resembles, both in apperance and voice, her husband, and to her amazement, even herself.
Who is this man, where is he from, how long has he been here? She ponders on these questions endlessly, failing continuosly to make sense out of the strange visitor's response.
This is a brillian book with its dreamy, often hazy tangled thoughts. It grabs the reader in its cold haunting spine chilling language.
The book is relatively short, but it's power will stay with you the longer.
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The Body Artist
The Body Artist by Don DeLillo (Paperback - 25 Jan 2002)
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