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What follows is one of the strangest ghost stories since The Turn of the Screw. And like James's tale, it seems to partake of at least seven kinds of ambiguity, leaving the reader to sort out its riddles. 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. And Lauren's performances--for she is the body artist of the title--sound pretty awful, the kind of thing Artaud might have cooked up for an aerobics class. Still, when DeLillo reins in the abstractions and bears down, the results are heartbreaking:
Why shouldn't the death of a person you love bring you into lurid ruin? You don't know how to love the ones you love until they disappear abruptly. Then you understand how thinly distanced from their suffering, how sparing of self you often were, only rarely unguarded of heart, working your networks of give-and-take.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 is not meant to be helpful; rather it's meant to express my distaste for this Delillo offering. The Body Artist is one of the most artsy, pretentious novels I've ever read.Published on July 16 2004 by C. Myers
Hey, I liked "White Noise" too. But give me a break. Completely implausible with precious little insight to Delillo's masterful skill with dialogue and his uncanny... Read morePublished on June 22 2004
I really loved the premise. I was fascinated about it. I think it would make a wonderful movie or play. It was a quick read and held my attention. Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by Bethanie Frank
The Body Artist is an interesting, engaging rumination. I do, however, have one piece of advice: be sure you are in the mood to read this book. Read morePublished on March 25 2004 by CoffeeGurl
I can honestly say this is one of the worst books I've ever read. It is poorly written, excruciatingly boring and proof-positive that a big name can get anything published. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2004 by Moses Alexander
I can't believe how many readers have been seduced by this goobledygook sophomoric word play. The success of any writer is his or her ability to tell a tale, seductively, clearly,... Read morePublished on Nov. 15 2003 by "tiseye"
I never got through a book as quickly as I got through this one. That's because I didn't actually read the whole thing. I read only the first chapter, which is an utter bore. Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2003 by Gone with the Schwind
Don Delillo follows up his largest and finest work - 'Underworld' - with perhaps his smallest and poorest work: 'The Body Artist'. Read morePublished on Sept. 19 2003 by Amazon Customer