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The Body Artist: A Novel Hardcover – Feb 6 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (Feb. 6 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074320395X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203951
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,361,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By J. Mason on July 28 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was interested in the story of "The Body Artist" because, as some of you know, a "body artist" is the name we in my profession (architecture) have given to those who actually design the outer part of a building, the nonfunctional but beautifully pleasing visible part. I was such a body artist before my eyesight disappeared. Yes, I'm a blind architect. Good only for cold equations and what is somewhat obscurely referred to as "business" consultations. In any event, "The Body Artist" is NOT about architecture. It is a very numbing story about a woman named Goody Michaelson who runs a bed and breakfast establishment in the Outer Banks. One day a huge storm rushes up the coast and Mrs. Michaelson refuses to leave the hotel. She is carried off to a tropical island off the coast of Madagascar where she learns the homely folkways of the tribe of intelligent Lemurs she encounters there and devotes the rest of her life to her fruit collection, forgetting about the "personal service" standard that had marked her days in the hospitality industry. I don't know, I thought it dragged a little after we arrived in the Madagascar part but, heck, I'm not the one who has to read aloud, it's my long-suffering but essentially functional wife. Think I'll keep her. As to the book, I sawed it into four equally sized sections, drilled a 3/4" hole in the center of each, and bolted the four together. Beautiful little piece, hearkening back to my old "body artist" days if I do say so myself. How I wish I could go back to active design.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reader and Writer on June 20 2008
Format: Paperback
The main character wants this and in a sense she strives for it. Let me explain. Lauren's husband, a relatively known film director dies. She struggles with her grief in a rented house where a man appears. He may be an escaped patient from a mental ward. Yet he seems to quote words that she or her dead husband said. This captivates her. She allows him to stay, at first as a link to her deceased love, and then as a gateway to her past. She tape records him and asks, would we recognize ourself if what we said in the past was presented to us. This is what she sees the man as doing.

The book begins in a very Pinteresque manner, a couple delineating the items of their lives, this is hers, this is his, as they fix breakfast. The blurb calls this opening a tour de force of eighteen pages. I disagree. It's not Pinter and it gets tedious in the way that parts of Travels in Scriptorium by Auster get tedious. We want a stronger story. This comes when book shifts to Lauren after her husband's death.

The elements of Lauren's life become her performance art. If you know art, like I do, you will see vague references to many artists who used their bodies as art. DeLillo makes a couple mistakes, he forgets or doesn't know Orlan, one of the major body artists around today, and he says that Bob Flanagan drives "nails" through a part of his anatomy better off not mentioned here -- but it was only one nail. But DeLillo is a writer and so we let that go in passing. Lauren's work takes the elements we've witnessed so far; she internalizes and presents to her audience, as we learn as she is interviewed over lunch. Her memories are dead pictures, but they are living moments.

What makes the book absolutely amazing is the quality of the writing.
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By Bethanie Frank on May 18 2004
Format: Paperback
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. I really would like to see the whole premise even taken farther. I was a bit dissapointed that we didn't focus on "Mr. Tuttle" more - I could've read about him even more.
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Format: Paperback
This is not an easy novel, and don't let its length (a mere 124 pages) let you think otherwise.
The plot is anything but usual. After a young artist's husband commits suicide, she resumes her life only to one day discover a strange person sitting on a bed in an unused room, an otherworldly man-child who speaks in cryptic utterances that lack context and syntax. She assumes that he suffers from autism and plans to notify authorities; but changes her mind after hearing him repeat, word for word, a conversation she had with her husband on the day of his death. Wow.
Who is this quaint stranger -- unwilling time traveler? Is our protagonist no more than a desperate woman whose grief and isolation have made her delusional? At first I was somewhat frustrated by these questions, but found myself haunted by the layered meanings.
When it was not the prose that had me thinking, I was smitten with DeLillo's fascinatingly poetic writing style. He weaves such a riveting tapestry of words to delve into the emotional minutiae of his characters that he not only captivates our sympathetic attention he has us thinking like we were the ones he was talking about.
I highly recommend this effortlessly engrossing tale if you have a taste for offbeat but thought-provoking literature.
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Format: Paperback
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. It's not your typical novel, because it appears to be flat and uneventful -- in other words, no plot to speak of. But it will make you think about the nature of identity and what makes us who we are. The Body Artist is really more of a parable than a novel. The two main characters -- Lauren, a "body artist" who turns her own body into nothingness and a strange man who had until recently lived secretly in her home and who has the gift of mimicking other people's voices, but with no voice of his own -- are interesting in their bizarre similarities. But nothing really happens to them. Even so, DeLillo writes with marvelous, beautiful prose. Read this if you are in the mood for something experimental, literary and thought provoking.
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