Friday, December 30, 2005

Don DeLillo, The Body Artist

Talk about haunting!

The protagonist of this short novel is Lauren Hartke, a performance artist in her mid-thirties whose husband has recently committed suicide. The majority of the novel centers around Lauren as she copes with the stages of grief in an empty house, only to discover a mysterious "ageless" man who has apparently been living in the home. She makes various attempts to engage him in conversation, but his responses remain enigmatic and soon you (like Lauren) are wondering if this man is somehow a physical manifestation of . . . what, her husband? his spirit? their communication-challenged relationship? her own grief? her guilt? or her creativity?

The novel never really makes it clear, but one thing is for certain: DeLillo's prose contributes to the enigmatic quality of the work, clearly hovering between a terse, simple style and a not-quite-but-eerily-almost Magic Realism, bringing to mind the deliciously layered prose of Faulkner and Morrison.

This is a novel you can either knock-off during a lunch hour, or spend several days dwelling upon. And that's a good thing. I would recommend you dwell upon this novel a while -- resonances are there . . .

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