Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: The Body Artist by Don DeLillo

Title: The Body Artist
Author: Don DeLillo
Genre: Literary
Published: Scribner
Published: 2002
Pages: 128

Rating: 6 out of 10

I chose to read this book one night at Barnes & Noble's, based solely on its small size. I hate reading halfway through a book and then the bookshop closes.
This is an odd little volume, and one of the rare books that I saw as both dreadful and brilliant all at once.

When Lauren Hartke's husband Rey passes away, she is left alone with her grief in their house. The house's lease is ending a few weeks, but Lauren feels unmotivated to seek out a new one, or do much of anything else for that matter.
Beginning quite a while before Rey died, she had begun hearing occasional noises coming from upstairs. Whenever she went to investigate, nothing was there. Rey assured her that it was only a squirrel or a raccoon stuck in the attic.
But Karen instead finds a man in her house - an odd, simple man who is so strangely different from anyone else she has ever met, he seems almost alien-like.
Despite telling herself that she wants to be alone presently, she lets the man stay, thinking that he has brain damage. Gradually, she befriends him as much as his foreign mannerisms allow.
But the man begins to speak words that only Rey had ever said, in her husband's voice. He hints at things that will happen to her in the future, and seems to know things that no one but Rey could know.
Who is he?

The answer to this question, when put as I just described, sounds obvious. And yet, DeLillo never at any time so much as nudges the reader into thinking that the mysterious man is Rey's ghost. In fact, that solution would not make sense (or be a satisfying one) for many reasons. Karen began hearing the man making noises upstairs before her husband died. And why would the man look completely different? Why would they not recognize each other, or fall in love?

This spare book was so odd. I suppose that is why I wasn't completely able to tell if I liked it or not.
It certainly made an impression (especially for such a small amount of pages), and it was a distinctive work. I don't that I would be able to easily confuse it with other books that are similar when looking back on what it was about.

DeLillo's writing style was quite strangely unique. Often, the sentences would cut off abruptly. Fragments and scattered thoughts were strewn through-out the story. If I had the book in front of me, I would be able to find examples, but it is still in Barnes & Noble's.

For example, a character who was trying to say "Would you take the garbage out?" may instead phrase this "Garbage out. Would you."

It was different.
In a longer book, I may have come to appreciate it, but here, I mostly got used to it and that was that.
It did evoke a certain mood in the story - one that was incomplete, broken off, and alien.

Which entirely describes the story.

Nothing is ever explained or solved. Who was the man? The reader is simply left to reflect on this and draw their own conclusion. While I always find endings like this intriguing, I didn't like it here. Too much was left unfinished.
I felt as if I had read the first 5 chapters in a mystery book, and then suddenly it ended right when the detective was starting to piece together their first clue.

This was an interesting book. Very intriguing, but I wouldn't say very good.