Lorraine's Reviews > The Body Artist

The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
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Apr 24, 11

Read from April 23 to 24, 2011

The disclaimer is that I haven't read any of Don Delilio's stuff except for this. Everyone tells me Underworld is very good, and that White Noise is slightly worse, but this means nothing to me because I haven't read either. I did, however (or maybe I was... dreaming) read a sentence by Don Delilio I think, when I randomly picked up one of his books, and the sentence was "I will drink my tea and die." And I thought, that guy is a good writer. So it has come to be that I now own The Body Artist, bought at a Borders Sale for S$2. The review will not be good. I am rethinking my evaluation. Yes, much of it has to do with death and art. But it wore me out. I don't know. I wasn't expecting this. I know it has something to do with absence, identity, being and the body. The bare facts of existence, etc. I suppose I could figure it out if I thought about it, but I can't be bothered to, and to me, this is always a bad sign. The figure, again, of some nameless and blameless, incoherent thing blabbering its fragmented words. Why do we always come to this? It would be ok if it were a cry for help, as some things are. But I didn't sense the sincerity in this. It's as though he wanted to do some sort of investigation of the relationship of the body to the self, the self to the other, and how this figures (literally) in the structure of our relationship (romantic?) with others. And this is the sort of novel one would write. It reminds me a bit of Winterson's Written in the Body in that way. I don't care about your fancy thought experiments. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy -- especially when you try to make THAT point (that there is something more, by portraying less) philosophically! Janet Frame's Scented Gardens for the Blind: another incoherent figure. Yeah, I know we all are, but surely... things can be more subtle? Getting bored is not good. By way of 'plot' I suppose I feel obliged to tell you guys it's about 'the body artist' and that the notion of body is important, especially in relation to the ideas of art and existence. I don't feel like writing about it per se though, because it all bores me. Wallace mentioned anhedonia in Infinite Jest and I think that's just it. This strikes me as too clever. I want to shake Delilio, to ask, what do you REALLY want to say, surely that can't be all, surely you can't be repeating, and DON'T give me bollocks about repetition and truth. There's a limit, alright. Repeating. Repeating goes on in here, structurally and literally in the text. That is to say, events in the text repeat, mirror one another, and then characters echo one another, and the whole text is ostensibly haunted. I say ostensibly, because honestly, you needn't fetishise your ghosts. Joyce didn't. Damnit, most good writers don't. What is missing, to me, in here, is that nebulous thing we call inspiration. Actually, more than that, because I love Beckett, and he wrote all about expiration, NOT inspiration. What is missing here is, if I can say it without sounding corny, the human element. Not radical nothingness. You cannot think nothing because thinking makes nothing something -- and no thing and nothing will come of nothing -- but here it's just wooden furniture in an office. I think his publisher was just saying, come out with something clever, and make sure you have 'evolved' your style, and that the reviewers would say something poetic about it.
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04/23/2011 page 33
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