the body artist has drawn largely negative reviews even from Don DeLillo's fanatical readers, who dismiss it as a stop-gap between real novels. What unsettles people about it, though, isn't so much what the book is, but what it isn't.
At 128 pages, it's shorter than some of the introductions to DeLillo's past works. It's also, obviously, not your standard bit of DeLillo.
It's written in a woman's voice, a major departure for one of America's most masculine writers.
Underworld and White Noise were praised as generation-defining novels about the American experience, sweeping and epic in every possible way. The Body Artist takes place in a comparative sliver of time and is dominated by half-thoughts and unspoken conversations.
The elusive narrative revolves around Lauren Hartke, a "body artist" who can drastically alter her body in performance.
She lives in an isolated cabin with her husband, a celebrated Spanish filmmaker who, with no warning, goes off and kills himself.
When Hartke returns after the funeral and begins wandering through the cabin, she's met by a mysterious man/boy.
The intruder can't really speak, but when he does his voice is that of Hartke's dead husband, and he repeats entire fragments of the couple's past conversations.
It's a surreal, fractured story, full of hesitations and silences, and DeLillo only barely fleshes it out beyond the roughest sketch. Yet it's intriguing.
DeLillo is experimenting here, fishing for something new and hoping his readers will be willing to take a few risks, too.
At times it's clunky, impenetrable. But when someone like DeLillo pushes out, you'd be a fool to ignore him.
THE BODY ARTIST by Don DeLillo
(Scribner), 128 pages, $32.50 cloth.