Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Body Artist, by Don Delillo (audio version)

The body artist is a woman who uses her body to create stories, images, different characters. She is a performance artist and her body is her medium.

In this story Lauren, the woman, the body artist, is facing the sudden death of her husband, a famous man. She is living in a rented house in a lonely location on the coast, trying to sort out her life and to continue working on her body. After she has been there a while she hears an odd noise and discovers a young man living in the house. While she is surprised she realizes quickly that the man is harmless, that he is "different" in a way she does not recognize. He does not respond to her questions normally; in fact he doesn't respond at all. He repeats things he has heard, most especially conversations Lauren had with her husband, word for word. And even in their voices.

Lauren tries to figure out when he heard these things, how long he has been in the house, who he is.

Gradually, over weeks, she becomes more accepting of the man, whom she names "Mr. Tuttle", and questions him less. She fixes food for him, washes him, has one-sided conversations with him. She explores her own mind and body through him, through watching and being super-aware of everything.

In fact, she is forever being aware. Aware of her feelings, her looks, her surroundings, what she says, what she sees. She is constantly observing and observing what she observes. And changing her perception, wondering for a bit if Mr. Tuttle is actually some new version of Ray, her husband. I began to wonder if Mr. Tuttle existed at all.

I honestly found it funny. As I listened to it I spontaneously laughed and said things like "OMG!" I couldn't really believe the near-stream-of-consciousness, the constant buzz of introspection. I found it funny and tiresome at the same time.

The reader, Laurie Anderson, probably did well in interpreting how this story should be told. She reads it softly, as if to herself, as if she is thinking it all. I found it unnerving, almost monotonous.

Through it all I tried to figure out what was really going on, what I should be getting from this. And I never did. I really hope others do.

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