Friday, March 09, 2007

The Body Artist by Don DeLillo

A strange and floaty little novel (novella, really) about a woman who retreats to a remote house after the death of her famous husband only to find a strange and floaty man living there. DeLillo is capable of such variety in his novels that I never know if I will worship a book (Mao II, White Noise) or be mildly interested (Underworld, Libra). This one is somewhere in between but has prompted the epiphany that DeLillo writes women characters remarkably well. I don't buy into the idea that it's impossible for men to write women effectively and vice versa. I think occasionally writers of opposite genders ignore some physical realities of what it is to be a woman (or man) and therefore make mistakes. But I don't believe women think/act/talk a certain way and so I don't think women characters do either. What DeLillo does so well though is create specific women, who think/act/speak in ways that are complex and interesting and individual-- and who are as important to his story as the men are. Writing the opposite gender badly is most often a self-fulfilling prophecy simply because male (or female) writers don't pay enough attention to the women (or men) they create.

I want to be Don DeLillo when I grow up. But still me. Watch for it.

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