Phi Fic #11 “The Body Artist” by Don DeLillo


Grief. Is it mourning loss or is it mourning change?

Our book this time is The Body Artist by Don Delillo, an absorbing look at Lauren, a performance artist, and her experience of overwhelming loss when her husband commits suicide. We reflect on her travels through the murky struggle, accompanied by a strange young man (“Mr. Tuttle,” whom she names after discovers him hiding in her rental home), which culminate in an elaborate performance piece.

Past, present, and future are not amenities of language. Time unfolds into the seams of being. It passes through you, making and shaping. But not if you are him. This is a man who remembers the future. Don’t touch it. I’ll clean it up later. —The Body Artist: A Novel

Join us as Daniel muses about the body and art; what Lauren notices and what she fabricates. Nathan discusses the meta-ghosts in the room that still haunt her, Laura wonders if Mr. Tuttle is a manifestation of grief, and Cezary touches on the idea of significance—a key concept in this book—and how order and duration of the moments are crucial in the book’s opening scene of Lauren and her husband at breakfast, their final moments together. And Mary reminds us, “[in life] we’re all just renters, with pretty damned short leases.”

For further reading: Point Omega, White Noise, and Zero K by Don DeLillo, also, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (a friend to DeLillo).

Thanks to Christopher Nolen for our music.

You can see a film adaptation of the novel, The Body Artist…

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… but, you ought to read the book.

If you have thoughts, recommendations, or questions that you want to send our way, please do via phificpodcast@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “Phi Fic #11 “The Body Artist” by Don DeLillo

    1. Thanks, and nope. I’ve tried a couple times to determine a good a jumping on point with him, though. Is that one? I think I have Generosity laying around here somewhere as well…

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  1. This episode popped into my head the other day while I was out cycling. In the distance there was a heavy shaded area where I could see a guy experiencing difficulty with his bike, seemed like he had a flat tire or mechanical issue with his bike so he was stationary. I felt compelled to help and assist the fellow cyclist in any way I could, even if it meant spending an extra spare tire tube I had. Once I got close enough it dawned upon me that my goodwill and charity would have been of little use to an inanimate road sign.

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