Books: Shadows From Beyond

An unforgettable vision of the shattering effects of death in Don DeLillo's haunting novella The Body Artist

A man and a woman share breakfast in a house apparently near a seacoast. Their elliptical, groggy conversation rises and falls amid the accoutrements of a morning meal: toast, blueberries, coffee. A radio is playing; birds gather at a feeder outside the kitchen window. The man smokes a cigarette and then asks where the car keys are, since he plans to drive into town later that day.

This quiet, quotidian scene occupies roughly the first one-fifth of Don DeLillo's The Body Artist (Scribner; 128 pages; $22) and is followed abruptly by an obituary: Rey Robles, 64, a Spanish-born film director prominent...

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