Saturday, September 09, 2006

Book 77: Love-Lies-Bleeding

Love-Lies-Bleeding is the third play written by novelist Don DeLillo. This drama has Alex, an old man who after several strokes is in a persistent vegetative state, being cared for by his current wife Lia, a previous wife Toinette and his son Sean. Except in flashbacks Alex is silent throughout the play, but the wives and the son discussing his life and arguing about him and themselves. This is a play about the end of a life and the decisions family has to make regarding it.

The blurb on the back cover of the book concludes with this description:

Luminous, spare, unnervingly comic and always deeply moving, Love-Lies Bleeding explores a number of perilous questions about the value of life and how we measure it.

This is a very fine description that gets to the heart of what this play is about, but the key word here is "spare". Spare writing is a trademark of Don DeLillo and he leaves a lot unsaid in the gaps between words. Another trademark of DeLillo's spare writing is this bit of dialogue: "The memory ends here. I draw a total blank. This is the subway. He's reading the sports pages." So many times in DeLillo's writing he will give the reader lines of dialogue which no person would say in life but the dialogue fits in the context of the story he is telling. In Love-Lies-Bleeding the characters are speaking, but they are saying less than usual. The format of a play does not allow DeLillo to truly focus his writing because all of the motion is from the words of the characters rather than description and described action and here DeLillo is less successful. There are questions about the value of life, but I am not sure Don DeLillo addresses those questions.

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