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Book Review: 'The Uses Of The Body,' Deborah Landau


Instead of ignoring the strange things a woman's body does through motherhood and aging, Deborah Landau's new collection revels in them. It's called "The Uses Of The Body." Tess Taylor has our review.

TESS TAYLOR, BYLINE: For what it's worth, I started to read this book in a place where the body is always uncomfortable - an airport waiting room. I was exhausted. My flight was delayed. All I wanted was to be home. All I got, though, to be pleasantly diverted, transported by the wry, sad, snappy music of Deborah Landau's verses. To say this book moves quickly through the comedies of marriage and middle age and the surprise of a late pregnancy would be true, but it wouldn't do justice to the way that Landau makes these life landmarks seem truly unsettling. In fact, Landau lets strangeness leak in at every turn.

Oh skin what a cloth to live in. We are not at the end of things, she writes in a long poem called "The Wedding Party." Her arch observations create dark interior comedy that's reminiscent of Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath. Sometimes Landau gets really interior, examining organs growing older in their plush pockets, ticking toward the wearing out. But Landau's voice is also thoughtful, social, watchful, and she's always trying to make sense of this strange passage through the cloth of skin, the skein of time.

Get this book. You'll feel yourself savor what Landau calls the basic pleasures - tomatoes, keats, meeting a smart man for a drink. You'll also get reminded ruefully (reading) the uses of the body. It is only a small house. It gets older it.

Get this book. Picking it up, you might feel like one of Landau's speakers who says (reading) eh, Mr. Candlelight, I want to give you a good close reading. Come this way.

MARTIN: That's Tess Taylor. She reviewed the book "The Uses Of The Body" by poet Deborah Landau. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.