Read The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt Online


With The Blazing World, internationally bestselling author Siri Hustvedt returns to the New York art world in her most masterful and urgent novel since What I Loved. Hustvedt tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art bWith The Blazing World, internationally best­selling author Siri Hustvedt returns to the New York art world in her most masterful and urgent novel since What I Loved. Hustvedt tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity. The three solo shows are successful, but when Burden finally steps forward triumphantly to reveal herself as the artist behind the exhibitions, there are critics who doubt her. The public scandal turns on the final exhibition, initially shown as the work of acclaimed artist Rune, who denies Burden’s role in its creation. What no one doubts, however, is that the two artists were intensely involved with each other. As Burden’s journals reveal, she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous game that ended with the man’s bizarre death.Ingeniously presented as a collection of texts compiled after Burden’s death, The Blazing World unfolds from multiple perspectives. The exuberant Burden speaks—in all her joy and fury—through extracts from her own notebooks, while critics, fans, family members, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of who she was, and where the truth lies.From one of the most ambitious and interna­tionally renowned writers of her generation, The Blazing World is a polyphonic tour de force. An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle, it explores the deceptive powers of prejudice, money, fame, and desire....

Title : The Blazing World
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ISBN : 9781444779660
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Blazing World Reviews

  • Elyse
    2018-12-20 07:59

    We learn a lot at the start of "The Blazing World". Harriet Burden, also known as Harry, by old friends and a select new friends, is 62 years old. Her husband Felix has been dead for about a year. Felix was a giant dealer to the stars in the art world.... Harriet, had been an artist wife. When they married - she was twenty-six. Felix was forty-eight. "It was love""And orgasms, many of them, and soft damp sheets""It was a haircut, very short""It was marriage. My first. His second". "It was talk --paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations. And colors, a lot about colors. They stained us both, filled our insides. It was reading books aloud to each other and talking about them". "It was babies I loved looking at, the little lords, sensuous delights of pudgy flesh and fluids. For at least three years I was awash in milk and poop and piss and spit-up and sweat and tears. It was paradise. It was exhausting. It was boring. It was sweet, exciting, and sometimes, curiously, very lonely". Maisie and Ethan were her children. Nannies were hired so Harriet could work. She built tiny crooked houses with lots of writing on the walls. Both her parents died. She missed all three: Felix, and her parents. She was an only child - a WASP and Jew. Her old friend - Rachel.... Dr. Rachel Briefman, pschoanalysis, referred Harriet to a psychiatrist – psychoanalysis after Felix died as she went into depression. She wept and talked and wept some more".In time, her therapist said:"There's still time to change things, Harriet. Don't let anyone say there aren't magic words"And the story takes off.......AND ITS SOOOOOO GOOD!!! The parts I LOVED were intimate and personal! There are challenges - but it's soooo worth it. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! I LIKED HARRIET!!!I wasn't familiar with the name of many artists mentioned - but there were footnotes. Having the physical book was much more helpful to me than the kindle. ( I could take my time- look up information I wanted- go back and re-read sections easier). Some 'names' -- I just let go-- as it wasn't a drive- for me- in the context of the larger story - I wasn't interested 'enough' to study each artist....( it would have taken too much time). It's the OVERALL STORY I LOVED!!!!Harriet, ( I don't know if I could call her Harry... if she'd consider me a privileged friend... but I hope so...I love this woman). 'Harry' is not 'harsh' at all....yet she is a feminist. She is also sensitive - she really misses her husband. She knew he had affairs. It hurt her, but she never felt she would lose him and in their later years - he fully came back to her--there was nobody else. She misses her mother ( from before she was sick). I didn't get the feeling that she minded "being-in-the-shadow" of her husband when he was alive....or that she hated domestic life. I don't think she thought that way of herself ever. She was happy - in love with her family: always in love with life - even when sad. Harriet was versed in history, philosophy, science, art, and literature - she was an educated bright talented woman!! She was eccentric... and kinda one of those bigger-than-life-fabulous females whom I would have loved to have enjoyed being friends with. If I were in 'her' shadows it would be alright with me. She even reminds me - a little - of a great female I know ....( which added to my personal reading pleasure). After Felix died...she couldn't live her life through her adult children- and she was 'aware' of the reality of the times -'not' having a penis as an artist was at a dis-advantage. I, myself have read enough novels about artists in just the last few years... and have learned ..."FEMALE ARTISTS ALL OVER THE WORLD WERE NEVER AS RESPECTED AS MEN". So, of course, why 'would' Harriet have felt any different- that she would have been 'so special' to ease into the art world as a female. At the same time---with the grief ( loss), of her husband and parents....she also felt as if her life was collapsing on her. Dead and imaginary people played a bigger role in her life then the living did. In 'that' space, of loss, I think it's extraordinary that Harriet did what she did towards the end I'd her life. Harry kept climbing mountains. It wasn't perfect- but inspiring. Her creative juices kicked in her later years. She did it the way she did it- period! Harry's daughter Maisie ( married a therapist who worked with foster kids and they had children of their own), worried about her mother. Maisie was a wonderful daughter - wife and mother herself. Harriet's son, Ethan felt a little angry watching his mother change...taking on a new life. He felt it she was vaguely indecent and was a betrayal to his father's memory. Her friend Rachel Briefman shared what Harriet was like as a child towards the start of the book - ( always always drawing ). Rachel land Harry were best friends growing up-- both had dreams. Rachael wanted to wear a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck, and Harriet saw herself as a great artist or poet, or intellectual-- or all three. "They were intimates as girls can be, unhampered by masculine posing that plagues boys. They were a team of two girls against a hostile world of adolescent hierarchies". We know early into this book, that Harriet has died. Volumes of notebooks written by Harriet are compiled into a book called "The Blazing World"...edited by a professor named Hess. There are interviews with various people about her projects. Through these notebooks - truths get revealed....most of her work was exhibited around New York City. Excerpts of Harriet's journals, reprints of magazine articles, and best of all were statements ( feelings really) from the the people who 'knew' what Harriet was doing all along. Harriet's project as a whole was "Maskings". It was meant not only to expose the anti-female biased at the art world, but to uncover the complex workings of human perception and how unconscious ideas about gender, race, and celebrity influence a viewers understanding of given work of art. The question which could be asked....did, by Harriet using a pseudonym - -change the character of the art she made? Three projects: three different men...each completely different...The men agreed to show the work as if it were there's. The idea in itself fascinated me-I mean, I wondered what good did it do to give credit to somebody who doesn't deserve it... and why? Harry seemed to think there 'was' a reason. Harry actually saw it as a fable -- and magic needed to unfold slowly and eventually be turned into a fable that could be retold in the name of a higher purpose. It was at this point in the book when 'I' shifted ... I looked deeper to see this project from Harriet's point of view. She was into enlightenment before 'it was cool'. [ full moon, new moon, psychic, Tantric sexual practices, fasting, chakras, candle lighting, healing, wholeness and unity]. I laughed a little to myself -- on one end, Harriet was into discovering 'the truth'...( zen Buddhism?) ... And on the other hand her project was a disguise. So, for me... that's where the 'fable' comes in to play. I suppose there are MANY WAYS to read this book - each reader brings their own experience, and their own educational background, or lack there of in my case. Like the book "The Martian", by Any Weir... which this book has nothing in common....there were parts ( science and math details) , that some readers glossed over and 'still' thoroughly enjoyed the book. There ARE challenges in "The Blazing World", but WONDERFUL intimate storytelling also. Did I comprehend every detail? Of course not....but I feel I got to know the characters -and the story as a whole. I was crying at the end - real tears....I didn't want to let Harriet go. I wanted her to see all that she was and 'had' accomplished.I started thinking of other artists in my lifetime, who died before their work became famous. One of the first names that comes to mind is Jonathan Larson, Composer and playwright -- famous for the Broadway play, "RENT". Even Steig Larsson, the Swedish author who died young before he saw the huge hit his books "The Dragon Girl" series became around the world. There are so many more.Good men die young! This was one of the most absorbing books I've read!!! 5 strong stars from me! I don't think I'll stop thinking about several characters for a long time....and Harriet pulled my heartstrings!!

  • Samadrita
    2018-12-21 01:17

    The problem with this book is that none of it rings true - the characterization, the narration, the atmosphere, the dialogues, the relationships, even the emotions. Everything seems so fake and overwhelmingly dramatic that at times I cajoled myself into reading on in the hopes of spotting some noticeable evidence of parody at work. But nope. Sardonic self-deprecation isn't the objective here. These people are all serious and want me to take them seriously. Although once I persuaded myself to go with the flow and obsequiously accepted the narrative's palpable delusions of grandeur and omnipotence, the reading experience became a lot more bearable. Because sometimes even if a book manages to irritate me with its undisguised self-admiration, I can gleefully read on if it contains an intelligent discussion on the human condition. And the good thing is 'The Blazing World' is blazing with new ideas, bursting at the seams with complex concepts on neuroscience, memory, phenomenology, perception and gendered identities which require careful, prolonged contemplation. Additionally, Siri Hustvedt can rustle up a wonderful turn of phrase and a syntactically elegant, lexically succulent sentence. So the negatives and positives are fairly balanced. Much like its protagonist Harriet Burden's creations, The Suffocation Rooms or Beneath, the book is like an elaborate contraption, a labyrinth of contrasting worldviews and allusions to arcane texts designed to aid the reader in comprehending the mess that lies outside clearly demarcated boundaries defining human existence. Friends, family, therapists, gallery owners, art reviewers, journalists, expose layer after layer of prejudice, personal contempt, vague conjectures, hollow biases while projecting their own image of Harriet Burden as an artist who had to use male pseudonyms to get attention in the art world. In posterity, Harriet is only reconstructed as a montage of other people's opinions and her journal entries, as a widely learned woman whose talent is overlooked by her rich, influential art collector husband and the male-dominated art world in general. Desperate for recognition, she decides to pull off an intricate con on the artworld by showcasing her work using three male artists as her 'masks'. But her plans derail when her last front aka Rune Larsen, an eccentric, manipulative artist, refuses to play along and takes credit for her work.All intellectual and artistic endeavors, even jokes, ironies, and parodies, fare better in the mind of the crowd when the crowd knows that somewhere behind the great work or great spoof it can locate a cock and a pair of balls (odorless, of course). The pecker and beanbags need not be real. Oh no, the mere idea that they exist will suffice to goad the crowd into greater appreciation.Women artists are less appreciated than their male counterparts, viewed with prejudice, treated with contempt, rarely allowed entrance into the hallowed halls of fame.... yada get the picture. Except something about the way Hustvedt delivers this feminist-y rant left me a little cold. I blame the highly unconvincing multiple perspectives and Hustvedt's general disregard for the 'show don't tell' device. This is where I prefer Margaret Atwood's deconstruction of the mind of a female painter/artist (Cat's Eye) because Atwood knows how to fashion a blistering denunciation of male chauvinism without being overt about it and she can recount a believable story like nobody's business. Hustvedt, on the other hand, seems rather intent on creating opportunities within a text to insert esoteric references and paragraph length footnotes which scarcely add anything to the world which our characters inhabit. Long story short, I want to remember this as an intellectual exercize, or as a corpus of interesting ideas.

  • Jennifer
    2018-12-24 09:23

    Pedantic. Dense. Alienating. For some reason this book brings this kind of food to mind:I can respect the studied, sophisticated, artistic intelligence it takes to create something like this, but its pretentiousness smothered the experience for me. I found myself stopping too often to wonder: "What exactly IS this?" and, "Why should I care?" the same way I would if a waiter presented me with a dish of meat flavored foam. This is surprising because Hustvedt's writing is always an overly satisfying experience brimming with REAL meaty deliciousness. Every time I encountered another page with fictional, overly constructed and mind-numbingly boring footnotes in minuscule type I thought:All of this would be fine and good (Who doesn't enjoy meat infused foam on a watermelon cube once in a while?), but I just did not like many of these characters - especially Harriet/Harry. Harriet basically blames her husband's fame for her diminished success as an artist. Then wildly popular husband falls dead face first in his breakfast eggs...yikes. So, obviously, I couldn't stop wondering if this was some deeply personal and not so veiled rant about the difficulties of creating alongside real husband and acclaimed writer, Paul Auster. Some, well, food for thought for Hustvedt: We're not all PhD's in "neuropsychoanalysis, neuroethics, and neurophysiology," (as she describes herself on the back flap) so you might want to take it down a few conceptual notches. On that note, I'll leave you with this little guy:

  • Stephen P
    2018-12-20 05:08

    I finished this book at 3:30 A.M. Pacific Coast Time and did not feel the beginnings of mourning fade till 5:30 this afternoon. I do not mean the missing of the book due to its finale. That was overwhelmed, I was overwhelmed, by the loss of someone I knew and someone I cared about a great deal.Flayed open by the surgical skills of Siri Hustvedt, Harriet (Harry) Burden, lived the proof of human vulnerability, fear, valor, the spit and guts to reach for identity, meaning, in her life. I lived within her thought and her feelings, her struggles in an indifferent world page after page. Upon closing the book she was torn from me. Astonished, since I was, am, no longer reading she is not a part of my life. Already, she faced my embattled, embittered, resistance for her, like the dead, to begin the endless fade into the permutations of memory.How did Hustvedt do this? There was no slight of hand. Even the artifice of this being a psuedo-biography slipped away by the second page under the power of the writing. Though it may seem effortless to the naked eye this profoundly intelligent writer works hard at her craft. Lyrical, layered with the intricacies of meaning, the artist Harriet Burden is revealed through her own notes, writings and interviews with family members, friends, collectors, gallery owners, critics, giving us layered insights and perspectives, vantage points from different angles, which propel the narrative forward. We see her in increments building.Seeing, perception, is one major theme, how we see ourselves, others see us, how objects are perceived, which burns for her like an obsession to light fires. The daughter of an intimidating emotionally absent Philosophy Professor father, she is now known in her world of the New York City art world, as the wife of an equally unavailable, wealthy art collector. Her own work of dissonant bodies emerging and emerged into life goes unnoticed, unseen. Harry needs to be seen. As a woman she is not seen. Her father did not want her, did not see her. She creates a plan. Over time there will be three shows of her work. Each will be presented as done by a male artist. The first is an unknown, followed by a little known black, gay, street performer, and the last chosen is a troubled but known installation artist. No one knows the work is hers but her male Psychiatrist who she has been seeing in a productive therapeutic relationship. She is unseen. Now she no longer has to provide the gratuitous smiles and handshakes while keenly observing the fictitious ritualistic false proprieties of the art scene. Early on it is clear to her voracious mind keening for knowledge and understanding that the words of critics, who have no true experience with art, will create the perception of how that piece is viewed and seen. It will be mirrored back to those in the art world by those in the know. The price-value will rise and they will buy, they will OWN. That piece will no longer be known as the artist's work emanating from somewhere within her body but the piece owned by so and so, the piece explained by the critic in the informative art magazine which must be referenced at all gatherings so as to truly be seen, swallowed by its assigned genre, influences, and its value set in dollars not in some modal of aesthetic accomplishment.Her critics will respond to the work of a male artist. Her vengeance will be to wait then spring upon, throw in the critics, publics, faces that all those masculine elements seen in the works, the praises of strength, were created by her a woman. These works would have met the fate of her others if she was known as the artist. The reactions, words of the critics, if any, would find themselves diluted or absent. Now the ACTUAL perception of the pieces installed would follow. When time she and the chosen male artists would uncover the hypocrisy. Harry Burden would and could be seen. But it is something more complicated and involved. In the brilliance of a Hustvedt novel it is expected to be. This act of vengeance, uncovering, being seen, will also hold up to those milling through dinner parties, grand openings, in the tight-lipped smugness of the aggrandizement of their status, the fragility of perception. What is it they-we are looking at, who is doing the looking, does anyone care or want to know the illusory crumble of life stepped through in pantomime.Harriet Burden wants to, has to know. Where is the meaning? Do we see according to what we are told, by our experiences, culture, parents, education, pressure of peers, or are we born with a particular sensitivity, perspective, that we can only begin to reach if we have the hunger and persistence to face all within us - accepting the good, the bad, the strange and unknown of ourselves so the next moment we breathe as a whole person, undivided. The alternative rests with what has been infused into us as extra layers of coverings, as carry-on luggage, that are recognized by others as our acceptable -selves within the survival of life as to be an acceptable- self.The Blazing World is an outcry. It is heightened by its particularity to Harriet (Harry) Burden's life and struggles while within the realm of the finest of writing addresses the universal of current and future generations reach to seek, find, establish meaning, in a world of pressurized indifference.

  • Jill
    2018-12-23 08:56

    Just before I was ready to write this review, I happened across an interesting statistic: at this year’s Whitney biennial, only 32 percent of the represented artists were women (down from four years ago when for the first time ever, over half of featured artists were women.)Siri Hustvedt’s latest book, The Blazing World, is spot-on when its main character, Harriet Burden, muses, ”I suspected that if I had come in another place, my work might have been embraced or, at least approached with greater seriousness.”The concept – an outstanding female artist concealing her gender behind three successive male beards—is solid and Ms. Hustvedt is certainly a very masterful writer. So what went wrong for me?Just this: my personal bias is that I should not be steeped in knowledge of western philosophy and sometimes obscure contemporary art to be able to immerse myself in a book. When one character says that Harriet has “taken the Kierkegaardian position”, I shouldn’t need to scratch my head. When philosopher Arthur Danno, Vasari, Diderot, and others are mentioned in one paragraph, I should have at least a simple roadmap about what it all means. And when fictional footnotes are added, I shouldn’t believe that it is the author displaying her eruditeness.I am not unintelligent; I hold a Master’s degree from an excellent university. Yet I felt adrift. My belief is that in the very best books, words are precisely used to clarify the human condition and create a connection with the reader rather than distance that reader. From time to time, there was an intellectual connection to this novel, but not a visceral one. Certainly there was little warmth.The structure – beginning with a preface from the editor of a narrative about Burden and punctuated with various voices and statements – is imaginative yet alienating. The reading pleasures of dialogue and character interaction is withheld. The Blazing World reminds me of a sometimes lovely but often inaccessible piece of contemporary art: one can admire the work and understand its craftsmanship but without that all-important connection, one doesn’t have that compulsion for it to hang in one’s living room. Readers I respect have already given this book many accolades, and I freely acknowledge that reading is subjective and this may simply not be the right book for me.

  • Peter Boyle
    2019-01-06 05:18

    "I wanted to bite the world bloody, but I have bitten myself, made my own poor tragedy of things."I am dazzled by the intelligence of this book. It is bursting with ideas and so intricately constructed that I couldn't help but be impressed. But as to how much I actually *enjoyed* reading it, I am not so sure.Set in New York, it tells the story of Harriet 'Harry' Burden, an obscure artist and a woman of formidable intellect. She has lived her life in shadow of her husband, a wealthy and influential art collector. But upon his untimely death she feels emancipated, her brain "fat with ideas." Her previous creations never received the acclaim they deserved, so she decides to try a different approach. Enlisting the help of three male artists, she uses them as masks to exhibit her work under their names, preserving her anonymity. The plan succeeds. Praise is lavished on these spectacular exhibitions and the men become huge celebrities. But it all comes at an enormous cost to Harry. When she finally reveals her involvement, few are willing to believe her claims. And when one of the artists betrays her, events take a tragic turn. This account is an investigation into what really happened behind the scenes of Harry's audacious experiment.The story is ingeniously presented as a compilation of extracts from Harry's journals, critic's reviews and interviews with her family and friends. The multiple perspectives are all convincingly imagined and feel completely authentic - it is quite an achievement to keep so many plates spinning while moving a compelling narrative along. Thematically, it shines a light on gender bias in a patriarchal art world, the lonely struggle for recognition and the importance of identity. However I never quite connected with the novel emotionally and I found the numerous footnotes and philosophical references a bit pretentious at times. Though this brainy book left me a little cold, it is still a remarkable feat of storytelling from an exceptionally talented writer.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2018-12-22 01:55

    (4.5) Through a collection of fragmentary sources, the novel builds a posthumous picture of Harriet (aka Harry) Burden, a larger-than-life feminist and modern artist who released her work under male pseudonyms. An engrossing puzzle as well as a bold commentary on gender identity and the divided self, both stylistically risky and fiercely intelligent. Hustvedt completed her doctoral studies on Charles Dickens, and in some ways her sprawling narrative, with its large cast of characters, resembles a Dickens novel for the postmodern age, with the quest for the fractured identity taking the place of the standard Victorian hero’s journey.This was my first encounter with Hustvedt; I am so impressed that I would eagerly read anything else she’s written, fiction or nonfiction. Meanwhile, I highly recommend The Blazing World. Take Harriet’s own advice: “Peel the onion of personas, from one to the next, moving further and further into the book.” You’ll find her intriguing story entirely worth the mental effort.(See my full review at The Bookbag.)

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-01-15 06:04

    Onvan : The Blazing World - Nevisande : Siri Hustvedt - ISBN : 1476747237 - ISBN13 : 9781476747231 - Dar 368 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2014

  • Teresa
    2019-01-17 04:11

    4.5 starsIn the May/June issue of Poets & Writers Claire Messud said of her novel The Woman Upstairs and its narrator: "As a reader, I have a favorite canon of ranters that runs from Dostoevsky to Thomas Bernhard to the Philip Roth of Sabbath's Theater ... I love a ranter ... And the girls have not been ranting." Well, Hustvedt's Harriet, aka Harry, is, like Messud's Nora, a ranter and for similar reasons that boil down -- and Harry does boil -- to her wanting to be heard. She is an exuberant, energetic 'older' woman, "blazing" with ideas, who desperately wants full engagement with others and struggles with the idea that she was complicit with those, especially her now-deceased beloved father and husband, who sought to keep her in her place.This novel is more complex than the Messud and only one reason for that is that it's not told from just one viewpoint. Though I don't think the overall conceit of these various writings and interviews by different voices is convincing as the "book" edited by Professor I.V. Hess that it purports to be, the different voices are absolutely convincing.Gender-swapping via cross-dressing, and the freedom it may provide, has been a theme of Hustvedt's since her first novel, The Blindfold and I couldn't help wondering if Prof. I.V. Hess is also its main character, Iris Vegan (note the anagram of Iris and Siri; Vegan is Hustvedt's mother's maiden name). Fittingly, we don't know the gender of Hess, or much about her/him at all except that she/he seems sympathetic to Harriet, the subject of her/his book. One of Hustvedt's main themes throughout her body of work is the idea of perception and that along with The Blindfold's putting on a man's clothes to change personality are taken further here. Harry uses the 'masks' of three young men (they use her too) not just to front her art but to influence it, though I didn't find the latter idea presented as well as the former was. The dangerous mask-play between the third young man and Harriet, done privately though filmed, further complicates the roles of gender and power.The ending, which brought tears to my eyes, reminded me of the end of my last read, The Song of the Lark, in that the writers surprisingly veer away from the artist's viewpoint to another character's, who in this novel has an intuitive -- literally -- understanding of Harriet's art, a touching and telling counterpoint to all the philosophy that's go on before.*After writing this review, I googled "I.V. Hess" and found this in an interview with Hustvedt:Jill: I have to interject — I feel like there has to be an anagram or something in the name I. V. Hess that I'm not figuring out. It might be totally obvious.Hustvedt: No, it's not obvious at all. It's very oblique. But I'll tell you, since you asked. The heroine of my first novel is Iris Vegan. I used those two letters for the initials and all the other letters, H-E-S-S, appear in my last name.It's a little bit of a Kierkegaardian trick. Kierkegaard had Eremita as his editor for the book that, of course, he wrote, but inside the book, there are A and B. Kierkegaard is referred to throughout The Blazing World. I thought, these are not stolen strategies but strategies that are a kind of homage.

  • Ellie
    2019-01-18 05:04

    The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt is a difficult and complex book that in another sense is almost too simple: the rejection of women’s work by the art world, the misogyny there. But around this core swirl many ideas and philosophies. As Hustvedt writes, “Interpretation is always multiple” and there is a multiplicity of ideas being played with here. Harriet Burden, the artist in case who is being ignored by the art world, is a “blazing” woman, with “blazing worlds” inside her. And her favorite author, Margaret Cavendish, a 17th century philosopher and scientist, whose work was dismissed in her own time, burned the originals of her works after they were published, making “a Blazing flame.” Margaret Cavendish wrote a book called The Blazing World and Other Writings and Hustvedt's work plays off that work, responds to it as Harriet Burden is obsessed with its writer, Margaret Cavendish. Just as Harriet calls the commentaries and responses to her (disguised) work “proliferations,” Hustvedt’s work is full of proliferations that slow down the forward movement of the novel while also giving it both depth and luster. (One of the proliferations is the commentary written by an “obscure” writer, one Siri Hustvedt.)The book is full of motifs of masks and disguises. Burden creates art that she exhibits under the guise of being created by men she has chosen for her partner, masking her work with a male persona that allows it (but not her) to be accepted, even celebrated, by the art world. She creates a work called “Maskings.” Her last partner, however, is a man who is a master of disguises himself, unknowable by others, including his family and many lover who refuses to remove his identity from Burden’s work, attempting to defeat her final revelation of her “blazing worlds.”Hustvedt writes of feeling suppressed, “what we fear but cannot say.” And in the midst of a book full of saying, filled with, to quote again, “the dense language I know so well,” there is a great deal about this book and Burden that seems unknowable or that wraps itself in the mystique of being unknowable.This is where I can’t quite decide if the book is so layered and erudite I would have to study it and reread it many times to begin to grasp it or if the many allusions to philosophical works, computer theory, art, and so on, mask a simple story of a woman held back both by her own neuroses and an unreceptive society. This book may be, in fact, that simple although decorated with dense thought and language.Either way, I greatly enjoyed this work and would like to reread it to understand both its seriousness and its play. There are phrases that haunt me (“I am Odysseus, but I have been Penelope,” being one) and that seem to lure me into deeper waters. This book challenged me and deeply engaged me. By the end, I was so distressed I couldn’t swallow. I was fascinated by Harriet Burden-a character I found difficult, irritating, and yet also unable to look away from and drawn to. I find I cannot stop thinking about the book and its characters so I will give it, despite some ambivalence, 5 stars. It is a book worth the time and energy it demands.

  • Mona
    2019-01-08 02:14

    Wonderful Novel about a Larger than Life Woman Artist who Becomes Famous after DeathThis was one of my favorite books that I read in 2015.I was going to give it four stars, but the ending elevated it to five stars.It's certainly a feminist novel, but not a feminist comic book. The book, like its title, is blazing with life. The characters and the story are bursting with vitality (and irony and tongue-in-cheek humor as well).Harriet "Harry" Burden is a larger than life artist. Her body is large and curvy and she tends towards fat as she ages; she is tall, and her art is larger than life too. She's half Jewish. Her hair is a wild mass of curls. She is a brilliant woman, a polymath with an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy, literature, neuroscience, art history, and many other subjects.However, in spite of her brilliance and originality as an artist, she's been ignored by the art world. She exhibited her art in NY City in the 1970s and 1980s, and after a disappointing reception, she withdrew from the art world completely. And even though her husband, Felix Lord, was a wealthy and prominent art dealer, he never championed Harriet's art.Here's another postmodern novel with lots of meta. The posthumous book about Harriet's life was supposedly edited by a Professor I.V. Hess (it's not quite clear what the Professor teaches--philosophy, perhaps? and the professor seems to be male, although that's not established beyond a shadow of a doubt). In any case, "Hess" puts together a compendium of Harriet's voluminous notebooks (each identified by a letter), interviews with various people involved in her life, and reviews of her work. Hess calls the book The Blazing World after the science fiction novel The Blazing World and Other Writings by pioneering seventeenth century English writer, Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle. Harriet, as she details in some of her notebooks, identified strongly with Cavendish, who felt extremely limited by being female. Also, as Hess points out, referring to Harriet's notebooks 'her writing (like Cavendish's) is colored by extravagance and grandiosity: "I am a Riot. An Opera. A Menace", she writes in an entry that directly discusses her spiritual kinship to Cavendish.'We also learn that the title The Blazing World might also be a sly wink at science fiction writer JG Ballard (whom Harry quotes in her notebooks). Ballard wrote a book called The Burning World. So, we learn Harriet's story through her notebooks and various interviews with people who knew her. Most of this story takes place in and around New York City, in Manhattan and Brooklyn.When Harry's husband, Felix Lord, art dealer extraordinaire, half Thai, dies of a stroke in 1995, Harry has a mental breakdown. But she also inherits Felix's considerable wealth and is rich enough to buy "The Lodge", her home in Red Hook, and to have plenty of money for the rest of her life. Harriet turns The Lodge into a crash pad/work space for (at first) assorted drifters, but later (with the help of Phineas--see below) a work and living space for aspiring artists. In late middle age, Harry realizes, that, having played the silent, invisible, dinner hostess wife to Felix for years, she has denied her own considerable gifts as an artist and submerged her forceful personality. Her psychoanalysis with "Dr. F." helps her come to these realizations.In the late 90's Harriet started a project that lasted for five years.Hess says, "Three solo shows in three New York galleries, attributed to Anton Tish (1998), Phineas Q. Eldridge (2002), and the artist known only as Rune (2003), had actually been made by Burden. She titled the project as a whole Maskings, and declared that it was meant not only to expose the antifemale bias of the art world, but to uncover the complex workings of human perception and how unconscious ideas about gender, race, and celebrity influence a viewer's understanding of a given work of art. (Harry, although definitely a heterosexual female, as her joyful couplings with her lover, Bruno, show, has a gender-bending side to her, as her nickname "Harry" and her ruminations about dressing in male drag, show). But Richard Brickman (one of Burden's fake names under which she wrote articles discussing her own art) "went further. He argued that Burden insisted that the pseudonym she adopted changed the character of the art she made. In other words, the man she used as a mask played a role in the kind of art she produced: "Each artist mask become for Burden a 'poetized personality, a visual elaboration of a 'hermaphroditic self', which cannot be said to belong to either her or to the mask, but to a 'mingled reality created between them.' " "So, at the same time The Blazing World makes fun of the pretentions of the art world, of academics, and of art critics (the hilariously pompous Oswald Case who insists that Burden couldn't have possibly created the art works attributed to Rune, is a "case" in point), it also raises serious questions about the nature of art, gender, and related issues.It's quite interesting to see how "Maskings" plays out. The first artist, Anton Tish, a young, white, straight man fresh out of art school and a total unknown is a bit of a failure from Burden's point of view. It's true that the work attributed to him, "The History of Western Art", garners much more attention than it would have had it been exhibited under Burden's name. But Anton himself is a disappointment. (view spoiler)[In a fit of pique, he blames Burden for spoiling his 'purity' and he disappears from the art world. Perhaps he was just a very young and confused guy. (hide spoiler)]Her second collaboration was more successful and more of a true collaboration. Perhaps this is because there was a true connection between Harriet and her second "mask" as they were kindred spirits. Phineas Q. Eldridge (born John Whittier) is not famous, but is moderately known in the NY art world. Phinny is a performance artist. He's half white and half black (mom was black) and he's gay. He performs in "half drag," "half man, half woman, half white, half black, cut straight down the middle, and the two parts of him have conversations onstage."Burden's second mask work, "The Suffocation Rooms" is mostly hers, but Phineas collaborates and adds plenty of his own ideas and touches. However, in part because the opening was shortly after 9/11, this series of progressively hotter rooms with larger and larger furnishings, until by the last room, the viewer feels like a toddler, this showing got far less attention than the other two.Phineas was the only "mask" that stuck by Harry until the end, calmly admitting that the work was Harry's (when the time was right) and defending her as well. He remains a true and loyal friend, even after he's moved out of "The Lodge" to shack up with his lover, Marco. The last "Masking" was the most problematic. Rune was a famous artist, more because of his looks and charisma than his art work. He dresses like a downtown cowboy bad boy in black.(view spoiler)[He turns out to be a cruel and sadistic psychopath, who may have committed multiple murders---including the killing of his own father. He wrongly claims Burden's work, "Beneath" as his own and refuses to unmask the work as Burden's. He may also have stolen several of Harriet's art works from "The Lodge", Harry's large studio and home in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He cruelly hints that he probably had an affair with Harry's deceased husband, Felix Lord. Finally, his last art project was very likely a planned suicide, enacted on film--as was much of Rune's life. We learn more about Rune from an interview with his sister, Kirsten Larsen Smith. Meanwhile, Harry reluctantly realizes that both Felix and her father were bisexual and having affairs with various men--artists in Felix's case, students in her father's.(hide spoiler)]Harriet, though difficult at times, has many people in her life who love her, including her wonderful boyfriend, Bruno Kleinfeld, failed poet, flamboyant and attentive lover, who adores Harry; her daughter, Maisie, a documentary film maker; Phinny; "The Barometer", a crazy guy who lives in The Lodge and can feel the changes in the atmosphere; her distant and problematic son, Ethan, a writer; and Sweet Autumn Pinkney, a small albino woman who is a New Age mystic and energy healer/psychic. (Sweet Autumn's a humorous character, almost a self-parody. Harry calls her "Clem"--short for Clematis. But...she grows on us, and on the others. Everyone mocks her at first. But her sincerity and love come through, in spite of her comical New Age mumbo-jumbo). Also, there are Rachel Breakman, her oldest friend from childhod, now a psychiatrist; and Harry's own shrink, the mysterious "Dr. F." The depictions of these colorful and varied characters (mostly through Hess's interviews of them), is a lot of the fun.The book was terrific, but I especially loved the ending, which elevates the book to greatness. (view spoiler)[Harry gets cancer and dies slowly and painfully. However, she is surrounded by many of the loved ones mentioned above. Phinny comes all the way from Argentina to visit her. At and after her death, assisted by Sweet Autumn's chakra cleanings, she is transfigured and so is her art. The greatness that was denied her in life becomes very clear after her death. Sweet Autumn is the first to see this, but it trickles down to the others. Her spiritual purity shines through. As Sweet Autumn mentions, many a Spiritual Master was an artist. (hide spoiler)]It's hard to believe that there are only two audio narrators, Patricia Rodriguez and Eric Meyers. I thought there was a full cast. The narrators are terrific at voicing the different characters. (There is a spot in the beginning where I didn't quite buy Rodriguez as Professor Hess, but that's about the only place where the audio falls down). As I listened to the audio, I also read along in the Kindle and ebook versions.This is of my favorite books in quite a while. Siri Hustvedt, like Harry Burden, deserves to be more wildly known. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2018-12-29 04:06

    I had to think about this book for a while before writing a review. The trouble I'm having is with the main character, Harriet (Harry) Burden. The basic story is that this aging female artist claims to have used three male artists with various types to prove to the art world that they respond differently to women. The story is told posthumously, through written and transcribed interviews with people in Harry's life, art reviews, journal articles (sometimes written by Harry herself in other names), and Harry's journals. This style of storytelling kept making me think of the movie Stories We Tell, which if you haven't seen, you should.My problem is this: how much of Harry's story is true? Could she have been crazy/smart enough to make her journals match a fabrication? How much planning did she do vs. how much art did she make? As a woman I want to believe in the noble sacrifice of the female artist but she is intentionally unlikeable and her art as described is questionably palatable. I enjoyed reading this book because I liked not knowing what I was supposed to think. The author doesn't really make judgments on her own characters in that way, and everyone has flaws and everyone lies. It's up to the reader.I also liked reading this because it highlighted all I don't know about art and philosophy and Kierkegaard. Except for the tiny details of the most central of characters, every reference in this novel is something that exists outside of it. While I didn't know Kierkegaard, I loved how Harry also brings in science fiction authors as philosophers and grants their ideas the same weight in the thought process she took into her art. Vernor Vinge vs. Kierkegaard. As far as the Man Booker Prize goes, this author could easily be one of the reasons they chose to extend the award to Americans for the first time. I'd keep this novel on the shortlist.A few bits I liked:"Life is walking tiptoe over land mines. We never know what's coming and, if you want my opinion, we don't have a good grip on what's behind us either. But we sure as hell can spin a good story about it and break our brains trying to get it right." "This amnesia is our phenomenology of the everyday - we don't see ourselves - and what we see becomes us while we're looking at it.""...Niceness is not only overrated, it is far less attractive than it's cracked up to be. People love a large, meaty ME. They say they don't, but in the art world a cowardly, shrinking personality is repellent and narcissism is a magnet.... If you don't seduce people you don't have a chance... Entitlement works." "We live inside our categories, and we believe in them, but they often get scrambled. The scrambling is what interests me. The mess.""Time is thick in the present, a distension, not a series of points, subjective time, that is, our inner time. We are forever retaining and projecting, anticipating the next note in the tune, recalling the whole phrase as we listen." (apparently this is paraphrasing Husserl in The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness, fascinating stuff)Ah hell, I'm going to give this another star just because I'm still thinking about it.Discussed on Episode 012 of the Reading Envy Podcast.

  • Natalie
    2018-12-21 06:08

    This book set my mind ablaze for the two weeks I was reading it.It was certainly one of the most intelligent, poignant, life affirming, nuanced and serious books I have had the pleasure of reading.I have always admired Hustvedt's larger-than-life brain, her multitudes of complexity, but this...this novel was such a cut above the rest, if that had seemed to be possible.The final 'testimony' had me in nothing but tears, wrestling with both grief and a lust for life; grappling with the Real.Incredible.

  • Judy
    2019-01-08 03:04

    For quite some years I have had a short list of favorite authors comprised of only three: Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and Barbara Kingsolver. Yes, they are all female and I love each one for different reasons that are hard to articulate. I have read every single novel written by my top three so one of these days I am going to make a sub list of the rest of the female authors I love. Siri Hustvedt will be on it.She has published six novels, of which I have read three: What I Loved, The Summer Without Men, and now The Blazing World. In my estimation she creates something quite different each time and the only reason I haven't read the other three novels is that reading her is a large investment of mental and emotional energy. For a good time call another writer but if you want to be seduced into exploring your own psyche, if you want to ponder life's mysteries, if you enjoy considering how life and art converge, read Siri Hustvedt.The Blazing World was her most challenging novel yet for me. Harriet Burden, artist, wife, mother, widow, possesses the talent, intellect, and drive that often lead to wild success. Her husband had all the success however, as an art dealer. He was able to give Harriet wealth but not artistic representation, so she languished as mother of their children and hostess to his social life.OK, so this is an oft told tale, but once the man dies she comes blazing forth, energized by all her anger, knowledge, and freedom, and creates a dastardly experiment: she has a man pose as the artist for her creations. Suddenly the critical acclaim of the art world is hers, the popularity, positive reviews, all that an artist can hope for. Except no one knows she is the artist.She repeats her feat twice more but the third time she meets her match and is betrayed on several levels. The challenge for the reader lies partly in the construction of the novel: a male scholar poses as the editor of a collection made up of excerpts from Burden's journals, interviews with her two adult children and friends and cohorts, reviews of her work, etc.Once you get going it works like a novel should, revealing story and characters and you get a psychological study of the artist herself as well as several others. You must however also wrap your wits around numerous philosophers including Soren Kierkegaard, the psychology of creativity, and the language of art criticism not to mention Harriet's musings on the literature she devours.BUT...if you are a woman with a talent or skill and have experienced what happens when you take that talent or skill into the world of commerce, then you know deep in your soul that it is still a man's world and the subtle devices by which you can be passed over, invalidated, mocked, in other words suppressed, are myriad. The Blazing World then becomes satisfying, liberating, therapeutic, and a whole lot of a rare type of fun.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2018-12-19 07:59

    Harriet "Harry" Burden was an obscurely known artist for much of her life, and also a wife, mother, and scholar. She was criticized for her small architectural works that consisted of too much busyness--cluttered with figures and text that didn't fit into any schema. Her husband, Felix Lord, was an influential, successful art collector, but who couldn't help his wife for alleged fear of nepotism. After Felix died, Harriet came back with a vengeance, and under three male artist's pseudonyms (artists that she sought out), she created a combination art (part performance, if you consider the pseudonyms as part of the process) a trilogy which was successful, and even more lauded posthumously. They were shown individually under the names of "The History of Western Art, " "The Suffocation Rooms", and "Beneath." Later, when unmasked (so to speak), they were identified as Maskings. I am reluctant to reduce and categorize Harriet--although labels such as "feminist" may apply.Harriet wanted to:"...uncover the complex workings of human perception and how unconscious ideas about gender, race, and celebrity influence a viewer's understanding of a given work of art." Moreover, it is about unmasking ourselves--which includes the hermaphroditic selves. We are all an amalgam of male and female, or male and female perceptions and the plurality-attributed behaviors. There's seepage beyond the paradigm.Again, that may be too reductionist for the complex workings of Harry's art, and of her psychology and her life. This novel is like an exposé of Harriet's life, as told via her friends, colleagues, children (including one passage by her son, who suffered from Asperger's), lover (her significant other after Felix's death), critics, roommates, and herself. The chapters by Harriet come from her private notebooks/diaries, labeled by letters of the alphabet, and found after her death.One could call this a presentation novel--a novel that appears more as a collection of writings that make up her life, replete with footnotes. Included are esoteric and big ideas about art, art movements, and philosophy. However, Hustvedt is such a spectacular writer, that it feels very much like a biography, and often an autobiography (sometimes reliable, at other times unreliable--you as reader decide). Hustvedt combines big ideas with story. There are novels, such as written by David Foster Wallace, Richard Powers, and others, who are famous for this style. The novelist Nicholas Mosley writes his story and characters as subservient to the big ideas. This alienates some readers. It is purely subjective to taste, but, personally, I love a cleavage of ideas and story/character. In my opinion, Hustvedt did a superb job of integrating the two. The character of Harriet was pervasive, even in the chapters that didn't belong to her, because of her inimitable voice that saturated all others who populated the story. Harriet habituated these big ideas, so that it was organically composed.Harry's emotional and psychological presence was forceful, formidable. We learn that she saw a psychiatrist twice a week for the last eight years of her life, and her best friend was a psychotherapist. She was a dedicated wife to her husband and children, fraught over the secret life of her husband, and protective over the fragility of her son, Ethan. All vectors pointed back to Harriet--the enigma of her, and the magnitude of her vitality. She was ubiquitous in every page of this book.I was familiar with some of the scholars/academics/artists/philosophers that Harriet mentioned due to other novels and books I had read. Parisian Guy Debord, leader of the Situationist International movement, had a prominent place in BILLY MOON. The Situationists advanced the notion of the spectacularized--a mass consumerism where every experience is packaged by the market to be seductive and glamorous, and sooner or later, we experience the copy as an original experience rather than the experience itself--all is commodified. Harriet assimilated this philosophy (and others to demonstrate the conundrum of perception). One of Harriet's favorite philosophers was the German, Edmund Husserl, who expounded on phenomenology, the study of the structures of experience and consciousness. It all ties into the assemblage of Harriet--like her art, she is made of many miniature selves that together form a whole. Or, perhaps, a panoply of selves.And, most dear to Harry's heart--perhaps her heroine--was Margaret Cavendish, a duchess and groundbreaking, prolific writer of science, predated science fiction, and a utopian romance called "A Blazing World," from which the eponymous title of this novel originates. Cavendish died in obscurity, having published a memoir in which she yearns to one day be recognized. Hundreds of years after her death, her desire is realized. Is this a key to Harriet's psyche?One doesn't have to be a scholar or artist to relate to this book. In fact, it is written in a highly accessible style, with a smoldering, emotional, and psychological expressiveness. In my opinion, this is a subtle meta-fiction--one that draws attention to itself as a work of art, while keys to the truth of Harriet Burden are revealed. As individuals, we all have our perception of quality and merit; therefore, readers will come away with our respective portraits of Harriet, and the thrumming purpose of her story. For fans of Siri Hustvedt, this is highly recommended. It equals the power of WHAT I LOVED, while being different in approach. Hustvedt has a nimble way of disclosing the incongruous features of her characters that make them both distinctive and sympathetic. By the end of this book, I could imagine a three-dimensional Harriet Burden walking out of the pages.

  • Julie Ehlers
    2019-01-08 03:11

    I think about perception a lot these days. This is partly because I've been learning about Buddhism for a few years now, and one of its main tenets is, essentially, "Try to see things as they are without laying a bunch of your own shit on top of everything" (said in the most compassionate, nonjudgmental way possible, of course). When you pay attention to this, it's amazing to realize how rarely we think about anything without creating our own little story about it. It's what we do.Then, too, I think a lot about perception when it comes to the books I read: How would I feel about this if someone handed it to me as an unpublished manuscript, rather than as a nicely designed paperback with a ton of positive reviews quoted on the cover? How would I feel about it if it had a different author's name on the cover? How would I feel if someone told me a book was "literary fiction" versus "women's fiction"? I wonder all the time how to get out from under my own preconceptions. Maybe someday I will.So this novel was relevant to my interests. The heroine of the story, Harriet "Harry" Burden, believes she's never received the respect she deserves as an artist and wants to prove that how the artist is perceived strongly affects how the art is perceived. She creates three installations fronted by three different men--a straight, white, young guy with no reputation in the art world, a gay black man with a slight reputation in the art world, and another straight white man with a major, positive reputation in the art world--to see how perception of her work differs based on who purportedly created it. It's a fascinating experiment, but a flawed one--too many variables, and too many people who see the whole thing differently from the way Harry sees it.The book is written as a semi-scholarly account of Harry's art project, with copious excerpts from Harry's journals; "reprints" of relevant magazine articles, interviews, and reviews; statements and interviews with people who knew Harry or were involved in the project. We're told up front that one big piece of information--one entire volume of Harry's journal--is missing. It's up to us to figure out (if we can) what this journal may contain, as well as to piece together what version of the story we believe from the various players involved, all of whom seem unreliable in one way or another. Interesting stuff, but if I'm being honest, this book started off feeling a little like homework to me. It took a while for it all to come together, both because the beginning is more expository and the plot doesn't really pick up until later, and also because I was initially only able to devote little bits and pieces of time to it. If you read this, I would strongly recommend trying to give it an hour or two (at least) of uninterrupted reading time at the start, so you can immerse yourself in the project and familiarize yourself with the key characters and their voices. Once I was able to do that, the book moved much more swiftly for me.Ultimately, I was highly impressed by this book--the varying characters' voices, the differing formats of the chapters, the building momentum, and the way Siri Hustvedt is able to combine non-sappy (but still very moving) emotions with a very high level of intellect (a good thing) all work together to create a novel unlike any I've ever read. I closed it feeling genuinely blown away. I look forward to reading this again someday and picking up on all the things I doubtlessly missed the first time around. This book seems kind of like a kaleidoscope--it's the same parts every time you look at it, but every time you'll see something different. In fact, that's probably exactly what the author intended.

  • B the BookAddict
    2019-01-06 02:58

    I rarely get this far into a novel and then abandon it but believe me, it was a case of self-preservation. Hustvedt's latest book was infecting my mood and my every day. I have also rarely disliked a character as much as I disliked Harriet. She was just one big pot of roiling, churning resentment. And she just would not SHUT UP. She went on and on and on about how overlooked her art was, about what a clever trick she was playing on the art world. She was quite disdainful of her choice of the artists she 'hid' behind; what a sorry lot they were, in my opinion.I may have been in awe of the planning Hustvedt would have put into this novel but that is all. Harriet raged off the page; she stomped, she ranted, she raved: she drove me nuts. Even now, after I've abandoned the book at pg 286 on 26th September, if I see the title, I start feeling the same revulsion as I felt when reading it.I disliked this book to the ninth degree. 1★

  • Ruby
    2019-01-01 02:11

    "I am Odysseus, but I have been Penelope."I loved The Blazing World. But I think I loved it even more because I read it at the right time. In a way it was the culmination of a year's reading. You see, Goodreads tells me that I added this book on 1 January 2014. Hustvedt's book only actually came out in March however, and I got my copy in July as a birthday present. Then it waited on the shelves for another five months.Meanwhile, I read. 2014 has been hauled as The Year of Reading Women, in which I did not consciously participate, but which nevertheless does seem to have been the guiding principle for my reading this year as well. Needless to say, it has been a wonderful year, in which I read books like Kate Zambreno's Heroines, Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams: Essays, Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox, among many others, all of which helped me to re-think why I read, how I read, and why that matters. And then, five days ago or so, very near to the end of 2014, I picked up The Blazing World, with its furious Harry, whom I love madly, and it brought so many things together. It built on all these things I had worked through in essays for class and in the books I had read. Questions of (female) identity, perception, the body, etc. in relation to theory and ideas and beliefs and art and literature. So cerebral but there was also, weirdly, so much love in this book. Such an exciting form, too, the anthology; I think this was such a genius move on Hustvedt's part, because she could really go all out for the first time: the ideas and the footnotes and the elaborations that feel contrived in speech but make sense in the context of a written document.I'm getting incoherent, but that's because it was good and angry and funny. Have a final quote by Hustvedt and then go read this [if it feels like it's the right moment, of course]:"With women," Harry said, "it's always personal, love and muck, whom they fuck."

  • Teresa Proença
    2018-12-29 05:54

    O Mundo Ardente é uma obra com uma estrutura complexa, mas onde tudo se conjuga na perfeição. Através de entrevistas, críticas jornalistas, excertos de diário, depoimentos, conversas, etc, o leitor vai desvendado a vida de Harriet Burden; uma artista plástica que, revoltada com a descriminação das mulheres no mundo da arte, expõe as suas obras recorrendo a três artistas masculinos que as assumem como suas. Neste livro Siri Hustvedt revela não só ser uma grande escritora, mas também uma mulher dotada de grande cultura, que transmite os seus conhecimentos de uma forma nunca pretensiosa ou maçadora e sempre estimulante, suscitando no leitor a curiosidade de aprofundar as várias referências artísticas, e não só, que coloca ao longo do livro. Um romance muito original, com uma relação equilibrada entre conhecimento e emoção e que foi um prazer ler.(Amedeo Modigliani, Woman With Blue Eyes)"Príncipe de melhores horas, outrora eu fui tua princesa, e amámo-nos com um amor doutra espécie."— Fernando Pessoa , "O Livro do Desassossego"

  • Holly
    2018-12-25 03:56

    Wow. Need a few hours to think about my response.-------A day later some lingering responses, because I'm daunted by the number of well-written reviews already here on Goodreads::I probably felt more comfortable in this novel than I did reading Kushner's Flamethrowers (also about the New York art scene) because I recognized many of Hustvedt's scholarly references if only by name. I had to think that Harriet's project of using three male artists as covers was bound to fail - to cause pain, misunderstanding, and a vindication of her worst fears - so I probably didn't altogether understand the novel or all of Hustvedt's intentions. I was never bored and read quickly. - I've always wanted to read a novel like this - really told as if it is nonfiction, unafraid to sound academic at times. Hustvedt has multiple levels working, balls being juggled, and some are more obvious than others. I think she's become a better novelist than Auster (when I read The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl years ago I thought her work was far too similar to his) . The Blazing World still possesses the requisite winks and verbal tricks that Hustvedt and Auster cannot seem to resist (the Siri Pharmacy, the doubling, the loaded names, the identity games, the Nabokovian introduction). In Auster it got so ridiculously self-referential and clever for a while; I stopped reading him. But in this novel it seemed as if the secrets were integral and meaningful, less clever for the sake of cleverness alone. Also downright scary and extremely unsettling (read creepy) at times. Thus cerebral AND emotional - the final section left me in tears - the Sweet Autumn (clematis) character is the only one who could have narrated that closing.

  • Trudie
    2019-01-07 00:56

    Ahhhh, Booker Long list what are you doing to me. This book required a battle of will power to finish and particularly the final few pages. I didn't outright hate it, in fact during the first half I thought actually this might not be too bad. I was prepared to take the journey, passing over the multitudinous arcane footnotes, and philosophical digressions, confident the story of this artist and her struggles would be revealed in good time. However as I approached the last 100 pages it started to dawn that the entire story was a collection of digressions and contemplations on art, perception and sexual politics. This is a hybrid academic and literary work - which I found challenging to the point of pretension.

  • Nicole
    2018-12-26 03:21

    I've looked at some very negative reviews of this book, and they seem to fall into two categories: those who are disappointed that the book is not some simple-minded "feminist" parable and those who are angry that the book is erudite. I'm here to tell you, those two qualities are the best things about the book. What I would not give to have more books that are erudite, complicated, smart about complex things, that try for the truth, that see more than they went in with, whose premises are not the same as their conclusions. I would stand in line for more books like that. And Harriet. I recognize you, Harry. You were good all your life, obedient, perfect, submissive, and it was never enough, and you pushed all the rage down into a little pile and then one day when it came out and you cracked it ALL came out and the rage consumed you. You were absolutely right and also completely wrong about why you did not succeed at what mattered most to you, why you did not get what you wanted most in the world. It is absolutely true that it is harder for women, especially if they are not hot and young, but this is not the whole truth. What you were missing--Mr. Glib--you would have been missing as a man, is more fundamental than gender, and yet it is harder on a girl, harder on a woman. That's the truth. The truth is we are neither identity groups nor specific individuals free of these claims. The truth is messy. You were unreasonable and damaged, the rage ate you, but you were not wrong to be angry, you did have more than most people, but at the same time you were shut out from something real, from your most real self. You were so angry that people who disdained what you took seriously, who played with what you loved, who used it for status and money, were more successful in precisely that thing, now polluted, that you cared about most. You were angry and no amount of money, safety, privilege, no number of coats, can make up for that, even if it is wrong that others don't have those things, even if to others those things are everything. And Rune, what a piece of work, stories swirling around and around the truth, his bullshit pseudo-intellectual stance, the idea that just because the truth is hard, impossible even, that it's okay to lie, that it's beautiful even. Rune: I knew it was you that drowned those kittens. There is truth about you and I know what it is, and so did Harry, even if you fooled her but good. I understand that rage, even though I know it's not healthy. This author understands it too.

  • Hugh
    2018-12-27 08:23

    A very clever book about the art world, feminism, philosophy and neuroscience. The core story is about an artist, a rich widow who wants to prove that the artistic establishment discriminates against women, and particularly older women, and devises a scheme to exhibit her work presented as the work of younger males. The book presents itself as an academic treatise, a mixture of interviews, the artist's notebooks and the accounts of her friends, family and various other players. The notebooks in particular allow Hustvedt to explore her own interests and provide her own footnotes explaining the ideas and historys of artists, scientists and philosophers. If that sounds dry and difficult, that would convey a false impression - Hustvedt is a lively literary ventriloquist, and the narrative weaves its way through the various contradictory accounts and delivers some surprising conclusions.

  • Marian
    2018-12-31 07:06

    While the premise of the book intrigued me, I found the style quite off-putting. The deluge of footnotes, referencing both fictional and actual citations, coupled with the hopscotch narrative structure, made this novel a chore to read. The last chapter, during which Clemmy waxed poetic about cleansing lavender chakras, was especially tortuous. I feel as if this novel is an "emperor has no clothes" example. By not adoring the novel, one brands oneself as incapable of understanding the author's blazing intellect. However, I feel this novel suffers from too many clever allusions, which smother the emotive force of the story.

  • Magdalena
    2019-01-05 01:13

    Intricate, engrossing, intellectually challenging read. Hustvedt creates story rich in philosophical, literary details. Her characters are alive on pages. It is not a quick read but so rewarding. Highly recommended!

  • Jonathan
    2018-12-28 05:02

    My wife is currently reading this and just flipped over to me in bed saying: "you should read this, you'd like it - it has citations in it. And they are to made-up authors"...

  • Bibliophile
    2019-01-03 06:04

    Some years ago I convinced a male book club buddy to try out Siri Hustvedt, whom I adore. He trustingly went out and bought The Sorrows of an American and What I Loved. Not only did he not like them, he called them melodramatic soap operas. I choked on my wine. It's one thing not to admire them, but to categorize them as soap operas? And this from a man who loved The Unbearable Lighness of Being. Well, I didn't bother to mention gender bias, nor offer to loan him my copy of Summer Without Men. I do wonder what he would make of The Blazing World.Hustvedt's new novel is all about perception and how people see what they expect to see. Harriet Burden is an artist convinced that it is her sex that prevents the art world from valuing her work. She hires three male artists as her beards and launches three successful shows, expecting recognition when she reveals herself as the true artist. Oh, Harriet. Art critic Oswald Case, while being a total shithead, does have a point when dissing Harriet: "She dripped with earnestness. If there's one thing that doesn't fly in the art world, it's an excess of sincerity". Actually, he doesn't like anything about her. He is saddened by her "wailing" when discussing art, since he "only consort[s] with women who keep their tones low and dulcet", and describes her physical appearance as an unhappy combo of Mae West and Lennie (of Mice and Men). Oswald, you heartthrob you. Harriet's close friend Rachel Briefman, on the other hand, remembers her "beautiful, strong, voluptuous body", but concludes that life would have been easier had she been a boy, as "awkward brilliance in a boy is more easily categorized, and conveys no sexual threat".Her lover Bruno finds her wondrous. Their first sleep-over gives new meaning to the art of would-you-like-to-see-my-etchings: "I will not pretend that Harry's art did not scare me a little. To be honest, that first night it gave me a voodoo feeling. I walked right under a flying cock, as in penis, not rooster, authentic-looking as hell, and there were several bodies in progress, at least five of the former spouse in miniature, and other figures that were life-size with clothes on, lying around like so many corpses." No shrinking violet, that one. All these voices and more are collected by mysterious editor I.V. Hess and presented in a book published after Harriet's death. I don't normally appreciate this narrative technique, but Hustvedt makes it work (because she is brilliant and can do no wrong). Harriet's daughter Maisie contributes some sharp observations, including a perfectly chilling encounter with macho artist Rune, the third beard. Harriet herself communicates via notebooks, sometimes straightforward and sincere, sometimes cryptic and incoherent. She feels unseen and ignored, enraged by the blindness of those around her. Her one-woman struggle for acknowledgement is heartbreaking, in striking contrast to the laid back dudes posing as her. Coaching Rune during the charade, she thinks: "I don't know how much of what I say goes in. Deafness is part of his being. And it helps him, helps him assert himself as the young Wonder Man." Of her first mask, a Warhol-obsessed young man who uses the word "conceptual" a lot, she states: "Anton was not a bad kid. He was just stupendously, heartbreakingly ignorant". I can only imagine Hustvedt speaks from experience, used to being the brightest person in the room. There is so much to say about this book, but nothing I say would do it justice. I loved it, but then I'm biased, convinced that Siri Hustvedt is a genius. I may rejoin book club to champion her.

  • Jennifer Ochoa
    2018-12-19 02:14

    Loved, loved, loved it. This is the kind of book I live for. Intellectual, richly layered. . .and layered, and layered. . . For example, Hustvedt is Hess, writing about Burden who is Brickman, both referring to their real selves in the text. This work = mind blown. If I didn't have so many books in my queue, I'd start reading it again pronto. The novel has a fragmented documentary-style narrative that enables changing perspectives and varied voices. Like art, the story relies on the perceptions of others and their subjectivities and personal memories. Art has no meaning without a spectator, but Harriet Burden recognizes that the spectator cannot form meaning without context. She manipulates context by using three men as fronts for her three art installations she collectively calls "Maskings." The intersection of art and identity is the primary theme, along with how identity is perceived, in particular gender. She theorizes (rightly) that no one would have any interest in her art with her as the artist, that a man (specifically a younger man) would garner more attention and praise. Her experiment works, but also backfires in some ways. Her obsessive vision, brilliance, and inability to "fit in" lead to some unhappy events. It's not lost on one of the narrators that Harriet's favorite novel as a girl was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Lots of allusions to that novel, as well as many other historical works and figures.A brilliant "blazing" work. Not for casual readers.

  • Karina
    2019-01-03 02:21

    Definitely not your average novel. I liked it, but I think part of it was because I was able to discuss it at uni and because I was already familiar with topics/themes used. Hustvedt takes a lot she did in What I Loved concerning the art world and perception of art to extremes. On top, she (yet again) plays with novel conventions and how far she can go off the beaten track. If you wanna start with Siri Hustvedt maybe don't go for this first. It is incredibly complex, dense, and will challenge you, which can be amazing!, but if you want a more accessible entry to her works I'd suggest What I Loved. I will pick up more by her in the future because I'm impressed by her as a woman and writer. This is also quite the feminist text if that happens to be one of your buzzwords! It deals with how art is perceived differently depending on who is the artist and how the art world is still mainly dominated by men.

  • María Montesinos
    2019-01-18 03:57

    Antes de nada, debo avisar de que tengo debilidad por esta escritora y que, aunque de sus libros haya algunos que me gusten más o que me gusten menos, de todos ello saco mucho, mucho más que una buena lectura, por lo cual, mis valoraciones de sus novelas no se ciñen exactamente a si "me ha gustado o no la historia". Llevan incluido ese plus que me da su lectura. Aviso de esto porque este libro me ha gustado mucho pero es una novela densa, compleja, turbadora. Nada fácil de leer. En capítulos puntuales me ha parecido incluso aburrida; pero en conjunto, es apasionante y arriesgada como propuesta narrativa. Trata los temas habituales en ella: feminismo, arte, maternidad, relaciones de pareja descompensadas... Hacia el final se me ocurrió que era como si su ensayo "La mujer que mira a los hombres que miran a las mujeres" se hubiera convertido en una novela, aunque creo que es anterior al ensayo. Pero sus "temas" forman parte de la historia.