Blindfold

( 2 )

Overview

Iris Vegan, a young, impoverished graduate student from the Midwest, finds herself entangled with four powerful but threatening characters as she tries to adjust to life in New York City. Mr. Morning, an inscrutable urban recluse, employs Iris to tape-record verbal descriptions of objects that belonged to a murder victim. George, a photographer, takes an eerie portrait of Iris, which then acquires a strange life of its own, appearing and disappearing without warning around the city. After a series of blinding ...

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Overview

Iris Vegan, a young, impoverished graduate student from the Midwest, finds herself entangled with four powerful but threatening characters as she tries to adjust to life in New York City. Mr. Morning, an inscrutable urban recluse, employs Iris to tape-record verbal descriptions of objects that belonged to a murder victim. George, a photographer, takes an eerie portrait of Iris, which then acquires a strange life of its own, appearing and disappearing without warning around the city. After a series of blinding migraines, Iris ends up in a hospital room with Mrs. O., a woman who has lost her mind and memory to a stroke, but who nevertheless retains both the strength and energy to torment her fellow patient. And finally, there is Professor Rose, Iris’s teacher and eventually her lover. While working with him on the translation of a German novella called The Brutal Boy, she discovers in its protagonist, Klaus, a vehicle for her own transformation and ventures out into the city again—this time dressed as a man.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a work of dizzying intensity. . .eloquent and vivid." —Don DeLillo, author of Underworld

"[The Blindfold] attests to Ms. Hustvedt’s thoroughly original style and her lucid contemporary voice. . .the announcement of a talented writer’s arrival." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"The Blindfold is a seamless piece of work—a haunting odyssey of annihilation and resurrection carved by an expert storyteller." —San Francisco Chronicle

Library Journal
Iris Vegan, a graduate student from the Midwest, finds herself in a web of bizarre circumstances and urban characters when she attends Columbia University. Iris initially accepts a role in the unbalanced lives of others hoping to find some semblance of her own personal identity. She soon discovers, however, the high cost of living blindly outside one's own reality. Hustvedt's powerful metaphors and haunting descriptions combine to make this a striking first novel that deserves public attention. In fact, two chapters were selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, 1990 and 1991 . If you neglect this novel because its plot sounds familiar, you will miss some of the most heartfelt and profound writing today.-- David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Kirkus Reviews
Poet Hustvedt's first novel is unabashedly cerebral, a disturbing and disarming fiction that explores the mysteries of identity. It's a postmodernist puzzle with a queasy eroticism and hints of perversion, and owes much to the work of Beckett, DeLillo, and her husband, Paul Auster. But Hustvedt adds to their explorations in silence and unspeakability her distinctly feminine voice: innocent, intimate, victimized. These four related narratives circle around the life of Iris Vegan, a distraught and hypersensitive graduate student in literature at Columbia. A beautiful, blue-eyed blond from the Midwest, she's continually at the mercy of others, mostly men who shroud themselves in mystery. Iris's first story finds her working as an assistant to a strange writer, a collector of women's discarded objects, who asks her to record her observations so that he may reconstruct their previous owners. After playing this bizarre Scheherazade, Iris is unalterably changed, but not as dramatically as in her second narrative, in which a photographer's portrait of her proves an invasion of her privacy. Her boyfriend at the time admits that cruelty makes him "feel more alive." As her personality begins to disintegrate, Iris (in the third piece) admits to minor hallucinations, which land her in the hospital whacked out on Thorazine and tormented by one of her roommates, a withered old woman who also desires her in some strange way. To demonstrate further that "distortion is part of desire," Iris then alters herself, taking on the role of a brutal boy, a role she has adopted from a German novella she co-translates with her professor/lover. Roaming the city in drag, she indulges her fantasies until themuch older professor catches her in disguise. In playful "blindness," she loses all sense of self but also turns out to be as mysterious as all her tormentors, so that we wonder, just who is playing with whom? Hustvedt brings her dark urban landscape to life with her camera eye and Iris's tenacious, Midwestern common sense—the perfect balance to all the existential weirdness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312422752
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 563,372
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt is the author of The Enchantment of Lily Dahl and What I Loved. The Blindfold is her first novel. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Hustvedt shared some fascinating facts about herself with us:

"In the last eight years, my interest in art has become more than a hobby. I've been writing about painting off and on for the last eight years for art magazines."

"American mass media culture, with its celebrities, shopping hysteria, sound bites, formulaic plots, received ideas, and nauseating repetitions, depresses me. I like to watch movies on DVD but on the whole stay away from television and big Hollywood movies, although occasionally something good comes along and I go to see it. I liked both Groundhog Day and The Sixth Sense, for example."

"I enjoy domestic life. Cooking gives me great pleasure, especially if I can chop vegetables slowly and think about what I'm doing and dream a little about this and that. I always have flowers in my house and it makes me happy to arrange them and then look at them when I walk into a room. I love the little garden in the back of my family's brownstone in Brooklyn. Digging out there in the dirt is a joy for me, although by the time August rolls around and my roses have black spot, I need the break winter provides."

"I must say that I also like clothes and always have. When I was younger, I paid more attention to the quirks of fashion. Now I like well-made clothes that suit me and will last beyond a season."

"My greatest pleasure is spending time with my family: my husband and daughter, but also my mother, my three sisters and their families. My father died this year, and I have a growing need to enjoy the people I love most as much as possible."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 19, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Northfield, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A. in history, St. Olaf College; Ph.D. in English, Columbia University

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2005

    A sexy slow burn of a book

    Siri Hustvedt's novels, to me, are like the literary equivalent of Edward Hopper's paintings: portraying that haunting sense of abandonment and alienation in an anonymous American city landscape. Coincidentally, both The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl has a a voyeur protagonist watching people through the windows of their apartments at night, a recurring subject of Hopper's work. Told in four interconnecting short stories, narrator Iris Vegan instantly draws the reader into her offbeat world populated by quirky characters and bizarre situations. Fresh out of Columbia University in New York, the graduate student's exploration and experimentation with the darker side of life is reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis territory in Less That Zero and a little disturbing to say the least. Hustvedt's writing is beautiful, though a deceptively simple spare prose that is polished and powerful. An intelligent and ingenious sexy slow burn of a book that grips you from the onset and makes you think as you savour each lingering sentence. This is the kind of cult word-of-mouth book college girls will hug and hold dearly with an honest and real female character at the heart of its story who feels like an old friend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2000

    Marvelous novel--haunting and spellbinding

    S.H. owes some of this to her husband, Paul Auster, or does he owe some of himself to her? In either case, the novel is a great read, and a fascinating exploration of identity.

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