The Blazing Worldby Siri Hustvedt
Named one of the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of the Year ** Publishers Weekly’s Best Fiction Books of 2014 ** NPR Best Books of 2014 ** Kirkus Reviews Best Literary Fiction Books of 2014 ** Washington Post Top 50 Fiction Books of 2014 ** Boston Globe’s Best Fiction of 2014 ** The/i>/i>/i>/i>
Named one of the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of the Year ** Publishers Weekly’s Best Fiction Books of 2014 ** NPR Best Books of 2014 ** Kirkus Reviews Best Literary Fiction Books of 2014 ** Washington Post Top 50 Fiction Books of 2014 ** Boston Globe’s Best Fiction of 2014 ** The Telegraph’s Best Fiction to Read 2014 ** St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Best Books of 2014 ** The Independent Fiction Books of the Year 2014 ** One of Buzzfeed’s Best Books Written by Women in 2014 ** San Francisco Chronicle’s Best of 2014 ** A Nancy Pearl Pick ** PopMatters.com’s Best of 2014 Fiction
Winner of the 2014 LA Times Book Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the 2014 Kirkus Prize
Hailed by The Washington Post as “Siri Hustvedt’s best novel yet, an electrifying work,” The Blazing World is a masterful novel about perception, prejudice, desire, and one woman’s struggle to be seen.
In a new novel called “searingly fresh... A Nabokovian cat’s cradle” on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, the internationally bestselling author tells the provocative story of artist Harriet Burden, who, after years of having her work ignored, ignites an explosive scandal in New York’s art world when she recruits three young men to present her creations as their own. Yet when the shows succeed and Burden steps forward for her triumphant reveal, she is betrayed by the third man, Rune. Many critics side with him, and Burden and Rune find themselves in a charged and dangerous game, one that ends in his bizarre death.
An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle presented as a collection of texts, including Harriet’s journals, assembled after her death, this “glorious mashup of storytelling and scholarship” (San Francisco Chronicle) unfolds from multiple perspectives as Harriet’s critics, fans, family, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of where the truth lies. Writing in Slate, Katie Roiphe declared it “a spectacularly good read...feminism in the tradition of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex or Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: richly complex, densely psychological, dazzlingly nuanced.”
“Astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing” (NPR), Hustvedt’s new novel is “Blazing indeed:...with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity”(Kirkus Reviews, starred review). It is a masterpiece that will be remembered for years to come.
Art isn’t easy, and according to Hustvedt (What I Loved), the art market can be especially rough on women who are over 40, overweight, and overtly intellectual, which is why the novel’s protagonist, Harriet “Harry” Burden, a frustrated artist and art dealer’s widow, exhibits her artwork using male stand-ins in a performance art experiment that goes terribly awry. Suffering from deep depression after her husband’s death, followed by extreme elation, Harry relocates to Brooklyn, where she produces modern masterpieces dotted with clues to her identity, then shows them under a male collaborator’s name. Her first mask, a minor artist, chafes at the role, but the second, biracial gay Phineas Q. Eldridge, proves more amenable, while the third—the meanest and most dangerous—enjoys the limelight so much he denies Harry’s claims to authorship. Larger-than-life Harry reads vociferously, loves fervently, and overflows with intellectual and creative energy. Structurally, her Pygmalion-turned-Frankenstein tale is recounted through a variety of narrators, including an art critic; a New Age art groupie; Harry’s children, friends, and detractors; and Harry herself. Hustvedt dissects the art world with ironic insight. Footnotes and academic references, a large cast of characters, a wide range of narrative voices, intellectual digressions, and occasional one-liners enrich this novel of the New York art scene. This is a funny, sad, thought-provoking, and touching portrait of a woman who is blazing with postfeminist fury and propelled by artistic audacity. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Mar.)
“Exhuberant…Hustvedt is a fearless writer…She’s managed not to shrink the truth of women’s lives, without relinquishing love for men.”
Always incisive and interesting, Hustvedt here tells the challenging story of artist Harriet Burden, who's tired of her low profile in the art world. So she presents her work under the guise of three different male artists, each with a blockbuster solo show. Once she reveals the subterfuge, she is challenged about the final show, presumably mounted by an artist named Rune with whom Harriet had a tense and combative relationship. And now Rune is dead.
An embittered female artist plays a trick on critics that goes badly awry in Hustvedt's latest (The Summer Without Men, 2011, etc.). An "Editor's Introduction" sets up the premise: After the 1995 death of her husband, art dealer Felix Adler, Harriet Burden embarked on a project she called Maskings, in which she engaged three male artists to exhibit her work as their own, to expose the art world's sexism and to reveal "how unconscious ideas about gender, race, and celebrity influence a viewer's understanding of a given work of art." Readers of Hustvedt's essay collections (Living, Thinking, Looking, 2012, etc.) will recognize the writer's long-standing interest in questions of perception, and her searching intellect is also evident here. But as the story of Harry's life coheres--assembled from her notebooks, various pieces of journalism, and interviews with her children, the three male artists and other art-world denizens--it's the emotional content that seizes the reader. After a lifetime of being silenced by the powerful presences of her father and her husband, Harry seethes with rage, made no less consuming by the fact that she genuinely loved Felix; the nuanced depiction of their flawed marriage is one of the novel's triumphs, fair to both parties and tremendously sad. As in her previous masterpiece, What I Loved (2003), Hustvedt paints a scathing portrait of the art world, obsessed with money and the latest trend, but superb descriptions of Harry's work--installations expressing her turbulence and neediness--remind us that the beauty and power of art transcend such trivialities. If only art could heal Harry, who learns the risks of entrusting others with your own unfinished business when the third of her male "masks" refuses to play her endgame. She dies less than a year later (no spoiler; we learn this from the opening pages), and the book closes with a moving final vision of her art: "every one of those wild, nutty, sad things…alive with the spirit." Blazing indeed: not just with Harry's fury, but with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity.
"The Blazing World offers a spirited romp...constructed as a Nabokovian cat's cradle....Hustvedt's portrait of the artist as a middle-aged widow is searingly fresh. It's rare to encounter a female protagonist who throws her weight around quite so grandiloquently as Harriet Burden, a heroine who is—well, more like the hero of a Philip Roth or a Saul Bellow novel."
- Simon & Schuster
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)
Meet the Author
Siri Hustvedt has a PhD in English literature from Columbia University and is the internationally acclaimed author of five novels, and a growing body of nonfiction. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Gabarron International Award for Thought and Humanities. She lives in Brooklyn.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- February 19, 1955
- Place of Birth:
- Northfield, Minnesota
- B.A. in history, St. Olaf College; Ph.D. in English, Columbia University
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