The Blazing World [NOOK Book]

Overview

Longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and 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...
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The Blazing World

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Overview

Longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and 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.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
01/01/2014
Harriet Burden, known as Harry, is a lesser-known artist married to a prominent art dealer in New York City. After his death in 1995, she becomes more involved in artistic creation and philosophical performance art. She arranges for three male artists to give shows of her work under their names, looking to prove that women artists are not objectively considered in the world of modern art. Rune is the last artist Harry employs, and he reneges on their arrangement, claiming the works as his own, which leads to an extensive controversy of deadly consequence. Hustvedt illuminates the various forces at work in her heroine's life by presenting multiple viewpoints arranged in interviews, diary entries, family histories, prepared statements, and more, from the many people whose lives were related to and affected by the artist. VERDICT Intelligent and evidently knowledgeable about the world of modern art, theory, and philosophy, Hustvedt describes in detail the insular world of the New York City art scene. References to cultural exemplars from Hegel to Kierkegaard are included as footnotes and discussions among the characters, but the most meaningful connections for the reader are those between mothers and daughters. Despite the smart tone, the novel does not invest the matters at hand with a feeling of importance. [See Prepub Alert, 9/30/13.]—James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.
The New York Times Book Review - Fernanda Eberstadt
Siri Hustvedt is far too subtle and multifaceted a raconteur to present us with a simple tale of institutional misogyny…The Blazing World offers a spirited romp through art history, Continental philosophy, psychiatry and neurobiology as its initial premise widens into extended meditations on how perception is determined by cultural preconceptions, on the limits of artificial intelligence and on the dialogic nature of artistic creation…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. Egomaniacal, lustful, intellectually omnivorous, alternately bullying and tenderhearted, self-lacerating and bold, Harriet Burden is an outsize Everywoman, raging against her own mortality.
Publishers Weekly
12/16/2013
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.)
starred review Booklist
A heady, suspenseful, funny, and wrenching novel of creativity, identity, and longing.
Slate
“This is 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. And at the same time, the book is a spectacularly good read. Its storytelling is magnificent, its characters vivid, its plot gripping; it’s rare that a novel of ideas can be so much fun.”
Booklist
"A heady, suspenseful, funny, and wrenching novel of creativity, identity, and longing."
Library Review
“Intelligent and . . . knowledgeable about the world of modern art, theory, and philosophy, Hustvedt describes in detail the insular world of the New York City art scene.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Praise for The Summer Without Men

“Exhuberant…Hustvedt is a fearless writer…She’s managed not to shrink the truth of women’s lives, without relinquishing love for men.”

Boston Globe
“Engaging…a fragmented meditation on identity, abandonment, and loss….Hustvedt manages to move seamlessly between Blake and Rilke to Kirekegaard and Hegel while maintaining a forward motion to this fluid narrative…Satisfying.”
The Miami Herald
The Blazing World is unique and recognizably so, a bracing examination of the act of creation, of fame and identity, gender bias and feminism, love and desire, psychology and philosophy. . . . Full of life and ideas and intellectual prowess, it’s also a compelling story with richly drawn characters. . . .[An] extraordinary puzzle.”
New York Times Book Review
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE

"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."

Wall Street Journal
“This brisk, ebullient novel is a potpourri of poems, diary entries, emails and quicksilver self-analysis... The noisy chorus in Mia’s head has an appealing way of getting inside the reader’s too.”
Booklist "starred review"
“Breathtaking… hilarious… What a joy it is to see Hustvedt have such mordant fun in this saucy and scathing novel about men and women, selfishness and generosity…. Hustvedt has created a companionable and mischievous narrator to cherish, a healthy-minded woman of high intellect, blazing humor, and boundless compassion.”
Vogue
“So richly imagined is the art in her book that it serves not just to illuminate hidden emotions but also as a subject in itself. . .A wrenching portrait of parental grief, then a psychological thriller, and finally a meditation on the perspective of memory.”
Newsday
“A great book. The twinning of narrative pleasure with intellectual rigor isn’t rare. In fact, it’s easy to find if you’re plowing through, say, the Modern Library, engaging with classics that come to you already canonized and annointed. But to stumble into such a relationship with a contemporary. . .writer is a heady feeling. Those of us who read new fiction dream of finding such a book.”
Los Angeles Times
“No image is wasted, no sentence superfluous in creating a novel that teems with ideas, emotions…. Hustvedt’s novel is a quietly astounding work of fiction that defies categorization.”
The Washington Post
The Blazing World is Siri Hustvedt’s best novel yet, an electrifying work with a titanic, poignantly flawed protagonist. Harriet Burden’s rage, turbulence and neediness leap off these pages in a skillfully orchestrated chorus of voices both dark and brilliant.”
The Wall Street Journal
"In certain respects, The Blazing World is a didactic novel, presenting arguments about the place of gender in American cultural life, yet it avoids preaching or settled judgments by putting at its center a figure whose strongly held beliefs are undermined by the hazards of real life. The effect is more fluid and nuanced than any scholarly study or political diatribe could be."
NPR
"Complex, astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing."
The Guardian
"The absence of women artists in the history of painting is an old feminist topic, but it is one The Blazing World approaches head-on."
Financial Times
"Hustvedt’s novels – What I Loved, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, The Summer Without Men, among others – have always been smart, accomplished, critically acclaimed but this one feels like a departure. There is more heat in it, more wildness; it seems to burst on to a whole other level of achievement and grace."
The Independent
"Densely brilliant, but terrifyingly clever too... you don’t need a PhD in Kierkegaard to enjoy Hustvedt’s writing, and it’s a pleasure to feel your brain whirring as it forges links and finds the cracks across differing accounts. Even if The Blazing World is about ambiguity and mutability in everything from authorship to gender to memory, Hustvedt’s text is carefully, impressively constructed: she’s as convincing in each fictional voice as Harriet is in her masks."
The Times
"An exuberantly clever piece of work.... [A] novel that gloriously lives up to its title, one blazing with energy and thought."
The Spectator
"Both intellectually and emotionally gripping… the generosity of the storytelling leads to full and often affecting backstories for all the main characters… [it] feels like one of those novels in which a well-established author triumphantly sums up, and possibly even surpasses, everything they’ve done before."
Chicago Tribune
“Ingeniously and energetically put together. . . . The Blazing World never runs out of steam in dispensing ideas and peeling back layers of truth.”
The Boston Globe
“Incandescent. . . . Hustvedt’s greatest triumph here is not the feminist argument she makes. It’s that we ache for her characters. This is a muscular book, and just enough of that muscle is heart.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
“A glorious mashup of storytelling and scholarship. . . .[The Blazing World’s] touching conclusion ‘blazes hot and bright’ from the perspective of an aura reader, Harriet's caretaker, whose vision of the artist's work is at once spiritually charged and whimsical.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Siri Hustvedt has earned her reputation as a brilliant thinker and articulate writer. This is not her first work of fiction, and The Blazing World is strong proof that her talents are unmatched in the genre. . . a delightful, quirky story that shares many truths about women in the arts, and the struggles they encounter in rising to fame."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Dazzling. . . ingeniously constructed. . . . The Blazing World is a serious, sometimes profound book, tackling head-on the knotty issues of identity and sense of self, and our unconscious ideas about gender and celebrity. It offers an exhilarating reading experience for anyone willing to meet its challenge.”
Columbus Dispatch
“Siri Hustvedt has a rare gift for finding the human heart in what might be cerebral musings and rarefied settings.”
San Antonio Current
“Immediately engrossing. . . . None of the narrators, even Harriet, are precisely reliable, and this ingeniously supports Harriet’s own theory that we are all just monsters wearing masks.”
The New York Journal of Books
The Blazing World is poundingly alive with ideas, personalities, conviction, fear, fakery, ambition, and sorrow. The reading mind is set on high, happy alert.”
Toronto Star
“Masterful. . . .[Hustvedt’s] long-running explorations have rarely been merged together as fluidly as they are here, an achievement that has everything to do with rendering the novel’s abundant intellect in a deeply felt and accessible manner. Six novels and more than two decades into her career, it is altogether fair to argue that Siri Hustvedt is quietly becoming one of North America’s most subversive and fearlessly intelligent writers.”
The Rumpus
“Siri Hustvedt’s dizzying, deeply felt The Blazing World—political, philosophical, transcendent in the way of true art—will stay alive in readers’ minds for years to come.”
Library Journal
10/15/2013
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.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-27
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476747255
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/11/2014
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 37,504
  • File size: 3 MB

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.

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

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  • Posted July 9, 2014

    Satisfying, liberating, therapeutic, and a whole lot of a rare type of fun.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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