From the author of The Blazing World, “a work of dizzying intensity...eloquent and vivid” (Don DeLillo), about a young Midwestern woman who finds herself entangled in intense circumstances—physical, cerebral, and existential—when she moves to New York City.
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 strong 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.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Siri Hustvedt is the internationally acclaimed author of a book of poems, six novels, four collections of essays, and a work of nonfiction. In 2012 she was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. Her novel The Blazing World was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Los Angeles Book Prize for Fiction. She has also published numerous papers in scholarly and scientific journals. She has a PhD in English literature from Columbia University and is a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:February 19, 1955
Place of Birth:Northfield, Minnesota
Education:B.A. in history, St. Olaf College; Ph.D. in English, Columbia University
Hustvedt has become a well-known writer, not least for her autobiographic account of her illness, "The Shaking Woman." She has endorsements from neurobiologically-minded people, including Antonio Damasio and Mark Solms. He may have improved since "The Blindfold," but this is a very poor novel. It's barely altered from her experiences as a grad student: the episodes are hardly knitted together into a novel at all. The opening episode reads as if it's going to structure the novel, but she seems to forget it later on. The same happens throughout; the episodes, usually about 15 pages long, read like sketches done for a weekly MFA writing seminar--that is, they appear to be transcribed experiences with the first frail senses of how they might be fictionalized, how the author might create some distance and sense of writerly purpose. The prose is utilitarian rather than descriptive, the dialogue is only serviceable, and there are all sorts of infelicities in description, temporality, and continuity, of the sort that beginning writers make. (For example, she relies far too much on the device of anticipation: "I didn't realize until later that...") It's poor enough so I won't be reading any of her other work.
This is a really bizarre book in what I'm guessing is post-modern style. A young woman has four loosely-connected, er, adventures with the weird. She's hired by a shadowy figure named Mr. Morning to study objects belonging to a dead person; she has a strange photo taken that seems to morph into other photos which appear all over the city; she endures a stay in a mental ward; and finally she has an affair with a professor. This depressing book is told in distinct sections which are presented out of chronological order. It's interesting, but the characters are mostly unlikeable and the plot threads are both seamy and strange. It's a very bleak book.
There is so much depth and meaning in this fairly short novel. Iris's story has a sometimes hallucinatory quality - it's almost as though her identity shifts as she encounters a variety of strange and sometimes dangerous characters in New York City.She takes a job where she is paid to describe discarded objects that may have belonged to murdered women. She suspects her employer may be their murderer. A strange photograph taken of her by an artist disturbs her romantic relationship. She ends up in a hospital for her migraines and is tormented by an elderly woman who shares her room. After translating a story about a cruel German boy she begins to wander the streets at night, dressed as a man. In some ways, this book could be compared to The Bell Jar - the descriptions of sickness, the sense of impending madness, the vividness of the city, and the discomfort of being a young woman. I think it is very well written, interesting, and dark.
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.
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.