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A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind Hardcover – 1 Dec 2016
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This is a phenomenal book. Its soul is in the connections it draws between disparate subjects, through which Hustvedt manages to shrink the world into something comprehensible. (Claire Kohda Hazelton Guardian)
A writer with an unusual blend of incisive intelligence, humour and imagination. There is a moving essay on the blurring of gender in Louise Bourgeois and a brilliantly comic analysis of Karl Ove Knausgaard . . . She is able to combine [a] personal perspective with erudite analysis and, as the personal perspective is at the forefront, she is always open to uncertainty, which she sees, rightly, as itself a political stance . . . as the complicated warnings of experts are decried and swaggering lies broadcast on the news, this kind of uncertainty matters more than ever . . . We are fortunate to have Hustvedt voicing doubt so intelligently. (Lara Feigel Financial Times)
It is obvious that hers is a great mind that is constantly exploring, searching, "becoming" . . . An impressive collection by a novelist who clearly loves the humanities, the sciences and the ancient art of storytelling. But Hustvedt is not only a writer. She is also a passionate reader and therein lies the secret of this book . . . Here is a great book that invites reading . . . not only to 'look at a woman writer looking at men looking at women', but also to look within, deep inside the recesses of our minds, so as to recognise the fascinating complexity but also the heartbreaking fragility of human existence. (Elif Shafak Observer)
[The Delusions of Certainty] reads like the work of a talented teacher who has the drive and the ability to organise and present - in an exceptionally clear, clean, even limpid voice - a monumental amount of abstract information. It's hard to overstate the pleasure and the comfort that such demystification provides the scientifically uninitiated; it does indeed make the world feel larger, more expansive, more alive to the touch (New York Times Book Review)
Few writers eviscerate bias and flawed logic as elegantly and ruthlessly as Hustvedt . . . she expertly flays assertions about biological and psychological sex differences . . . Hustvedt does not resolve her many questions, but her exhilarating conclusion testifies to the virtues of doubt . . . Her work is cerebral but also warm, deeply felt. (Washington Post)
[Hustvedt] impresses as a writer of blazing intelligence and curiosity . . . This is fertile and fascinating territory for scientists and humanists alike. (Prospect)
A trail-blazing and inspiring collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology by the internationally bestselling novelist Siri HustvedtSee all Product description
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One essay I did particularly enjoy was the more personal "Much Ado About Hairdos", which starts with an affectionate recollection of braiding her daughter's hair for school, and moves on to a consideration of hairstyle as social signifier and its role in myth and fairytale. It rather recalls Roland Barthes' look at Hollywood's reimagination of Roman hair in "Mythologies", though it's neither as humorous nor as entertaining. She takes "Balloon Dog" by contemporary artist Jeff Koons as a jumping-off point for a meditation on the value (financial v personal) of fine art and there were some interesting insights into writing as therapy in "The Writing Self And The Psychiatric Patient", born out of a stint as a hospital volunteer teaching creative writing.
For the most part, though, this is a book I'll probably explore more fully in time - its complex essays and lectures are better appreciated one at a time rather than right through from cover to cover. Although I haven't got round to reading it yet, I hear the section on Kierkegaard is fantastic!
Very complex content: some of these essays were not designed for a general reader...but id say it is well worth the effort. One caveat: this is best consumed one essay at a time, with time to.digest the many ideas herein. There is some repetition of content, some overlap, so it does work best when seen as separate sections. Hustvedt is an accomplished novelist, feminist, art critic and philosopher, and the breadth of her learning makes these essays irresistible. Required reading if you have an interest in Kierkegaard, Picasso,synaesthesia, suicide, feminism, writing, pornography, or imaginary worlds vs reality...and that's just the tip of the iceberg! Recommended!
Initially she invites us to an art gallery of masterpieces painted by men who autobiographically comment on their women subjects through their paintings ~ this we have become used to and have seen as "truths" ~ the writer takes a mirror to our response to the "male gaze" and insists we look at ourselves; we are what makes the paintings (books, films et al) come alive, without an audience Art is as Dead as a locked cupboard.
The essays included in this mighty volume leap, prance and bewilder by turns; we become aware of being in the hands of a woman who has experienced everything both through the aesthetic training of her academic education and, more importantly, maybe, as a woman and feminist who is quite willing to trash the accepted means of assimilating culture through a patriarchy, unquestioned for too long.
I am looking forward to my year in the capable hands of Siri Hustvedt ( so may well return to this review later) and include some of my own future research into the many and varied topics presented here.
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