The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt is a complex telling of the life of artist Harriet Burden whose art installations go unnoticed or dismissed throughout her lifetime. Harriet, herself, goes by “Harry” and never fails to remind everyone that if she was born a man, her art would be appreciated and revered. Harry, herself, is a loud, brash woman who likes to quote controversial and abstract philosophers at dinner parties and is described at times as being like a larger than life cartoon.
In The Blazing World her life’s work is examined posthumously through a compilation of her notebook excerpts, interviews, and family writings. This allows the reader to see the character through a variety of lenses and this is a book, if nothing else, about perception. Multidimensional storytelling is a common theme throughout as Hustvedt delves into the world of Art, laying bare all of its prejudices.
This book was very complex, with a lot of heavy themes, but it was very well written. At times I forgot this was a book of fiction and that Harry was as imaginary as the masks the main character wears to disguise her work.
I felt a little out of my depth, like I had to read a lot more philosophical works and maybe see a show downtown at an out-of-the-way gallery before I would be able to understand half of what was being written, but, hey I like a challenge.
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published: March 11, 2014
This is a guest post from Jennifer. Jennifer is a bibliophile living in the ‘burbs, but remains a city girl at heart. When her nose isn’t in a book she is crocheting up a storm. Oh, and one time a Starbucks barista invited her to their wedding solely based on the fact she goes every morning for a decaf mocha. So, there’s that.