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What I Loved: A Novel Paperback – March 1, 2004


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What I Loved: A Novel + The Summer Without Men: A Novel + Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312421192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312421199
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The ardent exchange of ideas underlies all manner of passionate action in Hustvedt's third novel (after The Enchantment of Lily Dahl), a dark tale of two intertwined New York families. "What is memory's perspective? Does the man revise the boy's view or is the imprint relatively static, a vestige of what was once intimately known?" So muses Columbia University art historian Leo Hertzberg as he recalls the love affair between artist Bill ("Seeing is flux") Wechsler and his model/second wife, Violet, whom Leo secretly loves almost as much as his own wife, Erica. Leo and Bill become friends when Leo buys a huge portrait of Violet, the first painting Bill has ever sold, and the two are inseparable ever after. Erica and Bill's first wife, Lucille, give birth to sons in the same year and, soon afterward, the Wechslers buy a loft in the same SoHo building. When the boys are four, Bill and Lucille are divorced, and Bill marries Violet. Linked by their love of art and language (Erica is an English professor and Violet a Ph.D. student with a specialty in 19th-century forms of madness), the two couples talk insatiably about art and life, celebrating triumphs and weathering tragedy together. In its second half, the novel shifts into the terrain of the psychological thriller, as Bill and Lucille's son, Mark, a dangerously charming boy, grows up and slips into a sinister New York club scene. So solid and complex are Hustvedt's characters that the change in pace is effortlessly effected-the plot developments are the natural extension of the author's meticulous examination of relationships and motives. In considering Violet, Leo observes, "Unlike most intellectuals, [she] didn't distinguish between the cerebral and the physical." The same distinctions are blurred in this gripping, seductive novel, a breakout work for Hustvedt.-- didn't distinguish between the cerebral and the physical." The same distinctions are blurred in this gripping, seductive novel, a breakout work for Hustvedt.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

After buying an astonishing painting in a SoHo gallery, art historian Leo Hertzberg tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler, and they launch a lifelong friendship with all the attendant joys and sorrows. There's great in-house enthusiasm for Hustvedt's third novel.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Siri Hustvedt is the author five novels, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved,and The Summer Without Men, as well as three collections of essays, A Plea for Eros, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and Living, Thinking, Looking, as well as the nonfiction work: The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. What I Loved and The Summer Without Men were international bestsellers. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Femina Etranger in France, and she is the recipient of the 2012 International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities.

Customer Reviews

Siri Hustvedt's writing flows, its characters are painted with words.
Bonnie Brody
It sounded to me like the author was just trying to show off, but that she really did not know what she was talking about.
artiste
This one of those books that grabs you and never really puts you down until you finish it.
Steve Rogers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is much to love about Siri Hustvedt's ambitious novel WHAT I LOVED, starting with the narrator, art historian Leo Hertzberg, who remembers at sixty the events of his life over the past 25 years and those persons he loved, his wife Erica and their fragile child Matthew; his best friend Bill Wechsler, a New York artist and his second wife Violet; and Bill's child Mark by his first wife Lucille, a child whom Leo would like to love. Leo is the most decent of people and all too human, as we watch him grow old and experience what all or most of us will face: love, disappointment in love, the deaths of those we hold most dear, the sometimes seemingly impossibility of relationships, and finally old age and disease associated with it. Ms. Hustvedt's other characters pulse with life and passion as well. In a story that covers 25 years, we are bound to learn a lot about them as they become real to us.

Ms. Hustvedt's language is often beautiful, and her characters sometimes made profound statements about both art and life. Leo on marriage: "By then Erica and I had been together for over five years, and I often thought of our marriage as one long conversation." (As I recall Hillary Clinton said something similar about her life with Bill Clinton.) Leo's comments on nagging sound all too familiar: "But nagging is a strategy of the powerless, and there is nothing mysterious about it." Leo on age and memory: "The recollections of an older man are different from those of a young man. What seemed vital at forty may lose its significance at seventy. . . We delete most of it [events in our life] to live with some semblance of order, and the reshuffling of memory goes on until we die." The death of a loved one leaves a "gaping absence" in our lives.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on November 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Here is a big, ambitious novel about four talented, intelligent people -- artists and intellectuals in New York -- who first find love and friendship and then immense suffering. Bill, a talented and original artist, leaves Lucille, his emotionally stunted wife, for Violet, his passionate, vivacious model. Meanwhile their friends Leo and Erica live upstairs pursuing their own ecstatic marriage. The two couples have sons almost at the same time -- Mark and Matt. They vacation together in Vermont, they make love, enjoy food and good fellowship -- life is good.
And then two acts of unbearable tragedy occur (I won't reveal them) and everything is broken. One tragedy happens in an instant and provides the jarring fulcrum around which this book turns. The other occurs slowly over the course of years. The protagonists struggle to preserve their loves, the lives they have built, their sanity -- but the reality they face is too powerful. Everything falls apart; almost nothing survives the wreckage.
This is an absorbing and in many ways an admirable book. It is a novel of ideas that takes art seriously and brings it to life. There are dozens of other ideas woven through it -- about the nature of sickness, of reality, of truth. The writing is vivid, the characters psychologically convincing for the most part.
Yet there is a spiritual emptiness at the center of these lives, a sense of life imitating art rather than the other way around.
I found this novel impressive and occasionally shocking but I was not ultimately moved by it. It kept me at an emotional distance. I responded intellectually rather than feeling the joy and the pain. I admired its artistry a little too much.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Hobby on May 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book ran me over with its restrained intensity, its insight, and its near-perfect execution. Here are my splattered thoughts.

She is married to my favourite author, Paul Auster, and yet until now I have not read her. I may have to admit she is as good as him, or better. I wonder if they get insecure.

Indeed, it's got the same themes as some of Auster's work - two artistic couples pulling against each other, the love and friendship and lust, and (sometime) infidelities [a common source?] - and I'm thinking here particularly of Auster's work in Leviathan, a companion novel in so many ways.

In fact, if Auster had put his name to What I Loved, I would have accepted without question that he'd written it.

But the book, her not him; indeed, I meet more people who have read her than him, and I may be jealous.

I wanted to write about the ironic couplings: she writes about Leo writing about Bill who has painted a picture of Violet which he calls 'Self Portrait'. Leo/Siri comments how the title gets us thinking about the nature of selfhood, and how a portrait of another person of another gender could possibly be a self portrait. We the readers can add another level - how can Siri write so convincingly and reveal so much of her soul through the eyes of a male art critic (Leo) writing of his friendship with a male painter (Bill)?

I like the scope of the book; it isn't a simple narrative, it has the breadth and complexity of life. It is twenty five years in the lives of the two couples, which are really two and a half couples, since Violet displaces Lucille, and then really it's about their sons anyway, Matthew and Mark (I was expecting Luke and John, but the pun was only superficial, or only co-incidental.
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