- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (March 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476747237
- ISBN-13: 978-1476747231
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 138 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Blazing World: A Novel Hardcover – March 11, 2014
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
*Starred Review* Hustvedt’s (Living, Thinking, Looking, 2012) fascination with art and artists, a prime subject in her fiction and essays, propels her sixth novel through a labyrinth of masquerade and betrayal to profoundly unsettling truths. I. V. Hess is the editor of this purported collection of writings by and about an enigmatic artist, Harriet Burden, the tall, strong, erudite widow of a famous and secretive art dealer. Long enraged over the dismissive response to her work, Harriet launches a high-stakes gambit to expose the art world’s persistent sexism. She convinces three male artists to pose as the creators of a sequence of her elaborate, allusive, and wildly provocative installations. We observe Harriet, her intellectually astute and psychologically daring art, and her risky quest for validation and justice from multiple, often contradictory perspectives through entries from Harriet’s journals, art reviews, and interviews with and written statements by various experts, including, oddly enough, a woman who reads auras, as well as Harriet’s daughter and son, lifelong friend, lover, and artist-accomplices, trustworthy and vile. Hustvedt subtly explores the intricate workings of the brain and the mysteries of the mind as she shrewdly investigates gender differences, parodies art criticism, and contrasts diabolical ambition and the soul-scouring inquiries of expressive art. A heady, suspenseful, funny, and wrenching novel of creativity, identity, and longing. --Donna Seaman
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." (New York Times Book Review)
“Ingeniously and energetically put together. . . . The Blazing World never runs out of steam in dispensing ideas and peeling back layers of truth.” (Chicago Tribune)
“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 Boston Globe)
“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.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)
“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.” (The Miami Herald)
“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 Washington Post)
"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." (The Wall Street Journal)
“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.” (Slate)
"[C]omplex, astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing." (NPR)
"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." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
“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.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
“Siri Hustvedt has a rare gift for finding the human heart in what might be cerebral musings and rarefied settings.” (Columbus Dispatch)
“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.” (San Antonio Current)
“The Blazing World is poundingly alive with ideas, personalities, conviction, fear, fakery, ambition, and sorrow. The reading mind is set on high, happy alert.” (The New York Journal of Books)
"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." (The Guardian)
"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." (Financial Times)
"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 Independent)
[A]n exuberantly clever piece of work.... [A] novel that gloriously lives up to its title, one blazing with energy and thought. (The Times)
“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.” (The Rumpus)
"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." (The Spectator)
“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.” (Toronto Star)
"A heady, suspenseful, funny, and wrenching novel of creativity, identity, and longing." (Booklist (Starred Review))
“Larger-than-life Harry reads vociferously, loves fervently, and overflows with intellectual and creative energy….Hustvedt dissects the art world with ironic insight….This is a funny, sad, thought-provoking, and touching portrait of a woman who is blazing with postfeminist fury and propelled by artistic audacity." (Publishers Weekly)
“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 . . . it’s the emotional content that seizes the reader . . . 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 . . . Blazing indeed: not just with Harry’s fury, but with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred 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.” (Library Review)
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.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“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.” (Boston Globe)
“Elegant… a smart and surprisingly amusing meditation on love, friendship and sexual politics.” (The Miami Herald)
“An investigation into romantic comedy, both the classic Hollywood version—‘love as verbal war’—and Jane Austen’s Persuasion… Among the novel’s pleasures are its analysis of gender…and the character of Mia herself, who comes across as honest, witty and empathetic.” (New York Times Book Review)
“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.” (Wall Street Journal)
“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.” (Booklist (Starred Review))
“Intellectually spry… An adroit take on love, men and women, and girls and women.” (Publishers Weekly)
“[A] 21st century riff on the 19th-century Reader-I-married-him school of quiet insurgent women’s fiction… Tart comments on male vs. female styles of writing-and reading-novels are a delight… A smart, sassy reflection on the varieties of female experience.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Praise for What I Loved
“Superb. . .What I Loved is a rare thing, a page turner written at full intellectual stretch, serious but witty, large-minded and morally engaged.” (New York Times Book Review)
“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.” (Vogue)
“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.” (Newsday)
“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.” (Los Angeles Times)
“A remarkable achievement of Siri Hustvedt’s prose, with its attention to nuance and intricacy is its demonstration that friendship is a powerful form of intelligence. The book’s final pages acknowledge nearly overwhelming loss, but because the reader understands so much, their sadness feels almost like joy.” (The Washington Post)
Top customer reviews
Harriet Burden, also known as Harry, by old friends and a select new friends, is 62 years old.
Her husband Felix has been dead for about a year. Felix was a giant dealer to the stars in the art world.... Harriet, had been an artist wife.
When they married - she was twenty-six. Felix was forty-eight.
"It was love"
"And orgasms, many of them, and soft damp sheets"
"It was a haircut, very short"
"It was marriage. My first. His second".
"It was talk --paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations. And colors, a lot about colors. They stained us both, filled our insides. It was reading books aloud to each other and talking about them".
"It was babies I loved looking at, the little lords, sensuous delights of pudgy flesh and fluids. For at least three years I was awash in milk and poop and piss and spit-up and sweat and tears. It was paradise. It was exhausting. It was boring. It was sweet, exciting, and sometimes, curiously, very lonely".
Maisie and Ethan were her children.
Nannies were hired so Harriet could work. She built tiny crooked houses with lots of writing on the walls.
Both her parents died. She missed all three: Felix, and her parents. She was an only child - a WASP and Jew.
Her old friend - Rachel.... Dr. Rachel Briefman, pschoanalysis, referred Harriet to a psychiatrist – psychoanalysis after Felix died as she went into depression. She wept and talked and wept some more".
In time, her therapist said:
"There's still time to change things, Harriet. Don't let anyone say there aren't magic words"
And the story takes off.......AND ITS SOOOOOO GOOD!!!
The parts I LOVED were intimate and personal! There are challenges - but it's soooo worth it. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! I LIKED HARRIET!!!
I wasn't familiar with the name of many artists mentioned - but there were footnotes. Having the physical book was much more helpful to me than the kindle. ( I could take my time- look up information I wanted- go back and re-read sections easier). Some 'names' -- I just let go-- as it wasn't a drive- for me- in the context of the larger story - I wasn't interested 'enough' to study each artist....( it would have taken too much time). It's the OVERALL STORY I LOVED!!!!
Harriet, ( I don't know if I could call her Harry... if she'd consider me a privileged friend... but I hope so...I love this woman). 'Harry' is not 'harsh' at all....yet she is a feminist. She is also sensitive - she really misses her husband. She knew he had affairs. It hurt her, but she never felt she would lose him and in their later years - he fully came back to her--there was nobody else. She misses her mother ( from before she was sick). I didn't get the feeling that she minded "being-in-the-shadow" of her husband when he was alive....or that she hated domestic life. I don't think she thought that way of herself ever. She was happy - in love with her family: always in love with life - even when sad. Harriet was versed in history, philosophy, science, art, and literature - she was an educated bright talented woman!! She was eccentric... and kinda one of those bigger-than-life-fabulous females whom I would have loved to have enjoyed being friends with. If I were in 'her' shadows it would be alright with me.
She even reminds me - a little - of a great female I know ....( which added to my personal reading pleasure).
After Felix died...she couldn't live her life through her adult children- and she was 'aware' of the reality of the times -'not' having a penis as an artist was at a dis-advantage. I, myself have read enough novels about artists in just the last few years... and have learned ..."FEMALE ARTISTS ALL OVER THE WORLD WERE NEVER AS RESPECTED AS MEN". So, of course, why 'would' Harriet have felt any different- that she would have been 'so special' to ease into the art world as a female.
At the same time---with the grief ( loss), of her husband and parents....she also felt as if her life was collapsing on her. Dead and imaginary people played a bigger role in her life then the living did. In 'that' space, of loss, I think it's extraordinary that Harriet did what she did towards the end I'd her life. Harry kept climbing mountains. It wasn't perfect- but inspiring. Her creative juices kicked in her later years. She did it the way she did it- period!
Harry's daughter Maisie ( married a therapist who worked with foster kids and they had children of their own), worried about her mother. Maisie was a wonderful daughter - wife and mother herself.
Harriet's son, Ethan felt a little angry watching his mother change...taking on a new life. He felt it she was vaguely indecent and was a betrayal to his father's memory.
Her friend Rachel Briefman shared what Harriet was like as a child towards the start of the book - ( always always drawing ). Rachel land Harry were best friends growing up-- both had dreams. Rachael wanted to wear a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck, and Harriet saw herself as a great artist or poet, or intellectual-- or all three. "
They were intimates as girls can be, unhampered by masculine posing that plagues boys. They were a team of two girls against a hostile world of adolescent hierarchies".
We know early into this book, that Harriet has died. Volumes of notebooks written by Harriet are compiled into a book called "The Blazing World"...edited by a professor named Hess. There are interviews with various people about her projects. Through these notebooks - truths get revealed....most of her work was exhibited around New York City. Excerpts of Harriet's journals, reprints of magazine articles, and best of all were statements ( feelings really) from the the people who 'knew' what Harriet was doing all along.
Harriet's project as a whole was "Maskings". It was meant not only to expose the anti-female biased at the art world, but to uncover the complex workings of human perception and how unconscious ideas about gender, race, and celebrity influence a viewers understanding of given work of art.
The question which could be asked....did, by Harriet using a pseudonym - -change the character of the art she made?
Three projects: three different men...each completely different...The men agreed to show the work as if it were there's. The idea in itself fascinated me-I mean, I wondered what good did it do to give credit to somebody who doesn't deserve it... and why? Harry seemed to think there 'was' a reason. Harry actually saw it as a fable -- and magic needed to unfold slowly and eventually be turned into a fable that could be retold in the name of a higher purpose.
It was at this point in the book when 'I' shifted ... I looked deeper to see this project from Harriet's point of view. She was into enlightenment before 'it was cool'. [ full moon, new moon, psychic, Tantric sexual practices, fasting, chakras, candle lighting, healing, wholeness and unity].
I laughed a little to myself -- on one end, Harriet was into discovering 'the truth'...
( zen Buddhism?) ... And on the other hand her project was a disguise. So, for me... that's where the 'fable' comes in to play.
I suppose there are MANY WAYS to read this book - each reader brings their own experience, and their own educational background, or lack there of in my case.
Like the book "The Martian", by Any Weir... which this book has nothing in common....there were parts ( science and math details) , that some readers glossed over and 'still' thoroughly enjoyed the book.
There ARE challenges in "The Blazing World", but WONDERFUL intimate storytelling also. Did I comprehend every detail? Of course not....but I feel I got to know the characters -and the story as a whole.
I was crying at the end - real tears....I didn't want to let Harriet go. I wanted her to see all that she was and 'had' accomplished.
I started thinking of other artists in my lifetime, who died before their work became famous. One of the first names that comes to mind is Jonathan Larson, Composer and playwright -- famous for the Broadway play, "RENT".
Even Steig Larsson, the Swedish author who died young before he saw the huge hit his books "The Dragon Girl" series became around the world. There are so many more.
Good men die young! This was one of the most absorbing books I've read!!!
5 strong stars from me! I don't think I'll stop thinking about several characters for a long time....and Harriet pulled my heartstrings!!
Most recent customer reviews
A fantastic premise for a novel that was not fulfilled for me.
The author is brilliant but the main character is aloof and never becomes a person, more...Read more