Novel of the week: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
Siri Hustvedt’s “sublime, playful” new book captures the subtle mechanics of contemporary sexism.
(Simon & Schuster, $26)
“It’s rare that a novel of ideas can be so much fun,” said Katie Roiphe in Slate.com. Siri Hustvedt’s “sublime, playful” new book takes dead aim at contemporary sexism but captures its subtle mechanics more vividly than any polemic could. The novel is looking back on one Harriet “Harry” Burden, a 60-something New York artist who, after decades of being overshadowed by her art-dealer husband, decided to fight back against art-world hypocrisy by releasing a fresh creative outpouring as the work of three much younger men. Unfortunately, we hear the whole story through the recollections of critics and friends, and Harry on the page is “never quite as compelling or affecting a figure as everyone says she was,” said Lloyd Sachs in the Chicago Tribune. But the Harry we meet isn’t meant to be a flawless heroine, said Clare McHugh in The Wall Street Journal. She’s a woman who sees the world as grievously flawed, and “she bears more personal responsibility for that view than she can ever stand to acknowledge.”