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The internationally acclaimed novelist Siri Hustvedt has also produced a growing body of nonfiction She has published a book of essays on painting Mysteries of the Rectangle as well as an interdisciplinary investigation of a neurological disorder The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves She has given lectures on artists and theories of art at the Prado the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich In 2011 she delivered the thirty ninth annual Freud Lecture in Vienna Living Thinking Looking brings together thirty two essays written between 2006 and 2011 in which the author culls insights from philosophy neuroscience psychology psychoanalysis and literatureThe book is divided into three sections the essays in Living draw directly from Hustvedt's life; those in Thinking explore memory emotion and the imagination; and the pieces in Looking are about visual art And yet the same uestions recur throughout the collection How do we see remember and feel? How do we interact with other people? What does it mean to sleep dream and speak? What is the self? Hustvedt's uniue synthesis of knowledge from many fields reinvigorates the much needed dialogue between the humanities and the sciences as it deepens our understanding of an age old riddle What does it mean to be human?

10 thoughts on “Living Thinking Looking

  1. says:

    Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking partthat wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of from Where Your Eyes Don't Go by They Might Be GiantsOnly because it was already unshelved did I play and replay the CD with the above song on it on Sunday while I was cleaning the house As the line went through my head I was struck by how it relates to this book of essays I was still reading at the time I am infamous in my family for my love of dark serious books but my taste in music is not the same while on a road trip with my daughter a few months ago she live tweeted my saying that I like upbeat music with goofy lyricsHustvedt writes of much of our living thinking and looking as being on a subconscious or unconscious level of our memories being remembered because of the emotion we've attached to them and of the space where play transference imagination creativity takes place between me and you even if the you is an imagined one I was particularly interested in the idea of memories needing to be rooted in a place even if that place is later discovered not to be where the actual event happened and of the memory we are currently remembering being the latest inevitably revised version of the so called original memoryIn the Looking section Hustvedt expounds on earlier and amazing essays on Goya from her Mysteries of the Rectangle Essays on Painting She writes of art so clearly that I don't always feel the need to google the images she's referring to though of course I do especially that of lesser known artists such as Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois the latter a woman whose works and persona remind me of those of the fictional and not as successful protagonist of Hustvedt's latest novel The Blazing World These essays were published before that novel and the concepts Hustvedt explores here deeply inform the fictional workSome of the ideas and thoughts inherent in the essays become repetitive but that's because they were written over a span of six years and for a wide range of publications and audiences Any Hustvedt fan or anyone interested in memory mind brain issues and perception including that of art and of culture would be grateful for this collecting of articles lectures and catalogue essays all written in ordinary language in one volumeMy own pondering on the space between me and you reminds me of a Harold Pinter poem I became obsessed with a few months ago It may not seem like much to you but my perception of it was most definitely colored by hearing Julian Sands speak it I know the placeIt is trueEverything we doCorrects the spaceBetween death and meAnd you

  2. says:

    Siri Hustvedt is one of the most interesting writers of the moment I read almost all her novels and was always pretty impressed She is a very erudite intellectualist writer but not at all 'blasé' on the contrary her message is usually how few certainties we have in life and how little we know about what really matters even armed with the latest scientific insights Her focus initially was on aesthetics and on the complex relationships between people but over the years she has explicitly incorporated recent insights into neuropsychology and biology in her novels always correcting the reductionist view on man This is also reflected in this essay collection In general Hustvedt manages to keep both academic and very personal aspects in balance and to deliver very readable pieces constantly jumping back and forth between various disciplines But I have to say that the fairly distant tone started to work a bit estranging in the long run Many of her essays were already covered in her earlier prose work in one way or another and there in an ongoing story they much came to life Conclusion for those who did not yet know the work of Hustvedt this might be a useful albeit somewhat dry introduction for the Hustvedt fans this work does not add much rating 25 stars

  3. says:

    Siri Hustvedt is a remarkable writer a perceptive art critic a painstaking intellectual and a profoundly gracious human being Don't pass up an opportunity to read her work or if as privileged as I was to hear her speak and to speak with herPerhaps I will return to write my thoughts onappreciation of some particular essays in this collection as some have a tenacious uality than a few others there are 32 of them but for now I will urge you if memory neuroscience psychology philosophy or literature or art in any form matters in your life; swan dive into this without delay I often found myself nodding along with what I knew and furiously scribbling in the margins what came as revelation She is among the best and most pertinent we have

  4. says:

    I remember the first time I heard of Siri Hustvedt—it was via Larry Ypil poet extraordinaire who’d drawn me aside one night of literature and revelry to say “If you want to read about Eros you have to read Siri Hustvedt”Nearly her entire published oeuvre later I came to her latest collection of essays Living Thinking Looking—picked up from a bookstore one distraught night; it felt like the Universe had consoled me—and I have emerged affirmed of my devotion to Hustvedt The collection felt too much—bewilderingly so—like coming home Or perhaps accurately being reminded of what that familiarity felt like The first essay its very first line “Desire appears as a feeling a flicker or a bomb in the body but it’s always a hunger for something and it always propels us somewhere else toward the thing that is missing” From this nugget of rhetoric the essay “Variations of Desire A Mouse a Dog Buber and Bovary” veers into touchstones seemingly so disparate Siri’s sister Asti pins her childhood longings on a Mickey Mouse telephone; I am introduced to Martin Buber stroking a horse—the “immense vitality” beneath his skin as he did so; and I cross paths once with Madame Bovary And yet Hustvedt makes it workDesire has long been Hustvedt’s forte from her novels and threaded through her nonfiction And the essays in this collection are so unmistakeably to me Hustvedtian They’re essays in the blessedly conventional sense—the simplest route from writer to reader Here are a host of subjects in a deeply personal voice exceedingly intelligent than a little sensuous and familiar all throughout Desire weaves in and out of the essays—“Living” for her musings on family life; “Thinking” for her reflections on the making of and the appreciation of literature the academe as well as her disarmingly easy relationship with neuroscience; “Looking” for her meditations on art Again All of them fascinatingly elouent and all of them unafraid to draw from Hustvedt’s own life No shame to tell the reader that this was how she felt as she thought This unabashedness coupled with her goddamned intellect never fails to send happy shivers down my spineThe first time I read her nonfiction via her collection A Plea for Eros I tapped into that uncanny Hustvedt worldview then expression I’d enumerated above Whilst her fiction was dense and generous tense in its examination of desire and its fathomless rewards and conseuences—will everybody just please read her incomparable novel What I Loved now?—her nonfiction was lucid cerebral but relentlessly personal At the heels of reading Eros I wrote It’s about all things Hustvedt The essays are penetrating eerily intelligent just the right bit of sensuality The pieces are reflections on a wide variety of subjects and the personal ness is the driving force Yeah that’s the word— reflections In Hustvedt’s characteristically uiet and charged still yet voluptuous voice that I’ve known and long loved It’s like sitting down for a cup of coffee and listen to one of your idols ramble and rave and rant and brood and celebrate And argue And reason against the mundane complexities of the universe There may be to say but I fear I have exhausted myself This exhaustion I hasten to add is not an effect of Hustvedt I think now that hell perhaps I could have fared better if I wrote down my thoughts on each essay as I went on? In a nutshell This book has all that yet again and remains faithful to what I’ve known the author to be? And that against her previous book of essays this one manages to exhibit Hustvedt’s broad range of Awesomeness far better? And yes there’s wonder in this too The awe that someone can be so intelligent so well versed in a variety of subjects and familiar with so much ephemera so masterful with her language—and yet bafflingly graciously thankfully so generous with her insight and her life Sigh Consider me awestruck Yet again Cross posted from the blog

  5. says:

    Siri Hustvedt has a brilliant mind In this collection she draws from her extensive knowledge within the fields of neuroscience psychology literature and art as well as from her own life and personal experiences to explore topics like memory identity perception and language What happens in our brains when we remember when we imagine when we look at art? What is the self? What is reality?These essays are erudite compelling and very accessible My only complaint is that it got somewhat repetitive towards the end Probably a natural conseuence of the fact that she wrote these essays over a period of 8 years and for different audiencesFor anyone interested in dipping their toes into her non fictionNotes on SeeingKnausgård Writes Like a Woman

  6. says:

    Collection of essays I especially liked the first two parts Living and Thinking very interesting stuff on migraines reality neuroscience psychology perception Enjoyed her observations in Excursions to the Islands of the Happy Few in which she talks about how experts in their fields inhabit disciplinary islands of the like educated and the like minded Another good one is Freud's Playground imaginary friends come up as well as a missing limb and fiction writing The last part Looking about art I couldn't really follow I think that part might be good to read on an electronic reading format that is wired so you could look up images of the art she reviews

  7. says:

    Good god Siri Hustvedt is bright When I write nonfiction this sort of thing is my ideal effortlessly jumping between art and science continental and analytic philosophy personal experience and heavy abstraction Like Sontag before her but thankfully jettisoning a lot of Madame Sontag's embarrassing claims about aesthetics as many great claims as she had as well she takes all that stuff that forms her framework and without any difficulty at all uses it to discuss writers thinkers artists scientific concepts and the ordinary stuff of daily life

  8. says:

    Is there nothing this woman cannot do well? Sir Hustvedt's essays are intelligent interesting inspiring Her key passions art neuroscience psychoanalysis narrative fiction are not so different from my own key interests I found this essay collection fascinating Well researched thoughtful beautifully written

  9. says:

    My favorite essays in this collection were My Mother Phineas Morality and Feeling and Critical Notes on the Verbal Climate Other essays I liked or affected me in some way Outside the MirrorThe Real StoryFreud's PlaygroundThe portions called Living and Thinking affected and interested me the most I ended up skimming through the section called Looking bored by the unfamiliar artists and artworks referenced

  10. says:

    The best book of essays I've read in a long time I especially like the thinking part of the essays Her experience in various disciplines such as psychoanalysis psychology philosophy literature cultural studies the arts is so grand and her musings on interesting topics that are cross cut between these areas are informative and really enjoyable