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Another Book Review — The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Here’s the blurb on Amazon about The Blazing World:

Longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and hailed by The Washington Post as “Siri Hustvedt’s best novel yet, an electrifying work,” The Blazing World is a masterful novel about perception, prejudice, desire, and one woman’s struggle to be seen.

In a new novel called “searingly fresh… A Nabokovian cat’s cradle” on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, the internationally bestselling author tells the provocative story of artist Harriet Burden, who, after years of having her work ignored, ignites an explosive scandal in New York’s art world when she recruits three young men to present her creations as their own. Yet when the shows succeed and Burden steps forward for her triumphant reveal, she is betrayed by the third man, Rune. Many critics side with him, and Burden and Rune find themselves in a charged and dangerous game, one that ends in his bizarre death.

An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle presented as a collection of texts, including Harriet’s journals, assembled after her death, this “glorious mashup of storytelling and scholarship” (San Francisco Chronicle) unfolds from multiple perspectives as Harriet’s critics, fans, family, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of where the truth lies. Writing in Slate, Katie Roiphe declared it “a spectacularly good read…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.”

“Astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing” (NPR), Hustvedt’s new novel is “Blazing indeed:…with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity”(Kirkus Reviews, starred review). It is a masterpiece that will be remembered for years to come.

On Amazon, the book has an overall rating of four stars, a grand total of fifty-seven four and five star reviews, and five one star reviews.  I really, really wanted to like this book.  It is told differently.  Some chapters are excerpts from the main character’s diary or journal or something like that.  Some chapters are interviews of others involved in the story or written statements from them.  But then I got to page 53 and a chapter titled “A Compendium of Thirteen: Characters, a Non Sequitur, a Confession, a Riddle, and Memories of H.B.”  The chapter is thirteen numbered paragraphs that appear to be essentially unrelated to anything that has been said so far in the story and here’s where my writing guru’s advice comes in.  You should never write a story that makes it hard for the reader.  And, that’s what I was left with in that chapter.  This story is just far too hard.  It doesn’t work for me.  So, yeah, after just 52 pages, I’m moving on.

Wish me luck.  I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the problem with these “Notable” books of 2014.  As somebody who is trying to write stories in different ways, I have a huge amount of respect for authors who do it successfully and I want to read those stories to be inspired to continue in my effort.  But, damn, this book was just too difficult.  If I don’t read a good book on this list soon, I’m gonna give up on this project.


7 responses to “Another Book Review — The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

  1. Deliberately Delicious January 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Hmmm. Now I want to backtrack to find out more about this project you’re working on….

  2. Justine January 3, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Hmmm. Similar style, but in think executed well is The End Specialist by Drew Magary –

  3. Pingback: A Book Review Update | KingMidget's Ramblings

  4. Nimi September 20, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    I bought The Blazing World months ago and also, as I recall, stopped at A Compendium of Thirteen. I started rereading it a few days ago and this time the chapter Compendium of Thirteen opened up. It now, so excites me. So much that I googled it and that’s what brought me to your blog post. I love this chapter for the subtle clues, the connections that can be made. Each of the 13 paragraphs tells us something about Harriet, her challenges, her state of mind etc. I will be spending a bit of time pondering this chapter. I don’t want to miss anything.

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