What an amazing concept that Siri Hustvedt exposes in her new best-seller, The Blazing World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014). As described in The Wall Street Journal, “to expose sexism, a female artist asks three men to be fronts for her work. The stunt goes terribly awry” (p. C8). The book has only been released one week, and it is rapidly climbing the list of fiction best-sellers on Amazon.com.
Who is Siri Hustvedt? She is the author of five novels, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved,and The Summer Without Men. She also published three collections of essays, A Plea for Eros, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and Living, Thinking, Looking, in addition to a nonfiction work: The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. She is the recipient of the 2012 International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities.
I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:
With The Blazing World, internationally bestselling author Siri Hustvedt returns to the New York art world in her most masterful and urgent novel since What I Loved. Hustvedt, who has long been celebrated for her “beguiling, lyrical prose” (The Sunday Times Books, London), tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity.
The three solo shows are successful, but when Burden finally steps forward triumphantly to reveal herself as the artist behind the exhibitions, there are critics who doubt her. The public scandal turns on the final exhibition, initially shown as the work of acclaimed artist Rune, who denies Burden’s role in its creation. What no one doubts, however, is that the two artists were intensely involved with each other. As Burden’s journals reveal, she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous game that ended with the man’s bizarre death.
Ingeniously presented as a collection of texts compiled after Burden’s death, The Blazing World unfolds from multiple perspectives. The exuberant Burden speaks—in all her joy and fury—through extracts from her own notebooks, while critics, fans, family members, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of who she was, and where the truth lies.
From one of the most ambitious and internationally renowned writers of her generation, The Blazing World is a polyphonic tour de force. An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle, it explores the deceptive powers of prejudice, money, fame, and desire. Emotionally intense, intellectually rigorous, ironic, and playful, Hustvedt’s new novel is a bold, rich masterpiece, one that will be remembered for years to come.
You can read a full review of this book by Clare McHugh, published in The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2014, p. C8, at this link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303795904579431460059821576?KEYWORDS=Vengeance+by+Deception&mg=reno64-wsj Ms. McHugh is an expert reviewer, currently an editor at Time, Inc.
You won’t see this one at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, because we do not present works of fiction, unless they are business-related. One example of that we might see is The Circle by Dave Eggers (New York: Knopf, 2013), as I gave this book to Randy Mayeux for Christmas. I’m not sure he’s finished it, and it is not on our selection list yet, but we only announce books one month in advance, so we will just wait and see.
Regardless, you might put this one on your escape reading list. It looks great!
NOTE: I am aware that I have done a very poor job with these posts, especially concerning my views about advances in technology. Those posts were highly misaligned with the books we have presented about technology, so I will not write about that subject anymore. However, I will share some thoughts about some of the books that I have read recently in order to inspire some of you to consider reading them.
Kati Marton is a veteran ABC and NPR news correspondent. She has written seven books, and I have two of them. In this post, I will call your attention to her newest best-seller that I read over the holidays entitled Paris: A Love Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). Before all of you guys reading this think that book must be too “mushy,” it is actually less about loving people, and more about loving her experiences in the wonderful Parisian context.
You may remember the feelings that I expressed about David McCullough’s work in the same setting. In 2011, he published The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), in which he shared experiences from politicians, artists, and other entrepreneurial Americans who visited, lived, and worked in Paris at the turn of the century. The experiences were spellbinding, and he wrote the book so well that you wanted to jump out of your chair, get on an airplane, and wind back the clock to join them.
There is something magical about Paris. I was there once, but only for 36 hours, and as a member of a whirlwind tour party. That is not how to see Paris. In fact, that is not how to see anything.
But, Marton’s Paris is special, because it documents experiences with her two famous late husbands. The first was Peter Jennings, ABC’s news anchor, who divorced her in 1993, and died in 2005. The second was Richard Holbrooke, a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, and who at the time of his death, still married to Marton, was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Holbrooke died in 2010.
Paris was an important place for both of these relationships, and in her book, you see it as both foreground and background to important events in her life, the lives of both men, and the troubles of America and the world. While she loved both her husbands, the book also includes brutal honesty about her extramarital affairs while in both relationships.
Paris became Marton’s refuge. After settling all the affairs of the estate, she writes, “I need to get away. Paris seems the right place. It is where Richard and I started our lives together and lived our happiest times. But, well before that, it is where I became who I am. In a life of multiple uprootings, Paris has been my one fixed point. Once before I found happiness and beauty in Paris. I was a young girl then, the child of political refugees who settled in America….Paris is the place where good things seem to happen to me. In a way, every story with Paris at its heart is a love story. So is mine. It is where I fell in love, first with the city, then with the man who became the father of my children. Then, in middle age, I found lasting love in Paris with Richard. So, in Paris, I will relearn how to live” (pp. 32-33).
And, thus, the story ends with Marton celebrating Christmas with her family in Paris. The final photo caption in the book reads, “the start of a new life, alone, in Paris.”
This book was so well done that I ordered a book she wrote in 2006, entitled The Great Escape: Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World (New York: Simon & Schuster). The book is out of print, so I had to order a copy from a used book service. The context is Budapest, Hungary. The story has deep familial roots for Marton, as both her parents were Hungarian journalists for AP and UPI, and who were imprisoned during the war. I have not yet finished this one. I am reading it slowly to fully absorb the context and bravery that jumps off every page. When I finish, I want to share some insights that I am gaining from that book.
Here you go – this is my list of the Best of 2011 in a number of categories.
Best Business Book: The 3rd Alternative by Stephen Covey (New York: Free Press) – this book explains and promotes a tired “win-win” philosophy in a fresh way, opening up applications in multiple contexts for many people who give lip service to the concept likely have never thought of before. It didn’t stay on the best-seller lists long enough.
Best Non-Fiction Book: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (New York: Simon & Schuster) – I didn’t think he could ever top the biography he wrote called Truman, but this is a highly readable, novel-like approach of an important segment of American history, as played out overseas.
A close second: Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews (New York: Simon & Schuster) – I’ve read a lot of books about JFK, and many a lot longer than this one, but I have never learned so much as I did with this account. Lots of inside information from an outside perspective by this MSNBC giant.
Best Fiction Book: 11-22-63 by Stephen King (New York: Scribner) – A fantasy about a high school teacher who travels back in time, attempting to change history, with the first stop in 1958. Quite a story! The picture of the author on the inside cover makes him look so intense!
Best Movie: Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. directed by Steve McQueen (Fox Searchlight films) – this is not entertaining, and a very difficult movie to watch, but it demonstrates the challenges that 3-5 million Americans with sex addictions face better than any documentary ever has or could.
Best Sporting News: Paterno and Penn State Fall – this is not a happy story, but time unravels strange tales, and a giant in a successful program faces the music, and we cannot ignore it; at the Ticket City Bowl on Monday, I saw two t-shirts: one said, “Joe Knows Football,” and another, “What Does Joe Know?” Unfortunately, with his diminishing physical condition, we may never find out.
Best Entertainer: Taylor Swift – a 22-year old captivates audiences and the music world with original songs from the heart, and she bonds with her listeners of all ages at concerts in ways that we have not seen since the Beatles; the song Story of Us will resonate with many people who have had heartbreaking relationships
Best Television Program: Friday Night Lights – when its final episode aired this spring, I realized how good it was, and how much I will miss it; if you never saw it, purchase the series on DVD’s.
Best News Story: Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami in May – riveting images of horror and sorrow followed by amazing stories of international and personal help and relief show the greatest contrast in bad and good that you could ask to see, and there still remains a lot of work to do.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.
In a stunning reversal against the digital book market, the Wall Street Journal reports that a successful author has turned to phyiscal paperbacks through a contract with a traditional publisher. The article, authored by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, is entitled “E-Book Author Tries New Format: Real Paperbacks” (August 23, 2011, p. B4).
The author, John Locke, was the first self-published writer to sell more than one million digital books on Amazon.com. The contract with CBS Corporation’s Simon & Schuster will distribute eight of Locke’s thrillers that feature Donovan Creed, a former CIA assassin.
Despite the trend of books moving to the digital format, and despite the trend of traditional bookstores such as Borders closing, the good news is that “there are still lots of retail outlets for books,” according to a quote in the article from Adam Rothberg, a spokesperson for Simon & Schuster.
Are you surprised by this?
Let’s talk about it really soon!