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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

I was on the road when I read this book, which was long listed for the Booker Prize and on the New York Times list of notable books this year.  When I pulled it out of my bag, a colleague in the room said, "Are you reading Siri Hustvedt?  I love her, but I don't always understand her books."  Well, that is not the problem with this book.  It is very clear what her message is, and that is that women are not valued the way men are, at least not in the art world.  The book recapitulates real life in that respect.

The story is about Harriet Burden, an artist who was married to a gallery owner who never did much to promote her career.  The whole "he couldn't" argument may be very true to those who know the art world, but it doesn't have a warm feel about it.  The story is  told  after Harry's death, by a number of different people, including her children, and in a number of different ways.  Harry did three shows under a male pseudonym and her work was much better accepted when it was thought to be a male artist.  The book conveys the enormous weight that Harry operated under, and her sense of injustice that followed her beyond her grave.  Beautifully written and sadly true.

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