Living, Thinking, Looking
By Siri Hustvedt
(Picador USA, Paperback, 9781250009524, 400pp.)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
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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 literature.The 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 questions 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 unique 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?
"No one writing about art today comes closer than Siri Hustvedt to the elusive strangeness of a great painting." —Calvin Tomkins"As an essayist she is perhaps without peer." —The Scotland Herald"She brings both knowledge and an artist’s insight to the discussion of memory, language, and personal identity. . . . It is Hustvedt’s gift to write with exemplary clarity of what is by necessity unclear." —Hilary Mantel"[Hustvedt] gives you the illusion of seeing as if for the first time works of art that you thought you knew well. After reading her . . . most prose about art seems merely perfunctory." —Modern Painters"Hustvedt thinks her way through complex subject matter with the effortless clarity of a poised and skeptical outsider who has little time for nonsense or the blithe reductionist certainties of supposed experts. . . . Hustvedt is a calm traveler on the storm-tossed seas of the self. Her odyssey . . . deepens understanding." —Lisa Appignanesi