Excerpt from The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Blazing World

By Siri Hustvedt

The Blazing World
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Mar 2014,
    368 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
The Blazing World

After she moved to Brooklyn, my mother collected strays—human strays, not animals. every time i went to visit her, there seemed to be another "assistant," poet, drifter, or just plain charity case living in one of the rooms, and i worried they might take advantage of her, rob her, or even kill her in her sleep. i worry too much; it's chronic. i became the worrier in the family—my job. The man who called himself the Barometer lived with mother for a long time. he had spent two weeks in Bellevue not long before he landed on her doorstep. he rattled on about the words of the winds and made peculiar gestures to lower the humidity. When i mentioned my anxiety about him to my mother, she said, "But, maisie, he's a gentle person, and he draws very well." She was right about him, as it turned out. he became the subject of one of my films, but there were other, more fleeting and unsavory characters who kept me up at night until Phineas came along and put her affairs in order, but that was later. my mother's place was immense, an old warehouse building. She had two floors, one to live in and one to work in. When she renovated the place, she made sure there were several bedrooms for "all my future grandchildren," but i think she also had a fantasy about supporting young artists directly, putting them up, giving them space to work in. my father had his foundation. my mother had her ad hoc red hook artists' colony.

Not long after she moved, my mother said to me, "maisie, i can fly." her energy was up, to say the least. i read somewhere about hypomania, and i asked myself if my mother might not be hypomanic. mourning can be complicated by all kinds of nervous ups and downs, and she was really sick after my father died. She was so weak and thin, she could hardly move, but after she recovered, she didn't stop. my mother worked long hours in her studio every day, and after that she read for two or three hours, one book after another, novels, philosophy, art, and science. She kept journals and notebooks. She bought herself one of those big, heavy punching bags and hired a woman named Wanda to give her some boxing lessons. Sometimes i felt limp just looking at her. She'd always had a streak of fierceness in her—she could explode suddenly over a trivial incident. once when she had asked me to brush my teeth and i dawdled—i must have been about seven—she lost it. She yelled and screamed and pressed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink. But most of the time she was a patient mother to me and my brother. She was the one who read to us and sang to us, who made up long stories that satisfied both me and ethan, not an easy task, because i wanted fairies and goblins, and he wanted vehicles that released various weapons and robots, so she would make a hybrid. For a whole year, she told us a long saga about the Fervidlies, who lived in a country called Fervid. Lots of magic and fights and elaborate weaponry. She helped us with our homework all through high school. i'd call her from college, too, and ask her questions about my classes or papers. my mother was interested in everything, and she seemed to have read everything. She was the one who attended our games, recitals, and plays. my father came when he could, but he traveled a lot. Sometimes, when i was little, i would go in and sleep with my mother when he was gone. She talked in her sleep. i don't know why i remember, but once she yelled out, "Where's Felix now?"

children are selfish. i knew my mother was an artist who made intricate houses filled with dolls and ghosts and animals she sometimes let me touch, but i never thought of her work as a job. She was my mother. my father called her his madonna of the mind. it's awful when i think about it, but it never occurred to me that my mother was frustrated or unhappy. The endless rejection must have hurt her, the injustice of it, but i can't say i felt it when i was a child. She liked to hum and sway when she worked on one of her constructions, and she'd waggle her fingers over a figure before she touched it. Sometimes she sniffed the materials and sighed. She'd close her eyes from time to time and liked to say that there was no art for her without the body and the rhythms of the body. of course, when i was a teenager, i found these gestures and tics excruciating, and i tried to make sure none of my friends witnessed them. When i was seventeen she once said to me, "maisie, you're lucky you didn't get my breasts. Big breasts on a little woman are fetching; big breasts on a big woman are scary—to men, that is." it hit me that she felt her womanliness, her body, her size had somehow interfered with her life. This was long before the pseudonyms, and i was busy making my first little film in high school, a visual diary, i called it—very pretentious, lots of long, moody shots of my friends walking down the street or sitting in their rooms at home in states of existential anguish, that sort of thing. What did my breasts have to do with it?

Excerpted from The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt. Copyright © 2014 by Siri Hustvedt. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  James Tiptree Jr.

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  90Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.