Summary and book reviews of Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt

Memories of the Future

by Siri Hustvedt

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt X
Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt
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  • Published:
    Mar 2019, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

A provocative, exuberant novel about time, memory, desire, and the imagination - the story of a young Midwestern woman's first year in New York City in the late 1970s and her obsession with her mysterious neighbor, Lucy Brite.

As she listens to Lucy through the thin walls of her dilapidated building, S.H., aka "Minnesota," transcribes her neighbor's bizarre and increasingly ominous monologues in a notebook, along with sundry other adventures, until one frightening night when Lucy bursts into her apartment on a rescue mission.

Forty years later, S.H., now a veteran author, discovers her old notebook, as well as early drafts of a never-completed novel while moving her aging mother from one facility to another. Ingeniously juxtaposing the various texts, S.H. measures what she remembers against what she wrote that year and has since forgotten to create a dialogue between selves across decades. The encounter both collapses time and reframes its meanings in the present.

Elaborately structured, intellectually rigorous, urgently paced, poignant, and often wildly funny, Memories of the Future brings together themes that have made Hustvedt among the most celebrated novelists working today: the fallibility of memory; gender mutability; the violence of patriarchy; the vagaries of perception; the ambiguous borders between sensation and thought, sanity and madness; and our dependence on primal drives such as sex, love, hunger, and rage.

CHAPTER ONE

Years ago I left the wide, flat fields of rural Minnesota for the island of Manhattan to find the hero of my first novel. When I arrived in August of 1978, he was not a character so much as a rhythmic possibility, an embryonic creature of my imagination, which I felt as a series of metrical beats that quickened and slowed with my steps as I navigated the streets of the city. I think I was hoping to discover myself in him, to prove that he and I were worthy of whatever story came our way. I wasn't looking for happiness or comfort in New York City. I was looking for adventure, and I knew the adventurer must suffer before he arrives home after countless trials on land and sea or is finally snuffed out by the gods. I didn't know then what I know now: As I wrote, I was also being written. The book had been started long before I left the plains. Multiple drafts of a mystery had already been inscribed in my brain, but that didn't mean I knew how it would turn out. My unformed ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its scope and themes—not to mention the substantial talents of its creator—Memories of the Future manages to be both broadly philosophical and deeply personal, the kind of novel that will speak to readers on many different levels.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews

Minneapolis Star Tribune
Hustvedt knows a good mystery when she sees one, and what's a more compelling mystery, at least to an artist, than the way time Mobius-strips one's existence into a smooth, if mystifying, continuum?

Wall Street Journal
Ms. Hustvedt’s novel is both a tender elegy and an extended boast about all the cool places she used to frequent before the city became rich and boring...[it gets] the narrator’s strange relationship with [her neighbor] just right: In a city so crowded, a person can change your life before you’ve even met her.

The Financial Times (UK)
Reading a Hustvedt novel is like consuming the best of David Lynch on repeat: the rotting ear nestling in the immaculate flowerbed in Blue Velvet; the twisted secrets witnessed from the hiding place of a closet.

Kirkus Reviews
Like all the best postmodern novels, this metafictional investigation of time, memory, and the mutating self is as playful as it is serious.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The many moods and flavors of this brash 'portrait of the artist as a young woman' constantly reframe and complicate the story, making for a fascinating shape-shifter of a novel."

Booklist
Starred Review. Various forms of detection, anchored to Hustvedt's deep knowledge of neuroscience and art, propel this rapier attack on sexism; this is a lusciously layered and suspenseful 'portrait of the artist as a young woman,' electric with wit, curiosity, and storytelling magic.

Author Blurb JM Coetzee
Among the many riches of Siri Hustvedt's portrait of a young woman finding her way as an artist are her reflections on how acts of remembering, if they reach deep enough, can heal the broken present, as well as on the inherent uncanniness of feeling oneself brought into being by the writing hand. Her reflections are no less profound for being couched as philosophical comedy of a Shandean variety.

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Beyond the Book

1970s Hangouts in New York City

Among other things, Hustvedt's novel Memories of the Future is a vivid portrait of what it was like to live in New York City as a young woman in the late 1970s. She writes evocatively about many of her character's favorite haunts, which include several establishments that are still operating today. Interested in a glimpse into "Minnesota"'s NYC? Visit these landmarks on your next visit to the city!



Hungarian Pastry ShopHungarian Pastry Shop
1030 Amsterdam Ave.
This Upper West Side coffee shop and bakery is located near Columbia University and is renowned for its cream puffs, croissants, and Hungarian coffee.

Ear InnEar Inn
326 Spring St.
Established in 1817, this historic Greenwich Village destination is the oldest bar in Manhattan that has continually ...

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