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Feminist philosophy meets family memoir in this new essay collection from Siri Hustvedt, an exploration of the shifting borders that define human experience, including boundaries we usually take for granted—between ourselves and others, nature and nurture, viewer and artwork—which turn out to be far less stable than we imagine.
Described as “a 21st-century Virginia Woolf” in the Literary Review (UK), Man Booker longlisted Hustvedt displays her expansive intellect and interdisciplinary knowledge in this collection that moves effortlessly between stories of her mother, grandmother, and daughter to artistic mothers, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, and Lousie Bourgeois, to the broader meanings of maternal in a culture shaped by misogyny and fantasies of paternal authority. Mothers, Fathers, and Others is a polymath’s journey into urgent questions about familial love and hate, human prejudice and cruelty, and the transformative power of art.
This moving, fierce, and often funny book is finally about the fact that being alive means being in states of constant, dynamic exchange with what is around us, and that the impulse to draw hard and fast conceptual borders where none exist carries serious theoretical and political dangers.
Novelist Hustvedt (Memories of the Future) delves into the lives of those who came before her people related by blood or purely by her own fascination to make profound arguments about memory, art, gender, and family in this stunning collection. In "Tillie," Hustvedt unravels her family's collective memory, covering the power of both what she knows about her past, and what she doesn't: "It is only as an adult that I have been able to meditate on the problem of omission... and to begin to understand that the unsaid may speak as loudly as the said." "Living Thing" characterizes art as a collective memory, claiming it "cannot be fixed to a single location because lived experience is not left behind in the room where the object rests unseen at night after the museum has closed its doors." "Both-And" explores the "dance, humor, irony, and fun" that is often omitted in analyses of women's art, particularly the work of Louise Bourgeois, while "What Does a Man Want" parses misogyny as a force that "distorts truths about shape-shifting, dynamic human beings." In her typical fashion, Hustvedt pulls from psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature, and art criticism to make brilliant connections among her takes on the world. Fans of Hustvedt's work will welcome this, and those less familiar will delight in discovering her witty, lavish style.