Wednesday, 24 September 2014

who was Harriet Burden?

the Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (2014)

 Harriet Burden; struggling artist, mother of two and the widower of Felix Lord, a famous art dealer. Fed up with the sexist art world, where a man is more likely to get praised than women, she plots a project where a man should play the role as the artist behind her art. The unfolding of Harriet Burden and her project is done after Harriet's death by a professor Hess through a number of interviews and Harriet's notebooks.

Harriet chose three very different men for her maskings project. The first was a black gay man, the second a young man, and the third was an already quite famous artist, Rune. The project went well until Rune, and no one believed that Harriet was behind it all.

I have been having a hard time with this book and I think I finally can put my finger on why. I think it's because it simply became too technical for me. It is written in a very scientific way with footnotes and references to both fictional and real work. For people interested in psychology and neuroscience, this must be a great read, but I'm not. And that's why I couldn't really enjoy this book, despite it being well-written (especially towards the end) and I rather enjoyed the feminist approach.

The Blazing World is on the Man Booker Prize 2014 long list, the first year the prize includes American authors as well. This was the first book out in Clementine's Booker reading circle, and I'm excited to read the short list in the coming year. And this will not be the last Hustvedt I read, despite not quite getting into this book.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

the birth of a nation through a child's eyes.

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (2002)

"When my father was a young man in Vilna, every wall in Europe said, 'Jews go home to Palestine.' Fifty years later, when he went back to Europe on a visit, the walls all screamed, 'Jews get out of Palestine.'"

  Amos was 9 when Israel became a nation. And 12 when his mother committed suicide. In his memoir, he tells the story of his family and how they suddenly found themselves in the Holy Land. He also gives an insight about what it was like being a child in Jerusalem under the making of Israel. But most importantly, it's about the joys and sorrows of a family.

 Beautifully written, it's both tragic and funny at the same time. I have had a hard time coming up with something clever to say about it, and that usually means that the book is great.

What I liked best about the book, is that it doesn't feel like a memoir at all. I think it's because the story isn't chronological, but jumps back and forth in time. I also learnt a lot from the book. The most eye-opening information, at least for me, was the British involvement when Israel was created. It also reminded me how much I need to read Jerusalem. Needless to say that I have definitely added more books by Amos Oz to my reading list. I'm also excited that Natalie Portman is making this book into a film. 

I read this as a part of Bjørg and Hedda's off-the-shelf challenge, this time the theme was Asia. And A Tale of Love and Darkness has been on my shelf since 2011, so about time.

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