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The Blazing World ❴PDF / Epub❵ ☆ The Blazing World Author Siri Hustvedt – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk A brilliant provocative novel about an artist who after years of being ignored by the art world conducts an experiment she conceals her female identity behind three male frontsPresented as a collectio A brilliant provocative novel about an artist who after years of being ignored by the art world conducts an experiment she conceals her female identity behind three male frontsPresented as a collection of texts edited and introduced by a scholar years after the artist's death the book unfolds through extracts from Burden's notebooks and conflicting accounts from others about her life and work Even after she steps forward to reveal herself as the force behind three solo shows there are those who doubt she is responsible for the last exhibition The Blazing Kindle - initially credited to the acclaimed artist Rune No one doubts the two artists were involved with each other According to Burden's journals she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous psychological game that ended with the man's bizarre death From one of the most ambitious and internationally celebrated writers of her generation Hustvedt's The Blazing World is a polyphonic tour de force It is also an intricately conceived diabolical puzzle that addresses the shaping influences of prejudice money fame and desire on what we see in one another Emotionally intense intellectually rigorous ironic and playful this is a book you won't be able to put down.

  • Hardcover
  • 368 pages
  • The Blazing World
  • Siri Hustvedt
  • English
  • 03 March 2016
  • 9781476747231

About the Author: Siri Hustvedt

Paul Auster Hustvedt employs a use of repetitive themes or symbols throughout her work Most notably the use of certain types of voyeurism often linking objects of the dead to characters who are relative strangers to the deceased characters most notable in various facits in her novels.



10 thoughts on “The Blazing World

  1. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    Pedantic Dense Alienating For some reason this book brings this kind of food to mind I can respect the studied sophisticated artistic intelligence it takes to create something like this but its pretentiousness smothered the experience for me I found myself stopping too often to wonder What exactly IS this? and Why should I care? the same way I would if a waiter presented me with a dish of meat flavored foam This is surprising because Hustvedt's writing is always an overly satisfying experience brimming with REAL meaty deliciousness Every time I encountered another page with fictional overly constructed and mind numbingly boring footnotes in minuscule type I thought All of this would be fine and good Who doesn't enjoy meat infused foam on a watermelon cube once in a while? but I just did not like many of these characters especially HarrietHarry Harriet basically blames her husband's fame for her diminished success as an artist Then wildly popular husband falls dead face first in his breakfast eggsyikes So obviously I couldn't stop wondering if this was some deeply personal and not so veiled rant about the difficulties of creating alongside real husband and acclaimed writer Paul Auster Some well food for thought for Hustvedt We're not all PhD's in neuropsychoanalysis neuroethics and neurophysiology as she describes herself on the back flap so you might want to take it down a few conceptual notches On that note I'll leave you with this little guy

  2. Samadrita Samadrita says:

    The problem with this book is that none of it rings true the characterization the narration the atmosphere the dialogues the relationships even the emotions Everything seems so fake and overwhelmingly dramatic that at times I cajoled myself into reading on in the hopes of spotting some noticeable evidence of parody at work But nope Sardonic self deprecation isn't the objective here These people are all serious and want me to take them seriously Although once I persuaded myself to go with the flow and obseuiously accepted the narrative's palpable delusions of grandeur and omnipotence the reading experience became a lot bearable Because sometimes even if a book manages to irritate me with its undisguised self admiration I can gleefully read on if it contains an intelligent discussion on the human condition And the good thing is 'The Blazing World' is blazing with new ideas bursting at the seams with complex concepts on neuroscience memory phenomenology perception and gendered identities which reuire careful prolonged contemplation Additionally Siri Hustvedt can rustle up a wonderful turn of phrase and a syntactically elegant lexically succulent sentence So the negatives and positives are fairly balanced Much like its protagonist Harriet Burden's creations The Suffocation Rooms or Beneath the book is like an elaborate contraption a labyrinth of contrasting worldviews and allusions to arcane texts designed to aid the reader in comprehending the mess that lies outside clearly demarcated boundaries defining human existence Friends family therapists gallery owners art reviewers journalists expose layer after layer of prejudice personal contempt vague conjectures hollow biases while projecting their own image of Harriet Burden as an artist who had to use male pseudonyms to get attention in the art world In posterity Harriet is only reconstructed as a montage of other people's opinions and her journal entries as a widely learned woman whose talent is overlooked by her rich influential art collector husband and the male dominated art world in general Desperate for recognition she decides to pull off an intricate con on the artworld by showcasing her work using three male artists as her 'masks' But her plans derail when her last front aka Rune Larsen an eccentric manipulative artist refuses to play along and takes credit for her work All intellectual and artistic endeavors even jokes ironies and parodies fare better in the mind of the crowd when the crowd knows that somewhere behind the great work or great spoof it can locate a cock and a pair of balls odorless of course The pecker and beanbags need not be real Oh no the mere idea that they exist will suffice to goad the crowd into greater appreciation Women artists are less appreciated than their male counterparts viewed with prejudice treated with contempt rarely allowed entrance into the hallowed halls of fame yada yadayou get the picture Except something about the way Hustvedt delivers this feminist y rant left me a little cold I blame the highly unconvincing multiple perspectives and Hustvedt's general disregard for the 'show don't tell' device This is where I prefer Margaret Atwood's deconstruction of the mind of a female painterartist Cat's Eye because Atwood knows how to fashion a blistering denunciation of male chauvinism without being overt about it and she can recount a believable story like nobody's business Hustvedt on the other hand seems rather intent on creating opportunities within a text to insert esoteric references and paragraph length footnotes which scarcely add anything to the world which our characters inhabit Long story short I want to remember this as an intellectual exercize or as a corpus of interesting ideas

  3. Elyse Walters Elyse Walters says:

    We learn a lot at the start of The Blazing World Harriet Burden also known as Harry by old friends and a select new friends is 62 years old Her husband Felix has been dead for about a year Felix was a giant dealer to the stars in the art world Harriet had been an artist wife When they married she was twenty six Felix was forty eight It was loveAnd orgasms many of them and soft damp sheetsIt was a haircut very shortIt was marriage My first His second It was talk paintings sculptures photographs and installations And colors a lot about colors They stained us both filled our insides It was reading books aloud to each other and talking about them It was babies I loved looking at the little lords sensuous delights of pudgy flesh and fluids For at least three years I was awash in milk and poop and piss and spit up and sweat and tears It was paradise It was exhausting It was boring It was sweet exciting and sometimes curiously very lonely Maisie and Ethan were her children Nannies were hired so Harriet could work She built tiny crooked houses with lots of writing on the walls Both her parents died She missed all three Felix and her parents She was an only child a WASP and Jew Her old friend Rachel Dr Rachel Briefman pschoanalysis referred Harriet to a psychiatrist – psychoanalysis after Felix died as she went into depression She wept and talked and wept some In time her therapist saidThere's still time to change things Harriet Don't let anyone say there aren't magic wordsAnd the story takes offAND ITS SOOOOOO GOOD The parts I LOVED were intimate and personal There are challenges but it's soooo worth it I LOVED THIS BOOK I LIKED HARRIETI wasn't familiar with the name of many artists mentioned but there were footnotes Having the physical book was much helpful to me than the kindle I could take my time look up information I wanted go back and re read sections easier Some 'names' I just let go as it wasn't a drive for me in the context of the larger story I wasn't interested 'enough' to study each artist it would have taken too much time It's the OVERALL STORY I LOVEDHarriet I don't know if I could call her Harry if she'd consider me a privileged friend but I hope soI love this woman 'Harry' is not 'harsh' at allyet she is a feminist She is also sensitive she really misses her husband She knew he had affairs It hurt her but she never felt she would lose him and in their later years he fully came back to her there was nobody else She misses her mother from before she was sick I didn't get the feeling that she minded being in the shadow of her husband when he was aliveor that she hated domestic life I don't think she thought that way of herself ever She was happy in love with her family always in love with life even when sad Harriet was versed in history philosophy science art and literature she was an educated bright talented woman She was eccentric and kinda one of those bigger than life fabulous females whom I would have loved to have enjoyed being friends with If I were in 'her' shadows it would be alright with me She even reminds me a little of a great female I know which added to my personal reading pleasure After Felix diedshe couldn't live her life through her adult children and she was 'aware' of the reality of the times 'not' having a penis as an artist was at a dis advantage I myself have read enough novels about artists in just the last few years and have learned FEMALE ARTISTS ALL OVER THE WORLD WERE NEVER AS RESPECTED AS MEN So of course why 'would' Harriet have felt any different that she would have been 'so special' to ease into the art world as a female At the same time with the grief loss of her husband and parentsshe also felt as if her life was collapsing on her Dead and imaginary people played a bigger role in her life then the living did In 'that' space of loss I think it's extraordinary that Harriet did what she did towards the end I'd her life Harry kept climbing mountains It wasn't perfect but inspiring Her creative juices kicked in her later years She did it the way she did it period Harry's daughter Maisie married a therapist who worked with foster kids and they had children of their own worried about her mother Maisie was a wonderful daughter wife and mother herself Harriet's son Ethan felt a little angry watching his mother changetaking on a new life He felt it she was vaguely indecent and was a betrayal to his father's memory Her friend Rachel Briefman shared what Harriet was like as a child towards the start of the book always always drawing Rachel land Harry were best friends growing up both had dreams Rachael wanted to wear a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck and Harriet saw herself as a great artist or poet or intellectual or all three They were intimates as girls can be unhampered by masculine posing that plagues boys They were a team of two girls against a hostile world of adolescent hierarchies We know early into this book that Harriet has died Volumes of notebooks written by Harriet are compiled into a book called The Blazing Worldedited by a professor named Hess There are interviews with various people about her projects Through these notebooks truths get revealedmost of her work was exhibited around New York City Excerpts of Harriet's journals reprints of magazine articles and best of all were statements feelings really from the the people who 'knew' what Harriet was doing all along Harriet's project as a whole was Maskings It was meant not only to expose the anti female biased at the art world but to uncover the complex workings of human perception and how unconscious ideas about gender race and celebrity influence a viewers understanding of given work of art The uestion which could be askeddid by Harriet using a pseudonym change the character of the art she made? Three projects three different meneach completely differentThe men agreed to show the work as if it were there's The idea in itself fascinated me I mean I wondered what good did it do to give credit to somebody who doesn't deserve it and why? Harry seemed to think there 'was' a reason Harry actually saw it as a fable and magic needed to unfold slowly and eventually be turned into a fable that could be retold in the name of a higher purpose It was at this point in the book when 'I' shifted I looked deeper to see this project from Harriet's point of view She was into enlightenment before 'it was cool' full moon new moon psychic Tantric sexual practices fasting chakras candle lighting healing wholeness and unity I laughed a little to myself on one end Harriet was into discovering 'the truth' zen Buddhism? And on the other hand her project was a disguise So for me that's where the 'fable' comes in to play I suppose there are MANY WAYS to read this book each reader brings their own experience and their own educational background or lack there of in my case Like the book The Martian by Any Weir which this book has nothing in commonthere were parts science and math details that some readers glossed over and 'still' thoroughly enjoyed the book There ARE challenges in The Blazing World but WONDERFUL intimate storytelling also Did I comprehend every detail? Of course notbut I feel I got to know the characters and the story as a whole I was crying at the end real tearsI didn't want to let Harriet go I wanted her to see all that she was and 'had' accomplishedI started thinking of other artists in my lifetime who died before their work became famous One of the first names that comes to mind is Jonathan Larson Composer and playwright famous for the Broadway play RENT Even Steig Larsson the Swedish author who died young before he saw the huge hit his books The Dragon Girl series became around the world There are so many Good men die young This was one of the most absorbing books I've read 5 strong stars from me I don't think I'll stop thinking about several characters for a long timeand Harriet pulled my heartstrings

  4. Stephen P Stephen P says:

    I finished this book at 330 AM Pacific Coast Time and did not feel the beginnings of mourning fade till 530 this afternoon I do not mean the missing of the book due to its finale That was overwhelmed I was overwhelmed by the loss of someone I knew and someone I cared about a great dealFlayed open by the surgical skills of Siri Hustvedt Harriet Harry Burden lived the proof of human vulnerability fear valor the spit and guts to reach for identity meaning in her life I lived within her thought and her feelings her struggles in an indifferent world page after page Upon closing the book she was torn from me Astonished since I was am no longer reading she is not a part of my life Already she faced my embattled embittered resistance for her like the dead to begin the endless fade into the permutations of memoryHow did Hustvedt do this? There was no slight of hand Even the artifice of this being a psuedo biography slipped away by the second page under the power of the writing Though it may seem effortless to the naked eye this profoundly intelligent writer works hard at her craft Lyrical layered with the intricacies of meaning the artist Harriet Burden is revealed through her own notes writings and interviews with family members friends collectors gallery owners critics giving us layered insights and perspectives vantage points from different angles which propel the narrative forward We see her in increments buildingSeeing perception is one major theme how we see ourselves others see us how objects are perceived which burns for her like an obsession to light fires The daughter of an intimidating emotionally absent Philosophy Professor father she is now known in her world of the New York City art world as the wife of an eually unavailable wealthy art collector Her own work of dissonant bodies emerging and emerged into life goes unnoticed unseen Harry needs to be seen As a woman she is not seen Her father did not want her did not see her She creates a plan Over time there will be three shows of her work Each will be presented as done by a male artist The first is an unknown followed by a little known black gay street performer and the last chosen is a troubled but known installation artist No one knows the work is hers but her male Psychiatrist who she has been seeing in a productive therapeutic relationship She is unseen Now she no longer has to provide the gratuitous smiles and handshakes while keenly observing the fictitious ritualistic false proprieties of the art scene Early on it is clear to her voracious mind keening for knowledge and understanding that the words of critics who have no true experience with art will create the perception of how that piece is viewed and seen It will be mirrored back to those in the art world by those in the know The price value will rise and they will buy they will OWN That piece will no longer be known as the artist's work emanating from somewhere within her body but the piece owned by so and so the piece explained by the critic in the informative art magazine which must be referenced at all gatherings so as to truly be seen swallowed by its assigned genre influences and its value set in dollars not in some modal of aesthetic accomplishmentHer critics will respond to the work of a male artist Her vengeance will be to wait then spring upon throw in the critics publics faces that all those masculine elements seen in the works the praises of strength were created by her a woman These works would have met the fate of her others if she was known as the artist The reactions words of the critics if any would find themselves diluted or absent Now the ACTUAL perception of the pieces installed would follow When time she and the chosen male artists would uncover the hypocrisy Harry Burden would and could be seen But it is something complicated and involved In the brilliance of a Hustvedt novel it is expected to be This act of vengeance uncovering being seen will also hold up to those milling through dinner parties grand openings in the tight lipped smugness of the aggrandizement of their status the fragility of perception What is it they we are looking at who is doing the looking does anyone care or want to know the illusory crumble of life stepped through in pantomimeHarriet Burden wants to has to know Where is the meaning? Do we see according to what we are told by our experiences culture parents education pressure of peers or are we born with a particular sensitivity perspective that we can only begin to reach if we have the hunger and persistence to face all within us accepting the good the bad the strange and unknown of ourselves so the next moment we breathe as a whole person undivided The alternative rests with what has been infused into us as extra layers of coverings as carry on luggage that are recognized by others as our acceptable selves within the survival of life as to be an acceptable selfThe Blazing World is an outcry It is heightened by its particularity to Harriet Harry Burden's life and struggles while within the realm of the finest of writing addresses the universal of current and future generations reach to seek find establish meaning in a world of pressurized indifference

  5. Jill Jill says:

    Just before I was ready to write this review I happened across an interesting statistic at this year’s Whitney biennial only 32 percent of the represented artists were women down from four years ago when for the first time ever over half of featured artists were womenSiri Hustvedt’s latest book The Blazing World is spot on when its main character Harriet Burden muses ”I suspected that if I had come in another place my work might have been embraced or at least approached with greater seriousness”The concept – an outstanding female artist concealing her gender behind three successive male beards—is solid and Ms Hustvedt is certainly a very masterful writer So what went wrong for me?Just this my personal bias is that I should not be steeped in knowledge of western philosophy and sometimes obscure contemporary art to be able to immerse myself in a book When one character says that Harriet has “taken the Kierkegaardian position” I shouldn’t need to scratch my head When philosopher Arthur Danno Vasari Diderot and others are mentioned in one paragraph I should have at least a simple roadmap about what it all means And when fictional footnotes are added I shouldn’t believe that it is the author displaying her eruditenessI am not unintelligent; I hold a Master’s degree from an excellent university Yet I felt adrift My belief is that in the very best books words are precisely used to clarify the human condition and create a connection with the reader rather than distance that reader From time to time there was an intellectual connection to this novel but not a visceral one Certainly there was little warmthThe structure – beginning with a preface from the editor of a narrative about Burden and punctuated with various voices and statements – is imaginative yet alienating The reading pleasures of dialogue and character interaction is withheld The Blazing World reminds me of a sometimes lovely but often inaccessible piece of contemporary art one can admire the work and understand its craftsmanship but without that all important connection one doesn’t have that compulsion for it to hang in one’s living room Readers I respect have already given this book many accolades and I freely acknowledge that reading is subjective and this may simply not be the right book for me

  6. Rebecca Rebecca says:

    45 Through a collection of fragmentary sources the novel builds a posthumous picture of Harriet aka Harry Burden a larger than life feminist and modern artist who released her work under male pseudonyms An engrossing puzzle as well as a bold commentary on gender identity and the divided self both stylistically risky and fiercely intelligent Hustvedt completed her doctoral studies on Charles Dickens and in some ways her sprawling narrative with its large cast of characters resembles a Dickens novel for the postmodern age with the uest for the fractured identity taking the place of the standard Victorian hero’s journeyThis was my first encounter with Hustvedt; I am so impressed that I would eagerly read anything else she’s written fiction or nonfiction Meanwhile I highly recommend The Blazing World Take Harriet’s own advice “Peel the onion of personas from one to the next moving further and further into the book” You’ll find her intriguing story entirely worth the mental effortSee my full review at The Bookbag

  7. Peter Boyle Peter Boyle says:

    I wanted to bite the world bloody but I have bitten myself made my own poor tragedy of thingsI am dazzled by the intelligence of this book It is bursting with ideas and so intricately constructed that I couldn't help but be impressed But as to how much I actually enjoyed reading it I am not so sureSet in New York it tells the story of Harriet 'Harry' Burden an obscure artist and a woman of formidable intellect She has lived her life in shadow of her husband a wealthy and influential art collector But upon his untimely death she feels emancipated her brain fat with ideas Her previous creations never received the acclaim they deserved so she decides to try a different approach Enlisting the help of three male artists she uses them as masks to exhibit her work under their names preserving her anonymity The plan succeeds Praise is lavished on these spectacular exhibitions and the men become huge celebrities But it all comes at an enormous cost to Harry When she finally reveals her involvement few are willing to believe her claims And when one of the artists betrays her events take a tragic turn This account is an investigation into what really happened behind the scenes of Harry's audacious experimentThe story is ingeniously presented as a compilation of extracts from Harry's journals critic's reviews and interviews with her family and friends The multiple perspectives are all convincingly imagined and feel completely authentic it is uite an achievement to keep so many plates spinning while moving a compelling narrative along Thematically it shines a light on gender bias in a patriarchal art world the lonely struggle for recognition and the importance of identity However I never uite connected with the novel emotionally and I found the numerous footnotes and philosophical references a bit pretentious at times Though this brainy book left me a little cold it is still a remarkable feat of storytelling from an exceptionally talented writer

  8. Ellie Ellie says:

    The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt is a difficult and complex book that in another sense is almost too simple the rejection of women’s work by the art world the misogyny there But around this core swirl many ideas and philosophies As Hustvedt writes “Interpretation is always multiple” and there is a multiplicity of ideas being played with here Harriet Burden the artist in case who is being ignored by the art world is a “blazing” woman with “blazing worlds” inside her And her favorite author Margaret Cavendish a 17th century philosopher and scientist whose work was dismissed in her own time burned the originals of her works after they were published making “a Blazing flame” Margaret Cavendish wrote a book called The Blazing World and Other Writings and Hustvedt's work plays off that work responds to it as Harriet Burden is obsessed with its writer Margaret Cavendish Just as Harriet calls the commentaries and responses to her disguised work “proliferations” Hustvedt’s work is full of proliferations that slow down the forward movement of the novel while also giving it both depth and luster One of the proliferations is the commentary written by an “obscure” writer one Siri Hustvedt The book is full of motifs of masks and disguises Burden creates art that she exhibits under the guise of being created by men she has chosen for her partner masking her work with a male persona that allows it but not her to be accepted even celebrated by the art world She creates a work called “Maskings” Her last partner however is a man who is a master of disguises himself unknowable by others including his family and many lover who refuses to remove his identity from Burden’s work attempting to defeat her final revelation of her “blazing worlds” Hustvedt writes of feeling suppressed “what we fear but cannot say” And in the midst of a book full of saying filled with to uote again “the dense language I know so well” there is a great deal about this book and Burden that seems unknowable or that wraps itself in the mystiue of being unknowableThis is where I can’t uite decide if the book is so layered and erudite I would have to study it and reread it many times to begin to grasp it or if the many allusions to philosophical works computer theory art and so on mask a simple story of a woman held back both by her own neuroses and an unreceptive society This book may be in fact that simple although decorated with dense thought and language Either way I greatly enjoyed this work and would like to reread it to understand both its seriousness and its play There are phrases that haunt me “I am Odysseus but I have been Penelope” being one and that seem to lure me into deeper waters This book challenged me and deeply engaged me By the end I was so distressed I couldn’t swallow I was fascinated by Harriet Burden a character I found difficult irritating and yet also unable to look away from and drawn to I find I cannot stop thinking about the book and its characters so I will give it despite some ambivalence 5 stars It is a book worth the time and energy it demands

  9. Teresa Teresa says:

    45 starsIn the MayJune issue of Poets Writers Claire Messud said of her novel The Woman Upstairs and its narrator As a reader I have a favorite canon of ranters that runs from Dostoevsky to Thomas Bernhard to the Philip Roth of Sabbath's Theater I love a ranter And the girls have not been ranting Well Hustvedt's Harriet aka Harry is like Messud's Nora a ranter and for similar reasons that boil down and Harry does boil to her wanting to be heard She is an exuberant energetic 'older' woman blazing with ideas who desperately wants full engagement with others and struggles with the idea that she was complicit with those especially her now deceased beloved father and husband who sought to keep her in her placeThis novel is complex than the Messud and only one reason for that is that it's not told from just one viewpoint Though I don't think the overall conceit of these various writings and interviews by different voices is convincing as the book edited by Professor IV Hess that it purports to be the different voices are absolutely convincingGender swapping via cross dressing and the freedom it may provide has been a theme of Hustvedt's since her first novel The Blindfold and I couldn't help wondering if Prof IV Hess is also The Blindfold's main character Iris Vegan note the anagram of Iris and Siri; Vegan is Hustvedt's mother's maiden name Fittingly we don't know the gender of Hess or much about herhim at all except that shehe seems sympathetic to Harriet the subject of herhis book One of Hustvedt's main themes throughout her body of work is the idea of perception and that along with The Blindfold's putting on a man's clothes to change personality are taken further here Harry uses the 'masks' of three young men they use her too not just to front her art but to influence it though I didn't find the latter idea presented as well as the former was The dangerous mask play between the third young man and Harriet done privately though filmed further complicates the roles of gender and powerThe ending which brought tears to my eyes reminded me of the end of my last read The Song of the Lark in that the writers surprisingly veer away from the artist's viewpoint to another character's who in this novel has an intuitive literally understanding of Harriet's art a touching and telling counterpoint to all the philosophy that's go on beforeAfter writing this review I googled IV Hess and found this in an interview with HustvedtJill I have to interject — I feel like there has to be an anagram or something in the name I V Hess that I'm not figuring out It might be totally obviousHustvedt No it's not obvious at all It's very obliue But I'll tell you since you asked The heroine of my first novel is Iris Vegan I used those two letters for the initials and all the other letters H E S S appear in my last nameIt's a little bit of a Kierkegaardian trick Kierkegaard had Eremita as his editor for the book that of course he wrote but inside the book there are A and B Kierkegaard is referred to throughout The Blazing World I thought these are not stolen strategies but strategies that are a kind of homagehttpwwwpowellscombloginterview

  10. Mona Mona says:

    Wonderful Novel about a Larger than Life Woman Artist who Becomes Famous after DeathThis was one of my favorite books that I read in 2015I was going to give it four stars but the ending elevated it to five starsIt's certainly a feminist novel but not a feminist comic book The book like its title is blazing with life The characters and the story are bursting with vitality and irony and tongue in cheek humor as wellHarriet Harry Burden is a larger than life artist Her body is large and curvy and she tends towards fat as she ages; she is tall and her art is larger than life too She's half Jewish Her hair is a wild mass of curls She is a brilliant woman a polymath with an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy literature neuroscience art history and many other subjectsHowever in spite of her brilliance and originality as an artist she's been ignored by the art world She exhibited her art in NY City in the 1970s and 1980s and after a disappointing reception she withdrew from the art world completely And even though her husband Felix Lord was a wealthy and prominent art dealer he never championed Harriet's artHere's another postmodern novel with lots of meta The posthumous book about Harriet's life was supposedly edited by a Professor IV Hess it's not uite clear what the Professor teaches philosophy perhaps? and the professor seems to be male although that's not established beyond a shadow of a doubt In any case Hess puts together a compendium of Harriet's voluminous notebooks each identified by a letter interviews with various people involved in her life and reviews of her work Hess calls the book The Blazing World after the science fiction novel The Blazing World and Other Writings by pioneering seventeenth century English writer Margaret Cavendish the Duchess of Newcastle Harriet as she details in some of her notebooks identified strongly with Cavendish who felt extremely limited by being female Also as Hess points out referring to Harriet's notebooks 'her writing like Cavendish's is colored by extravagance and grandiosity I am a Riot An Opera A Menace she writes in an entry that directly discusses her spiritual kinship to Cavendish'We also learn that the title The Blazing World might also be a sly wink at science fiction writer JG Ballard whom Harry uotes in her notebooks Ballard wrote a book called The Burning World So we learn Harriet's story through her notebooks and various interviews with people who knew her Most of this story takes place in and around New York City in Manhattan and BrooklynWhen Harry's husband Felix Lord art dealer extraordinaire half Thai dies of a stroke in 1995 Harry has a mental breakdown But she also inherits Felix's considerable wealth and is rich enough to buy The Lodge her home in Red Hook and to have plenty of money for the rest of her life Harriet turns The Lodge into a crash padwork space for at first assorted drifters but later with the help of Phineas see below a work and living space for aspiring artists In late middle age Harry realizes that having played the silent invisible dinner hostess wife to Felix for years she has denied her own considerable gifts as an artist and submerged her forceful personality Her psychoanalysis with Dr F helps her come to these realizationsIn the late 90's Harriet started a project that lasted for five yearsHess says Three solo shows in three New York galleries attributed to Anton Tish 1998 Phineas Eldridge 2002 and the artist known only as Rune 2003 had actually been made by Burden She titled the project as a whole Maskings and declared that it was meant not only to expose the antifemale bias of the art world but to uncover the complex workings of human perception and how unconscious ideas about gender race and celebrity influence a viewer's understanding of a given work of art Harry although definitely a heterosexual female as her joyful couplings with her lover Bruno show has a gender bending side to her as her nickname Harry and her ruminations about dressing in male drag show But Richard Brickman one of Burden's fake names under which she wrote articles discussing her own art went further He argued that Burden insisted that the pseudonym she adopted changed the character of the art she made In other words the man she used as a mask played a role in the kind of art she produced Each artist mask become for Burden a 'poetized personality a visual elaboration of a 'hermaphroditic self' which cannot be said to belong to either her or to the mask but to a 'mingled reality created between them' So at the same time The Blazing World makes fun of the pretentions of the art world of academics and of art critics the hilariously pompous Oswald Case who insists that Burden couldn't have possibly created the art works attributed to Rune is a case in point it also raises serious uestions about the nature of art gender and related issuesIt's uite interesting to see how Maskings plays out The first artist Anton Tish a young white straight man fresh out of art school and a total unknown is a bit of a failure from Burden's point of view It's true that the work attributed to him The History of Western Art garners much attention than it would have had it been exhibited under Burden's name But Anton himself is a disappointment view spoilerIn a fit of piue he blames Burden for spoiling his 'purity' and he disappears from the art world Perhaps he was just a very young and confused guy hide spoiler

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