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A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind

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A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved. Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a femi A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved. Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a feminist. Her lively, lucid essays in A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women begin to make some sense of those plural perspectives. Divided into three parts, the first section, “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women,” investigates the perceptual and gender biases that affect how we judge art, literature, and the world in general. Among the legendary figures considered are Picasso, De Kooning, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Guerrilla Girls, and Karl Ove Knausgaard. The second part, “The Delusions of Certainty,” is about the age-old mind/body problem that has haunted Western philosophy since the Greeks. Hustvedt explains the relationship between the mental and the physical realms, showing what lies beyond the argument—desire, belief, and the imagination. The final section, “What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition,” discusses neurological disorders and the mysteries of hysteria. Drawing on research in sociology, neurobiology, history, genetics, statistics, psychology, and psychiatry, this section also contains a profound and powerful consideration of suicide. There has been much talk about building a beautiful bridge across the chasm that separates the sciences and the humanities. At the moment, we have only a wobbly walkway, but Hustvedt is encouraged by the travelers making their way across it in both directions. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is an insightful account of the journeys back and forth.


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A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved. Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a femi A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved. Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a feminist. Her lively, lucid essays in A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women begin to make some sense of those plural perspectives. Divided into three parts, the first section, “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women,” investigates the perceptual and gender biases that affect how we judge art, literature, and the world in general. Among the legendary figures considered are Picasso, De Kooning, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Guerrilla Girls, and Karl Ove Knausgaard. The second part, “The Delusions of Certainty,” is about the age-old mind/body problem that has haunted Western philosophy since the Greeks. Hustvedt explains the relationship between the mental and the physical realms, showing what lies beyond the argument—desire, belief, and the imagination. The final section, “What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition,” discusses neurological disorders and the mysteries of hysteria. Drawing on research in sociology, neurobiology, history, genetics, statistics, psychology, and psychiatry, this section also contains a profound and powerful consideration of suicide. There has been much talk about building a beautiful bridge across the chasm that separates the sciences and the humanities. At the moment, we have only a wobbly walkway, but Hustvedt is encouraged by the travelers making their way across it in both directions. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is an insightful account of the journeys back and forth.

30 review for A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind", was at times an unfathomable experience----but given that Siri's new book is about human life, it seems reasonable that while the reader is expanding knowledge- exploring thoughts- opening their heart & mind -that consciousness would get lost. It's simply a normal part of the awareness reading process. I spent almost a month reading this book....an intimate affair - a journey - a course of study....( call it what yo "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind", was at times an unfathomable experience----but given that Siri's new book is about human life, it seems reasonable that while the reader is expanding knowledge- exploring thoughts- opening their heart & mind -that consciousness would get lost. It's simply a normal part of the awareness reading process. I spent almost a month reading this book....an intimate affair - a journey - a course of study....( call it what you want). I was passionate - and diligently committed to reading this book --gathering background information on Google on artists - and philosophers whom I wanted to know more about>>>inspired by Siri. Siri's vision of building a sturdy bridge supporting both the sciences and humanities is inspiring. Many of the essays draws on insights from both the sciences and humanities knowing that the disciplines are not necessarily the same. The physicist's, the biologist's, historian's, the philosopher's, and artist's modes of knowing are different. Siri talked about being wary any one discipline claiming absolutism. Mixed in with all the essays --I enjoyed the intimacy of Siri Hustvedt herself. I enjoyed reading about her studies as a young person and her growing development. I enjoyed when she shared about her mother and daughter at different times. I often felt an emotional connection to the entire inquiry & study of 'what is the mind' - 'the self' - or reading about an artist. Siri's writing pulled me in - ( like I said, the reading is challenging in parts), but most of it so damn interesting.... and Siri's personal touches made me smile, like braiding her daughters hair when her daughter was a young girl. Or learning more about her parents. Siri's incredible humbleness is beautiful and a gift to others - a gift to me anyway. For about an entire week - I kept thinking about the influence on human life from the results of scientific theories: computers, cell phones, electric lights etc., versus the influence from the arts on human life: Reading, history, philosophy, poetry, visual art, listening to music, dance, etc. which has made a bigger difference in my life? The arts or sciences - and is it even possible to choose? Siri engages us in rigorous thinking. "Why are the sciences regarded as hard and masculine and the arts and humanities soft and feminine?" Yes... things are changing - more women going into mathematics... but there is still that image. Much to learn & think about in this book.... gender biases, prejudices, the body mind problem, sociology, history, psychology, neurobiology, genetics, suicide, the human condition, etc. etc. Contributors from artists, scientists, and scholars in humanities fill these pages: Picasso, (I enjoyed thinking about my emotional response to his painting "The Weeping Woman"), DeKooning, ( Dutch American abstract expressionist artist), Jeff Koons, ( American artist known for his balloon animals), Louise Bourgeois, (French American sculpture......I LOVED reading about this woman- and even Siri's love for her was touching), Karl Ove Knausgaard, ( author) Siri wrote a great article about gender literature and Knausgaard writing like a woman. Susan Sontag, ( American Writer.... she wrote about AIDS, culture, media, and illness) Robert Mapplethorpe ( photographer) Max Beckmann, (a German artist) Alfred H. Barr ( Director at the Museum of modern Art in New York) I like this excerpt - it was early in this book - written Barr .....when he said German Art is "very different" from French and American art. "Most German artists are romantic, they seem to be less interested in form and style as ends in themselves and more in feeling, in emotional values and even in moral, religious, social, and philosophical considerations. German art is pure art... they frequently confuse art with life". Siri asks..... "what on earth does Barr mean by saying Germans confused art and life?" "How could art come from anything but art", Siri asks. From beginning to end we are thinking - questioning- and learning about so many great thinkers - artists-and scholars. ......art, femininity- masculine: the difference between men and women painters - political influence- sexual influence -and differences all areas of study. We look at nature vs. nurture. Siri taught writing at one point in her life to patients in a mental ward.... patients with some serious disorders. It was a volunteer job- she didn't get paid for it. When I read this section, I just kept trying to imagine what the hell she felt like at the end of the day? Satisfied ? Exhausted? Frustrated? Scared? She did tell us -- the reason she didn't quit is is 'saw' she was making a difference. The challenges she face daily I can hardly imagine. I've kinda fallen in love with Sire Husvedt through reading this book. When I read "The Blazing World", I LOVED it, .... but in this book, I feel closer in knowing Siri herself. A gift from the author. One little wish: A PHYSICAL Hard-COPY of this book. Some books just feel 'right' as a hardcopy! This is THAT type of book!!! I'll have to work on that wish later when the book is released this December. Thank You Simon and Schuster, and Siri Hustvedt

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I feel really bad about not finishing this book. And it definitely reflects more on me than on the book - because it is a me-thing this time. I do not have the mental capacity to read this book at the moment. I already knew that I was in trouble when Siri Hustvedt told the reader in the introduction that parts of the book might not be understood unless you have very specific knowledge of neuroscience or art history; which I lack, both in fact. I am good enough with art to be able to have a conve I feel really bad about not finishing this book. And it definitely reflects more on me than on the book - because it is a me-thing this time. I do not have the mental capacity to read this book at the moment. I already knew that I was in trouble when Siri Hustvedt told the reader in the introduction that parts of the book might not be understood unless you have very specific knowledge of neuroscience or art history; which I lack, both in fact. I am good enough with art to be able to have a conversation and to put my appreciation in lay person's words, but I do not have any structured knowledge and I lack the vocabulary (both in English and in German) to talk about perception in depth. And when it comes to neuroscience, I am completely at loss. I had to study the basics of neuroscience in school - but what knowledge I acquired is long gone, replaced by other stuff (and that I am even thinking about my brain in this way tells you something about how little I understand about it). So what I am saying is this: I did not understand most of the essays I tried to read. And with all the books and theoretical pieces I have to read for my PhD and for work in general, there just is no room for a book like this. When I read in my free time, I am fine with being challenged and I like learning new things unrelated to my field of study but this just was too much for me. And it's a shame! I am sure if I had read this book at another time I would have learned so much. Siri Hustvedt seems like such a clever person and I like the way her mind works and the connections she makes. I am beyond impressed by her and by this collection of essays and I am very sure lots of people will enjoy this book. I might come back to this at some point (when my brain is not this overflowing with Hall and Bourdieu and all the ways in which my PhD is messing with my attention span). ___ I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that and sorry for not finishing it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Siri Hustvedt is one of my favourite novelists, and my primary interest in this book was that I felt it might improve my understanding of her imaginary worlds and their fearless explorations of intellectual ideas. The novels delve deeply into the subjects of this book, particularly neuroscience and art. The title is a little misleading - it is taken from the introductory essay but the bulk of this book is about neuroscience and the mind, with frequent asides about Hustvedt's own experiences and c Siri Hustvedt is one of my favourite novelists, and my primary interest in this book was that I felt it might improve my understanding of her imaginary worlds and their fearless explorations of intellectual ideas. The novels delve deeply into the subjects of this book, particularly neuroscience and art. The title is a little misleading - it is taken from the introductory essay but the bulk of this book is about neuroscience and the mind, with frequent asides about Hustvedt's own experiences and creativity. It is a somewhat mixed collection of essays in which topics and ideas often recur, and its centrepiece is a 200 page review of the mind-body problem and its place in scientific and philosophical history. I found the book alternately stimulating and baffling - much of the academic content went over my head but many of the anecdotes and personal revelations are fascinating. I did get a little frustrated with the repetition and lack of overall structure but that is probably inevitable in any essay collection.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    The title of this book is taken from the name of one of the essays and speeches Hustvedt had written for various professional organizations. It’s a provocative title, though I like more the name of another of these pieces, “I Wept for Four Years and When I Stopped I was Blind”. The word ‘sex’ in the subtitle doesn’t refer to the sexual act itself, but to the ways gender has been thought of, historically and culturally, inherent biases included. As with her Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Pa The title of this book is taken from the name of one of the essays and speeches Hustvedt had written for various professional organizations. It’s a provocative title, though I like more the name of another of these pieces, “I Wept for Four Years and When I Stopped I was Blind”. The word ‘sex’ in the subtitle doesn’t refer to the sexual act itself, but to the ways gender has been thought of, historically and culturally, inherent biases included. As with her Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, in the first section of this book she speaks to ‘what we see’, and even more so to ‘how we see’ and ‘why we see’ as we do. With Hustvedt, there is always a ‘perhaps’: ambivalence is her (our) friend and she calls out—especially in the second section, one long essay called “The Delusions of Certainty”— those who ignore other realities when they become too invested in their own theories. In the speeches/essays of the third section, titled “What Are We?”, she expands on the need for interdisciplinary thinking (including narrative and philosophy) as it pertains to medicine, psychiatry, anything dealing with so-called mind-body issues, even artificial intelligence. In fact, I come away from this book feeling Hustvedt believes there is no mind-body split, as any borders between the two (that is, if two do exist and they are not one) are interrelated, integrated, ambiguous and flowing. I also come away from the very last piece thinking it would be fun to read Kierkegaard, though I’m not absolutely convinced of that. Understandably, I did not get all the references in this book and I’m obviously no expert on these matters, (Hustvedt doesn’t set up herself as one either, though her readings and studies of these disciplines are intense), so any errors in this review are mine.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Viv JM

    “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women” is a book of essays split into three sections. The first contains essays about art and criticism, the second part is almost the length of an entire book in itself and is about the mind/body connection, and the third section (my favourite) explores the human condition through the lens of literature, philosophy, sociology and science. The collection really demonstrates Siri Hustvedt’s fierce intellect. Her knowledge is vast and encompasses not only art and “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women” is a book of essays split into three sections. The first contains essays about art and criticism, the second part is almost the length of an entire book in itself and is about the mind/body connection, and the third section (my favourite) explores the human condition through the lens of literature, philosophy, sociology and science. The collection really demonstrates Siri Hustvedt’s fierce intellect. Her knowledge is vast and encompasses not only art and literature, but also philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. This lengthy book is not an easy read, and requires a commitment of time and concentration but, for me, it was worth the effort, and I have highlighted numerous passages to return to for further consideration and perusal. I will definitely be looking to read more from this author.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Siri, the computer program that operates as an artificially intelligent personal assistant, appears to know the answers to everything. So seemingly, does the author Siri Hustvedt, or at least such is the impression given by her voluminous, humorous and wide-ranging new collection "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind." Unlike Apple's so-called knowledge navigator, though, Hustvedt doesn' My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Siri, the computer program that operates as an artificially intelligent personal assistant, appears to know the answers to everything. So seemingly, does the author Siri Hustvedt, or at least such is the impression given by her voluminous, humorous and wide-ranging new collection "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind." Unlike Apple's so-called knowledge navigator, though, Hustvedt doesn't just offer up information, although there's plenty of it here; she also delivers it to her audience with an invigorating blend of personality and imagination. To explain the guiding principle behind this enormous and eclectic set of essays, Hustvedt supplies an introduction starting with a lecture given at the University of Cambridge in 1959 by the English physicist-turned-popular-novelist C.P. Snow. In it, Snow lamented "the gulf of mutual incomprehension" that he saw as having opened up between "physical scientists" and "literary intellectuals." Having recently read an expanded version of this lecture, Hustvedt — herself a Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia University and a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell University, not to mention the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction — wound up "severely disappointed" by Snow's arguments. For "Although he identified a problem that has only grown more urgent in the last half-century, I found his discussion of it wordy, wan, and a little naive." Hustvedt's reaction would itself be disappointing if she merely stopped at this justified criticism of her predecessor. Fortunately, she presents this trilogy of sorts as a corrective to the problem of "the fragmentation of knowledge." She uses her background in both the arts and the sciences not merely to praise interdisciplinarianism, but also to remedy Snow's exclusion of women from his worldview. She does so refreshingly from the perspective of someone who can say — and back up — such statements as: "I love art, the humanities, and the sciences. I am a novelist and a feminist. I am also a passionate reader, whose views have been and are continually being altered and modified by the books and papers in many fields that are part of my everyday reading life." As the subtitle suggests, this idiosyncratic and by turns meditative and argumentative book is divided into three main sections. The first, "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women," contains 11 essays, many of which were commissioned for catalogs and talks, and includes pieces reflecting on such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer and Robert Mapplethorpe. Hustvedt's inquisitive and generous responses to paintings and poems give the reader the feeling of going to a museum or library with their most casually intelligent and infectiously enthusiastic friend. "I am drawn to these stories of (poet) H.D. and Emily Dickinson because they are alive with my own identifications," she writes in "Inside the Room" about the relationship between psychoanalysis and creativity. The second section consists of a single 203-page essay, "The Delusions of Certainty," and sets out to explore the seminal post-Descartes mind-body question of philosophy, looking at "convictions about mind and matter as two things or one, the human body as a machine or as an organic, less predictable form." The third, "What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition," consists of nine pieces, eight of which are talks that Hustvedt delivered at academic conferences on such topics as "Suicide and the Drama of Self-Consciousness" and "Kierkegaard's Pseudonyms and the Truths of Fiction." It's heady stuff, and most readers won't want to plow through too quickly. A better approach might be to take one's time and let each part sink in. However one reads this book, taken as a whole, the pieces across all three parts weave together to create a spellbinding conversation among the sciences and the humanities. All too often in our STEM-obsessed era, these two main bodies of human knowledge are falsely pitted against one another as enemies; yet, in Hustvedt's hands, they are revealed as the true friends they are and ought to be. Siri the app typically delivers its responses with certainty. Siri Hustvedt the author tempers her presentation of knowledge with doubt, and the resulting book is paradoxically more satisfying in its thought-provoking ambiguity than all the confidently stated answers in the world.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Roland

    Way off my territory but an exceptional read. I understood about two thirds of it. Fantastic and much food for thought.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alejandra Arévalo

    Siri Hustvedt es una mujer inteligentísima, brillante, precisa y con buenos argumentos. Hay un click bait en el título, este no es un libro sobre feminismo, es un libro de ciencia y arte escrito por una feminista. Lo digo porque es importante mencionar que no creo que estos ensayos hayan sido escritos con el propósito de hablar de feminismo (como da a entender el título) sino que ella está atravesada por su corriente política por lo que es inevitable le dé a los ensayos una visión fresca y neces Siri Hustvedt es una mujer inteligentísima, brillante, precisa y con buenos argumentos. Hay un click bait en el título, este no es un libro sobre feminismo, es un libro de ciencia y arte escrito por una feminista. Lo digo porque es importante mencionar que no creo que estos ensayos hayan sido escritos con el propósito de hablar de feminismo (como da a entender el título) sino que ella está atravesada por su corriente política por lo que es inevitable le dé a los ensayos una visión fresca y necesaria desde la perspectiva de ser mujer. De todo lo demás, habla de psicoanálisis, neurodivergencias, escritura y lectura, arte en general y arte en particular como la danza. Habla de filosofía, analítica, existencial, filosofa mucho. Es muy clara, pero hubo cosas que yo tuve que releer o que de plano no entendí (necesito apoyo en bibliografía) ¡pero es un libro que me gustó mucho! Aprendí tanto, me llené de información, leí con cariño y con ganas de saber. Me llevo muchos libros más de tarea porque quiero llegar a ser así de erudita. En comparación con otras ensayistas, Siri Hustvedt es una mujer que sigue el hilo de sus ideas, las concluye y las abre para los demás, brillante.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Some interesting bits and pieces but overall rather 'meh'. 2.5*

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joslyn Allen

    Review published at https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress... This will be a shockingly short review for an immense book. Siri Hustvedt is a well-respected, much lauded writer. Her writing crosses genres, as do her passions and her expertise. In “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women”, Hustvedt has compiled essays which marry her interests in science and art, essays “on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy”. Now, I wear my nerd badge proudly, but Hustvedt’s writing in “A Woman Review published at https://chronicbibliophilia.wordpress... This will be a shockingly short review for an immense book. Siri Hustvedt is a well-respected, much lauded writer. Her writing crosses genres, as do her passions and her expertise. In “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women”, Hustvedt has compiled essays which marry her interests in science and art, essays “on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy”. Now, I wear my nerd badge proudly, but Hustvedt’s writing in “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women” felt academic and abstruse to the point of non-engagement and, often, non-comprehension. I struggled off and on for months to finish this book, appreciative of Hustvedt’s clear brilliance but never able to find flow or shake the feeling of slogging. The reviews and reactions to this work which I’ve encountered have been similar, in that readers comment that they understood less than half of what they read or felt it was above their heads. What I’ve struggled with is that in the same breath, so many readers have declared bafflement and yet sung the book’s praises. To me, if a book is inscrutable, perhaps it hasn’t accomplished its purpose. If writing, particularly in essay form, is meant to convey meaning and a message to the reader, then abstruse, impenetrable prose falls flat. I believe that Siri Hustvedt can write and look forward to reading other works by her in the future. I choose to believe that this particular book was an anomalous misfire.

  11. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    As a person interested in Neuroscience I was super happy of reading this book as a preview for netgalley and I was not disappointed. Siri Hustved was able to convey a lot of information in a clear way, giving also suggestions about related topics and other books of interests. I was delighted even if sometimes it was not such an easy reading because they are almost 600 pages, very dense. Come persona interessata alle neuroscienze non vi nascondo la mia gioia per aver potuto leggere in anteprima qu As a person interested in Neuroscience I was super happy of reading this book as a preview for netgalley and I was not disappointed. Siri Hustved was able to convey a lot of information in a clear way, giving also suggestions about related topics and other books of interests. I was delighted even if sometimes it was not such an easy reading because they are almost 600 pages, very dense. Come persona interessata alle neuroscienze non vi nascondo la mia gioia per aver potuto leggere in anteprima questo super mega saggio di Siri Hustved, che con quasi 600 densissime pagine, offre il suo punto di vista, supportato da quello di molti ricercatori, psicologi e scienziati, su alcuni dei temi piú discussi delle neuroscienze e dell'arte, in modo chiaro. Il tutto non é una passeggiata, ma sicuramente offre parecchi spunti di riflessione ed é soprattutto molto interessante se l'argomento vi appassiona. THANKS TO NETGALLEY FOR THE PREVIEW!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mientras Leo

    Me considero una mujer feminista, sin embargo creo que en esta ocasión a la autora se le va de las manos y pasa al ataque perdiendo ese punto de razonamiento que hace tan interesantes (y necesarios) a este tipo de libros.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Subashini

    This book is divided into three sections; the first and third are essays on art, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis. Hustvedt brings a wealth of knowledge to her pieces and she's a generous thinker. Her central argument is that the mind cannot be studied as an entity abstracted from the body, and crucially, that it exists in relation to other people. The second section is a long essay on the mind/body problem. It's dry, repetitive, and it drove me nuts. She's synthesising a lot of info This book is divided into three sections; the first and third are essays on art, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis. Hustvedt brings a wealth of knowledge to her pieces and she's a generous thinker. Her central argument is that the mind cannot be studied as an entity abstracted from the body, and crucially, that it exists in relation to other people. The second section is a long essay on the mind/body problem. It's dry, repetitive, and it drove me nuts. She's synthesising a lot of information from various disciplines here, from the sciences to the humanities, and it's an admirable effort, but a lot of parts read like Philosophy 101 and some other parts are dense and complex and hard to engage with if you don't already have a working knowledge of neuroscience and a familiarity with the language of hard science. I'm guessing a lesser-known author would not have been allowed to get away with including this second section/essay, because a lot of the points here are pithily explained in the shorter essays in the third section, minus the repetitive dullness that plagues the monster essay. Having said that, I enjoyed where Hustvedt's mind goes, a lot of the time, and looked up many, many things, but it is the mind of a white, upper middle-class, university-educated woman living in the States, so there are many limitations. Almost zero engagement with non-white thinkers and philosophers who aren't from the "first world".

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is a collection of essays which fall into that space which is not academic (though Hustvedt herself has a literature PhD and lectures in psychiatry) and yet has some high-brow intellectual content: think long articles in the LRB or The Economist or similar. Hustvedt starts with the premise that 'modes of knowing are different' in science and humanities - something that I don't think anyone would disagree with and hardly startling - but I'm not convinced she's really operating in the interdis This is a collection of essays which fall into that space which is not academic (though Hustvedt herself has a literature PhD and lectures in psychiatry) and yet has some high-brow intellectual content: think long articles in the LRB or The Economist or similar. Hustvedt starts with the premise that 'modes of knowing are different' in science and humanities - something that I don't think anyone would disagree with and hardly startling - but I'm not convinced she's really operating in the interdisciplinary space that she claims here. The essays were originally written in a range of different contexts (commissioned pieces, gallery catalogues, conference papers) and don't necessarily speak to each other in the way that they might do. They're sometimes more musings than arguments or explorations: for example, the essay writing back to Sontag on porn, paraphrases Sontag herself under the assumption that the reader won't be familiar with her work then shoots off into a completely different direction of thinking about 'great' books and what literature is for. This kind of unfocused, lack of rigorousness is disconcerting and a bit random. Given the breadth of Hustvedt's references (and she's undoubtedly a wide and voracious reader with a curious, questioning mind) the book really should have an index to map its intellectual contours. So not a book I'd read cover to cover but something to dip into. Review copy via Amazon Vine

  15. 4 out of 5

    María Montesinos

    Muy muy interesante. Vaya por delante que soy profunda admiradora de Siri Husvedt, me encantan sus novelas, la compleja profundidad de sus historias. Este es un libro de ensayo con textos/artículos/conferencias que ha impartido sobre feminismo, arte y ciencia. Tres temas que me interesan mucho a mí también. No los he leído todos, solo aquellos con aspectos concretos o enfoques que me atraían por alguna razón: los que tenían que ver con la escritura, o con el arte y sus representaciones, su maner Muy muy interesante. Vaya por delante que soy profunda admiradora de Siri Husvedt, me encantan sus novelas, la compleja profundidad de sus historias. Este es un libro de ensayo con textos/artículos/conferencias que ha impartido sobre feminismo, arte y ciencia. Tres temas que me interesan mucho a mí también. No los he leído todos, solo aquellos con aspectos concretos o enfoques que me atraían por alguna razón: los que tenían que ver con la escritura, o con el arte y sus representaciones, su manera de entenderlo/vivirlo, o con aspectos concretos de la ciencia. También hay alguno específico sobre feminismo pero en realidad, toda su mirada sobre esos temas en el mundo actual es femenina y feminista. Y de todos he sacado algo que apuntar o en lo que pensar.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Federico Sosa Machó

    No me resulta fácil darle un puntaje ya que el nivel de los artículos de corte ensayístico me parece bastante desparejo. Pero me quedo con la impresión de los mejores, varios de la primera parte del libro. Hustvedt construye un discurso situado en el cruce de la crítica de arte o literaria con la psicología o la neurología, y todo atravesado, a su vez, por la perspectiva feminista. De esa mixtura asoman varias veces conceptos interesantes. Algunos ensayos se extienden demasiado y son de los meno No me resulta fácil darle un puntaje ya que el nivel de los artículos de corte ensayístico me parece bastante desparejo. Pero me quedo con la impresión de los mejores, varios de la primera parte del libro. Hustvedt construye un discurso situado en el cruce de la crítica de arte o literaria con la psicología o la neurología, y todo atravesado, a su vez, por la perspectiva feminista. De esa mixtura asoman varias veces conceptos interesantes. Algunos ensayos se extienden demasiado y son de los menos recomendables. El más interesante, el que relee lo escrito por Susan Sontag sobre el porno (tema que parece interesarle a las mujeres especialmente) hace algunas décadas, a partir del cual se formulan excelentes observaciones.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Deea

    Excellent book of essays.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    I'd like to start this review off by stating that I skimmed appx. 25% of this book, as I found some contents to be - to quote David Foster Wallace - hellaciously unfunny. I've not really read Hustvedt before, so this is my first foray into her stuff. “The truth is always gray,” the artist once said, citing a platitude that is also a color key. I mainly enjoyed the bits on gender, pornography, and on Knausgaard's vile statement where commented on the fact that he almost only wrote about male writers I'd like to start this review off by stating that I skimmed appx. 25% of this book, as I found some contents to be - to quote David Foster Wallace - hellaciously unfunny. I've not really read Hustvedt before, so this is my first foray into her stuff. “The truth is always gray,” the artist once said, citing a platitude that is also a color key. I mainly enjoyed the bits on gender, pornography, and on Knausgaard's vile statement where commented on the fact that he almost only wrote about male writers in his "My Struggle" with "No competition"...and the essay on suicide, but sadly not much else, really. This piece was funny: If Fifty Shades of Grey is testament to anything, it is that millions of middle-class, heterosexual women enjoy pornography with an S&M bent, even if it arrives with sentences such as, “My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old” and “Holy Shit” as frequent textual punctuation. There's not much fun in this book, which I think is exactly what Hustvedt intended. Emily Dickinson wrote poems alone, radical, brilliant verses that burn my consciousness every time I read them. She sent some of her poems to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an important literary critic of the day. He was not unsympathetic to her work, but he did not understand he was reading the work of someone who had reinvented the English language. He could not recognize her new music. His impulse was to correct her, smooth out the wrinkles. He told her she was not ready to publish. Go, Dickinson! To examplify why I think Hustvedt's greatness in this book evades me - if it's there, naturally, which it cannot be for all, I think - here's an example: Husserl was profoundly interested in logic and mathematics, and he wrestled with Frege, but he criticized scientific formulations that left out lived experience and relied exclusively on an ideal mathematics in the tradition of Galileo. Nagel’s “objective” phenomenology of the future is one he argues should “not [be] dependent on empathy or the imagination.”199 I would say this is not possible, that empathy and the imagination cannot be siphoned out of phenomenology and the desire to do so demonstrates a prejudice against feeling, which is part of a long rationalist tradition that denigrated the passions. Husserl faced the same problem. He did not advocate a purely subjective or solipsistic theory of consciousness—the idea that each of us, human or bat, is forever stuck in his or her own body’s perspective and can never get out of it. In his late writings, in particular, Husserl offered an idea of transcendental intersubjectivity. What is this? Intersubjectivity refers to our knowing and relating to other people in the world, our being with and understanding them, one subject or person to another, and how we make a shared world through these relations. Reading Husserl is not like reading Descartes, Nagel, or James. Husserl is knotty and difficult. I can say, however, that Husserl’s idea of intersubjectivity necessarily involves empathy, and that for Husserl empathy is an avenue into another person. Names, names and more names. I mean, I adore Sarah Bakewell's book on the existentialists of the 20th century (and Hegel + Husserl) but the above just descended into boredom. To me. Still, I'm glad that Hustvedt delved more into the philosopher Merleau-Ponty than Bakewell did at times; still, this essay is another thing entirely than Bakewell's book. I've got to shout-out Hustvedt as she brings up gender issues: In my experience, the line that follows “I don’t read fiction but my wife does” is: “Would you sign the book for her?” In other words, a novel can taste bad before it is eaten simply because it has been written by a woman. Of course, I often wonder what those men are doing at my reading in the first place. Why didn’t your wife come? A young man, a writer himself, once said to me, “You know, you write like a man.” He was not referring to the books I had written in the voice of a man, but to all of my work, and this statement was intended as a high compliment. Women are not immune to this prejudice either. A young woman once approached me at an art opening to say, “I never read books by women, but a friend of mine insisted I try one of yours, and I loved it!” I did not feel particularly grateful. A literary editor in New York, Chris Jackson, admitted rather sheepishly in a blog that he could not remember the last time he had read a novel by a woman. All in all: bits and pieces were good.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah L. Kaufman

    I had the pleasure of reviewing this book for The Washington Post, writing that Siri Hustvedt's work "is cerebral but also warm, deeply felt. 'A Woman Looking at Men' is ultimately a look at her many loves — the arts, analysis, the mysteries of perception. Through these lenses, she upholds the individual against the seductions of groupthink. She doesn’t come right out and say this, but the strength and lucidity of Hustvedt’s good thinking calls us to have confidence in our own instincts, to be a I had the pleasure of reviewing this book for The Washington Post, writing that Siri Hustvedt's work "is cerebral but also warm, deeply felt. 'A Woman Looking at Men' is ultimately a look at her many loves — the arts, analysis, the mysteries of perception. Through these lenses, she upholds the individual against the seductions of groupthink. She doesn’t come right out and say this, but the strength and lucidity of Hustvedt’s good thinking calls us to have confidence in our own instincts, to be alert to delusions and inherited traditions, and to realize that many truths are fiction, and only exist to the extent that we believe them." Here's a link to my full review: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    I couldn't finish. Pretentious and boring. She makes some excellent points about the art world and the disparity within it, but when she talks about pornography as almost some sort of social experiment, rather than the messy profitable distillation of almost everything wrong with humanity that it is, with actual human beings having sex and often being exploited, she lost me. And reading it, I kept thinking 'this is what the right is talking about when they talk about elites.' People who use need I couldn't finish. Pretentious and boring. She makes some excellent points about the art world and the disparity within it, but when she talks about pornography as almost some sort of social experiment, rather than the messy profitable distillation of almost everything wrong with humanity that it is, with actual human beings having sex and often being exploited, she lost me. And reading it, I kept thinking 'this is what the right is talking about when they talk about elites.' People who use needlessly complicated language to express their ideas. I don't think we should shy away from serious ideas and issues and complex language, but this book was just too pretentious. Maybe I'm disappointed as I read a review and expected to love it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura Lacey

    Unfortunately I just could not finish this. It is immensely long. It has moments of brilliance but other parts are just too academic, too in-depth and too pretentious. Hustvedt's language can go from engaging to completely off putting in the space of a chapter. Although the premise is fascinating and appeals to the common reader I think it is best reserved for academia. I wrestled with it for months as I hate not finishing books, but life is just too short for this one. Thanks to Netgalley and t Unfortunately I just could not finish this. It is immensely long. It has moments of brilliance but other parts are just too academic, too in-depth and too pretentious. Hustvedt's language can go from engaging to completely off putting in the space of a chapter. Although the premise is fascinating and appeals to the common reader I think it is best reserved for academia. I wrestled with it for months as I hate not finishing books, but life is just too short for this one. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in return for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jafar

    I feel bad about not liking this book more, given how brilliant Hustvedt obviously is. But when she talks about arts she's often incomprehensible, and when she talks about science she reminds me of a new word that I learned recently: ultracrepidarian.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bert

    "Philosophy matters because it informs diagnosis." (p.486) When I started this compilation of essays and lectures I had never consulted a neurologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist, but I did during the time i was reading it. A lot Hustvedt discusses in these essays I already knew or was quite familiar with; the way of looking at art, the phenomenological approach, the mind-body problematics, even Hustvedts own neurological condition. A constant repeating of the same topics, the same reference "Philosophy matters because it informs diagnosis." (p.486) When I started this compilation of essays and lectures I had never consulted a neurologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist, but I did during the time i was reading it. A lot Hustvedt discusses in these essays I already knew or was quite familiar with; the way of looking at art, the phenomenological approach, the mind-body problematics, even Hustvedts own neurological condition. A constant repeating of the same topics, the same references, the same examples. Not seldom I felt the urge to edit, to create one, well ordered, piece out of it. Something the author somehow did in her novels (especially The Blazing World). I could not come to one straight story. I don't hear about your feelings, the therapist said. It's hard to get some insight when there is no emotion involved. I guess that's what Siri Hustvedt was trying to tell me. "Every person's profound emotional history affects her or his philosophical outlook, or in S.K's case, Inblikk - in-look or insight. Feeling plays a far greater role in the ideas we adopt than the long Western philosophical tradition that hails reason over emotion has ever been able to admit and, furthermore, even when scholars busily work to undermine that split tradition - to denounce Cartesian dualism or humanism or the Enlightenment subject, or what-have-you, they ususally do it in a dispassionate, abstract, objective mode uttered in a voice from nowhere." (p.501-502)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ville

    Parisataasivuinen mind-body-pläjäys on tän parasta antia ja parasta muutenkin ja ne loput on kans hyviä! Dawkins: roustattu ja Morrissey: ei mainittu, joten kaikki hyvin.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Siri Hustvedt is probably as well known for her non-fiction writing as her novels. In this book she aims to pull together both the arts and sciences in her essays on the human condition. There are three parts to this collection, comprised of new and older essays. The first section, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, focuses on artists and writers such as Picasso, Louise Bourgeois and Karl Ove Knausgaard. The second, The Delusions of Certainty, is a longer piece, thankfully broken into mana Siri Hustvedt is probably as well known for her non-fiction writing as her novels. In this book she aims to pull together both the arts and sciences in her essays on the human condition. There are three parts to this collection, comprised of new and older essays. The first section, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, focuses on artists and writers such as Picasso, Louise Bourgeois and Karl Ove Knausgaard. The second, The Delusions of Certainty, is a longer piece, thankfully broken into manageable sections, which looks in detail at the mind/body debate. The final section, What Are We?, is concerned with psychology and philosophy. This isn’t the lightest of reads, but neither does it claim to be. I read the book over a two month period, dipping in and out but reading it in order. There is a line of continuity throughout as Hustvedt refers often to several of the same thinkers throughout, often utilising the work of seventeenth-century philosopher Margaret Cavendish, French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and several others including Freud and Janet. There are lots of interesting ideas presented in this volume, though some I had more interest in than others. Perhaps because I am more interested in the arts personally, I found the first section the most interesting. Hustvedt writes extensively on bias in the way we look at the arts, the way that men present women in artwork, but also how female artists are regarded. For me, one of the most memorable of her essays is that on Louise Bourgeois. Hustvedt writes of her own experience of studying Bourgeois and her thoughts on her art, and also of the fictional character, Harriet Burden, who features in Hustvedt’s own novel, The Blazing World. Bourgeois was an unconscious influence upon this character, the author only realising to what extent as she wrote the essay. She also talks about the way that women are labelled where men aren’t, the creation of categories such as ‘woman’s art’ or, in my field, ‘women’s literature’. We don’t talk about male art or male literature in the same way. Hustvedt presents her arguments with confidence, isn’t afraid to criticise the flimsy opinions of others. It is refreshing to read her ideas within the context of her own experience. When she writes of her own neurological condition, or shares anecdotes of her time as a volunteer writing teacher for psychiatric inpatients at a New York clinic, this adds weight to her ideas. I put trust in her, that she had thought carefully and formed well-rounded opinions based on facts and experience. This isn’t the easiest of reads but it will certainly make you think.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lu Louche

    After months and months of reading this epic work of intelligence, I am finally done. It was marvelous, unfathomable interesting but also sometimes tedious. It was brilliant but sometimes too much so. For example, without having read Kierkegaard I couldn’t take away much from the last chapter. And this wasn't the only part where I just felt not smart enough or rather lacking background information on a certain topic. But dear lord how intriguing many of her essays were. Of course, some were bette After months and months of reading this epic work of intelligence, I am finally done. It was marvelous, unfathomable interesting but also sometimes tedious. It was brilliant but sometimes too much so. For example, without having read Kierkegaard I couldn’t take away much from the last chapter. And this wasn't the only part where I just felt not smart enough or rather lacking background information on a certain topic. But dear lord how intriguing many of her essays were. Of course, some were better than others, but overall this was just epic. My feeling tells me five stares – done. But some essays could have been better or more approachable so the argument for four stars would also be there. In the end, it’s a five. Oh yes it is. The book isn't for everyone that's for sure - it was for me though. Nearly all of the topics covered throughout the book were of interest to me, there were so many beautiful insightful sentences… I hope I will someday develop a habit of rereading or revisiting books because this one would be a perfect fit for that.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    It's always a pleasure and a privilege to get a look-in into a brilliant mind (and Hustvedt's is that), and the brilliant minds that that mind in turn has had a look-in into...the experience not unlike that of being in, and of, a sort of kaleidoscopic hall of mirrors of thought where mind gives onto mind, world onto world...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gazmend Kryeziu

    So far so good,I'm half way and really enjoying this book,reminds me a little bit of the second sex by Simone de Beauvoir I remember reading vividly the second sex by Simone de Beauvoir,a book of the first class Reading this book ,I felt a similar sensation,meticulously researched an absolute diamond,thoroughly enjoyed

  29. 4 out of 5

    Xxilvi

    Mucho menos accesible de lo que esperaba, algunos fragmentos eran completamente ininteligibles para mí. Con todo, me quedo con las interesantes ideas generales y conceptos que se tratan en los ensayos, en los que humanidades y ciencia se dan la mano.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sigrun Hodne

    Some essays in this collection are just terrific - others ... well; words and words -- too many of them!

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