The great idea to dig into the essence of modern art and the nature of taste ("What is taste?") and what is left of art if it is dissociated from the celebrity, the persona of the artist -- squandered.
was rejected by the publishers forty three times...Why not write exactly about that? "Without the aura of greatness, without the imprimatur of high culture, hipness or celebrity, what remained?" What is taste, again? This is the main point here but it was pushed aside by the author eager to make tired feminist arguments... The premise of the book is that a woman has to pass her artistic work as a man's and only then watch it being appreciated - as "muscular, rigorous, cerebral". How transparent, oversimplifying and pathetic in a way.
It is not enough to state that "it is not about sex"...A book built on intellectual argumentation has to take the debate further, no? The novel is inventorying endlessly the sins of man against woman through numerous literary references. "No one rejoices more in revenge than women, wrote Juvenal" -- how misogynist! But haven't we dealt with the past already? Everything is a symptom of misogyny. Ms. Hustvedt's response to Juvenal is "And I say, I wonder why, boys. I wonder why." And really - why.
The novel is built on several narratives commenting and undermining other narratives, a lot of silly role-playing, the use of "masks" upon "masks" upon "masks" and other similar postmodern crap. Most of the text involves pretentious commentary on classic authors from Kierkegaard to Zweig. The status of the book as "fiction" is quite shaky. Intellectually - it is a mess.
And a symptomatic self-revelation of Ms. Hustvedt's is waiting for the reader on the book jacket: she is defined here by her "PhD in English from Columbia" and the fact of not mentioning
in her bio that she is the wife of Paul Auster. If she was not a celebrity would I be reading her book? Sorry, it is really not about sex...
Labels: Beckett, Juvenal, Kierkegaard, Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, Zweig