Monday, June 23, 2014

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

The road to a book can sometimes be circuitous.  Recently, a convicted murderer was released from jail.  If you want to know to whom I refer, you can watch Party Monster and/or read the book written by one of his cohorts who was not, himself, convicted of anything but narcissism.  I’m choosing no to name names because certain types crave fame at any cost.  I didn’t even know that the one man was released until I clicked a link accidentally and recognized a name, a face, and I read.  He mentioned a book by Siri Hustved whose name sounded familiar but I didn’t know why, where, how.  I just knew that I recognized her name and didn't care to read anything else about this man who was taking full advantage of his perverse celebrity and freedom.

Then I was sifting through a list of books available for review and he name not only came up again but the blurb specifically mentioned the book mentioned in the article:  What I Loved.  So I sought it out at the public library and requested her most recent novel, looking forward to the opportunity to compare an early work with a later, more contemporary, one.

What I Loved is the story of an art historian, a professor who buys a painting in a gallery and befriends the artist.  The two men are married but the artist’s wife is difficult to get along with and, when the two divorce and he remarries, the two couples become a lifelong foursome.  They even have children around the same time and the two boys grow up and eventually apart.  When tragedy comes along, as it inevitably seems to do, how the individuals cope gradually moves the story along.  Each of the characters is beautifully drawn although none of them changes, ultimately being two-dimensional. 

Because of this, in spite of the eloquent—sometimes even poetic—prose, the book is ultimately unsatisfying.  That the author was inspired by the sensational events that occurred in New York City in the 80s is evident proving, perhaps, that even a narcissist with no remorse can be right.  The conclusion is apropos to the narrative although it may leave some readers disappointed.  For an early novel, this was good enough for me to want to keep reading.  I closed the book, looking forward to reading her newest novel, to see how far she has come, to see how (if?) Hustvedt’s innate lyricism has matured over time. 

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