Here, one can see the beginnings of her fascination with the themes that have dominated her novels: Hustvedt is an intense observer of the human experience.
She's constantly thinking and analysing, and nothing escapes her attention. Her experience of being an extra on the film version of Washington Square , and having to wear a corset in that role, led to the essay "Eight Days in a Corset" in which she not only expounds on the sensation of wearing a corset "like being embraced" , but goes on to explore the relationship between gender and clothing.
A brief exchange with a stranger on a train prompts an essay on how such exchanges can be a reminder that everyone has an inner life that is as large and complex and as rich as our own "Living with Strangers". I have to admit that my eyes glazed over in the essays of literary criticism - "Gatsby's Glasses", "The Bostonians: An Apologia", yet even these essays have much to tell us about Hustvedt and her passions and her interests. The final and most recent essay, "Extracts from a Story of the Wounded Self", is the most personal. Hustvedt is a deep thinker, a complex woman with a rich inner life.
At times, though, maintaining the balancing act of her inner and outer worlds is too much for her and she comes crashing down with migraines that are so severe she is bedridden for up to a year. She puts these episodes down to her hypersensitivity to emotion, but so bizarre are her symptoms there are occasions she worries about her sanity.
- A Plea for Eros: Essays by Siri Hustvedt.
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From the author of the international bestseller What I Loved, a provocative collection of autobiographical and critical essays about writing and writers. Whether her subject is growing up in Minnesota, cross-dressing, or the novel, Hustvedt's nonfiction, like her fiction, defies easy categorization, elegantly combining intellect, emotion, wit, and passion.
With a light touch and consummate clarity, she undresses the cultural prejudices that veil both literature and life and explores the multiple personalities that inevitably inhabit a writer's mind. Is it possible for a woman in the twentieth century to endorse the corset, and at the same time approach with authority what it is like to be a man?
Observer review: A Plea for Eros by Siri Hustvedt | From the Observer | The Guardian
Writing with rigorous honesty about her own divided self, and how this has shaped her as a writer, she also approaches the works of others--Fitzgerald, Dickens, and Henry James--with revelatory insight, and a practitioner's understanding of their art. Engaging collection of literary and personal essays, most previously published, from novelist Hustvedt What I Loved, , etc.
The author's single most impressive skill, evident in all the best The essays that I truly enjoyed are worth 5 stars, but Hustvedt's elaborate essays on Dickens and James are more suited for afficionados.