Siri Hustvedt: Living, Thinking, Looking

‘I’m not interested in confession for confession’s sake’ said Siri Hustvedt, about her most recent book of essays. It starts with living, she said, as you can’t do much thinking or looking if you aren’t actually living.

Her series of essays, modelled on Montaigne, are an attempt to chase after various ideas and explore different concepts: ‘the essay is a way to explore what you think,’ she said. Hustvedt thinks about everything under the sun with depth and insight that most of us can only dream of. Some of what she thinks about is illness, as a sufferer of chronic migraine and other symptoms, and about the ways in which personalities adapt to and accommodate those challenges. She also has strongly-held views on art and artists – discussed in the ‘looking’ section of the book. And she argues strongly for more interaction between different disciplines: she comes from a background in literature but believes that speaks to philosophy, psychology, neurology…..there’s too much specialisation and not enough conversation, in her view.

She doesn’t like to say ‘I am this, or that’ because she has a sense that we are constantly moving; but neverthess, she is endlessly interesting and certainly worth a read. Rosie Goldsmith, the chair, called this book ‘a personal guide to being human’ and you could do a lot worse than having Siri Hustvedt as your personal guide.

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