Siri Hustvedt is famed for her novels – provocative, intelligent and moving pieces of fictions that have had critics singing her praises for years. Living, Thinking, Looking was Siri’s return to non-fiction, with her collection of essays about her life, memories, emotions and art. Despite these varying themes, the essays return to the basic questions of human nature: who are we? How do we see and feel? How do we interact with others? Each essay weaves together a spell that will leave you thoughtful for days after.
The collection is divided into three parts: Living, the first part contains reflections on her life, conversations that she had and the people she encountered. Particularly moving is her references to her mother’s wisdom and how her advice shaped the way she lived.
The second part, Thinking, draws on Siri’s memories and emotions and how that impacted upon her creativity. Of this collection, my favourite was On Reading, where Siri dicusses the perplexities of written word. The essays provide particularly thought provoking passages that leave you contemplating your own memories, long after you finish.
The third and final part, Looking, discusses visual art. It returns to those common themes of how individuals see different things in art, and sees through questions of what it means to see, remember and feel.
On Reading, Siri said, “When I read, I assume the written words of the writer who, for the time being, becomes my own internal narrator, the voice inside my head. The text is both outside me and inside me”.
It’s though provoking pieces like that, dotted through the book that will leave you reflecting for a long time after you finish the book, questioning where your own values sprang from.
The book is a great place to start if you’ve never read a collection of essays before. Siri’s style is simple, clean and not too academic. The essays are only short and easily digestible, unlike many other books that get bogged down in details. A wonderfully provocative and intelligent book, definitely worth the read.
Available now: Hachette RRP$24.99