Few contemporary writers are as satisfying and stimulating to read as Siri Hustvedt. Her sentences dance with the elation of a brilliant intellect romping through a playground of ideas, and her prose is just as lively when engaged in the development of characters and story. Her wonderful new novel is, among other things, a meditation on memory, selfhood and aging . . . an intricate, multiform text similar in its freewheeling, postmodern structure to Hustvedt's previous masterpiece, The Blazing World. . . how much of this is autobiographical doesn't matter. Any material drawn from the writer's life has been triumphantly transmuted into fiction that skillfully weaves disparate narrative strands into a vast tapestry encompassing personal, political and cultural struggle.
Captivating, smart and witty
A clever, elegant novel
Provocative and mysterious, this fictionalised portrait of the author as a young woman is comic and sensual as well as thematically meaty, touching on memory, witchcraft and male violence.
This is playful, self-referential, cerebral stuff . . . [the] unlikely combination comes off marvellously, like a freewheeling doodle by an artist who has spent years perfecting their craft. The humorous, wise voice of SH holds everything lightly together with clever observations on writing, time and imagination.
Among the many riches of Siri Hustvedt's portrait of a young woman finding her way as an artist are her reflections on how acts of remembering, if they reach deep enough, can heal the broken present, as well as on the inherent uncanniness of feeling oneself brought into being by the writing hand. Her reflections are no less profound for being couched as philosophical comedy of a Shandean variety.
Just as memory plays games with us, Hustvedt plays an exuberant game between it and fiction . . . There are lovely ironies and twists . . .it's under the control of a consummate intelligence. Hustvedt wears her erudition lightly and her cool intellect has a playful and warming passion. To experience her witty, speculative and incisive mind makes her book an unusual and great pleasure to read.
[Hustvedt] writes beautifully on memory . . . And she captures the power of past narrative to shape a life to come . . . This is a book that merits rereading, not least because it's trying to build something new . . . Hustvedt's novelistic renovation is nostalgic and brave in equal measure. She's made just enough architectural moves to make you look at the space anew.
Hustvedt is that rarest of beasts: a deeply intellectual writer whose work is joyful and not intimidating in the slightest. This is terrific
Wise, graceful and often formidably bracing
Siri Hustvedt has never been afraid to go against the grain, and her seventh novel, Memories of the Future, confirms it. She has important things to say about sexual politics, capitalism and art . . . there is a great deal of transformative joy to be found in this story of a young woman arriving in New York to find her voice as a writer . . . Hustvedt brilliantly pinpoints how a woman might appear to willingly acquiesce to a man's demands to avoid a worse fate. She also skewers the guilt a woman might feel when she has escaped an assault.
A multilayered portrait of the artist as a young woman . . . S. H. lays an array of selves, fictive and autobiographical, over each other like transparencies, to reveal deeper patterns. The fallibility of memory, madness and the artistic process are all incisively traced, but male entitlement emerges as the most insistent motif . . . Hustvedt has the imaginative mastery to encase complex ideas in the flesh and blood needed to render them visceral.
Like all the best postmodern novels, this metafictional investigation of time, memory, and the mutating self is as playful as it is serious.
Various forms of detection, anchored to Hustvedt's deep knowledge of neuroscience and art, propel this rapier attack on sexism; this is a lusciously layered and suspenseful "portrait of the artist as a young woman," electric with wit, curiosity, and storytelling magic
Memories of the Future is a portrait of the artist, certainly, and of New York in the 1970s, which Hustvedt joyously depicts as hot, dirty and cacophonous. But it's also far more than that. As layered as a millefeuille, as dense and knotted as tapestry, it feels, by the time you reach the final pages, less like a novel and more like an intellectual reckoning; an act of investigation into how, as a woman, it is possible to live well in the world, and enter effectively into the conversation about it. It's a mark of Hustvedt's thoroughgoing intelligence that the idea of investigation is another of the novel's explicit themes, as well as an aspect of its undertaking . . . [a] teasing, complex, disconcerting novel
[Hustvedt] tackles misogyny, memory and the artistic process with provocative brio.
Reading a Hustvedt novel is like consuming the best of David Lynch on repeat . . . [SH's] gauche girl detective persona conceals (of course) a formidable intellect roving among Hustvedt's favoured subjects of neuroscience, philosophy, literature and gender, and what is most interesting in the book is to see how that gradually assimilates with events around her . . . Ideas somersault nimbly in the novel as memoir jostles with memories . . . both SH and her creator appear, in this intense, high-spirited Bildungsroman, to have come full circle.
The reader has simply to play along, enjoying the deft and elegant writing while appreciating Hustvedt's timely exploration of questions about authenticity, memory and demarcations of literary genre . . . Writing with the swing and energy of a Parisian prose poet, Hustvedt re-creates her younger self as an eager New York City flâneuse . . . Gender politics is what gives this book its energy . . . She deftly masters postmodern fictional techniques while also tapping into the broader liberal humanist tradition and placing feminism in that context. She's a 21st-century Virginia Woolf, with many intellectual and creative rooms of her own - including a delightful talent for drawing cartoons, a host of which appear throughout her book.
Hustvedt deftly weaves and juxtaposes all these strands to explore the mechanics of story-making, the fallibility of memory, and the injustices of gender. She is absorbing, acute and frighteningly clever.