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Mothers, Fathers, and Others: Essays

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Feminist philosophy meets family memoir in this new essay collection from Siri Hustvedt, an exploration of the shifting borders that define human experience, including boundaries we usually take for granted—between ourselves and others, nature and nurture, viewer and artwork—which turn out to be far less stable than we imagine. Described as “a 21st-century Virginia Woolf” i Feminist philosophy meets family memoir in this new essay collection from Siri Hustvedt, an exploration of the shifting borders that define human experience, including boundaries we usually take for granted—between ourselves and others, nature and nurture, viewer and artwork—which turn out to be far less stable than we imagine. Described as “a 21st-century Virginia Woolf” in the Literary Review (UK), Man Booker longlisted Hustvedt displays her expansive intellect and interdisciplinary knowledge in this collection that moves effortlessly between stories of her mother, grandmother, and daughter to artistic mothers, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, and Lousie Bourgeois, to the broader meanings of maternal in a culture shaped by misogyny and fantasies of paternal authority. Mothers, Fathers, and Others is a polymath’s journey into urgent questions about familial love and hate, human prejudice and cruelty, and the transformative power of art. This moving, fierce, and often funny book is finally about the fact that being alive means being in states of constant, dynamic exchange with what is around us, and that the impulse to draw hard and fast conceptual borders where none exist carries serious theoretical and political dangers.


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Feminist philosophy meets family memoir in this new essay collection from Siri Hustvedt, an exploration of the shifting borders that define human experience, including boundaries we usually take for granted—between ourselves and others, nature and nurture, viewer and artwork—which turn out to be far less stable than we imagine. Described as “a 21st-century Virginia Woolf” i Feminist philosophy meets family memoir in this new essay collection from Siri Hustvedt, an exploration of the shifting borders that define human experience, including boundaries we usually take for granted—between ourselves and others, nature and nurture, viewer and artwork—which turn out to be far less stable than we imagine. Described as “a 21st-century Virginia Woolf” in the Literary Review (UK), Man Booker longlisted Hustvedt displays her expansive intellect and interdisciplinary knowledge in this collection that moves effortlessly between stories of her mother, grandmother, and daughter to artistic mothers, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, and Lousie Bourgeois, to the broader meanings of maternal in a culture shaped by misogyny and fantasies of paternal authority. Mothers, Fathers, and Others is a polymath’s journey into urgent questions about familial love and hate, human prejudice and cruelty, and the transformative power of art. This moving, fierce, and often funny book is finally about the fact that being alive means being in states of constant, dynamic exchange with what is around us, and that the impulse to draw hard and fast conceptual borders where none exist carries serious theoretical and political dangers.

30 review for Mothers, Fathers, and Others: Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A literary group of essays that cover various topics. I've been reading one a day for the last few weeks as there is much contained within each essay. Not something one can just race through if one is interested enough in what was written. I was though I enjoyed some more than others. The essays begin with some thoughts, words on her personal connections, I for one didn't know she was married to Paul Auster. My favorites concern reading, why we read fiction, what we expect from this genre and go A literary group of essays that cover various topics. I've been reading one a day for the last few weeks as there is much contained within each essay. Not something one can just race through if one is interested enough in what was written. I was though I enjoyed some more than others. The essays begin with some thoughts, words on her personal connections, I for one didn't know she was married to Paul Auster. My favorites concern reading, why we read fiction, what we expect from this genre and goes on from there to Jane Austen's Persuasion. It continues with Wuthering Heights, and again I never knew that this book was vehemently disliked by some when published. From there it covers art in various forms, those I read with varying degrees of interest. On to misogyny, and this one I found very interesting as she also covers historical ground on this subject. The last was the hardest to read as it involved a case that was utterly horrendous. I like the way this author writes, thinks and though I have read a few books that she has written, I intend to read several more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I have long admired Siri Hustvedt….American novelist and essayist… (3 years younger than me)… I haven’t read every book Siri has written (I own a couple unread books > feeling that ‘to-read-them-soon’ inspiration percolating)….but two books (one fiction: “The Blazing World” and one non-fiction: “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women”), left a profound impact on me. Ha…. perhaps because I also worked my ass off reading them…. especially in “A Woman Looking at Men looking at Women”…..a book packed I have long admired Siri Hustvedt….American novelist and essayist… (3 years younger than me)… I haven’t read every book Siri has written (I own a couple unread books > feeling that ‘to-read-them-soon’ inspiration percolating)….but two books (one fiction: “The Blazing World” and one non-fiction: “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women”), left a profound impact on me. Ha…. perhaps because I also worked my ass off reading them…. especially in “A Woman Looking at Men looking at Women”…..a book packed filled with names I was looking up — giving myself a Cliff notes education about artists and philosophers I knew zilch. But…with each book ….my admiration for Siri Hustvedt went up. The collection of ‘these’ essays > ….”Mothers, Fathers, and Others”…. were considerably readily more comprehensible/easily accessible to read than her WOMAN/MEN collection of essays….. (easier for my type of mind)…. meaning they felt more personal and tangible rather than educational. I admit to being a magnet toward stories about motherhood - grandmothers, fathers, children, reading styles and book chatter, more than facts about unknown philosophers, or the study of cognitive science and neuroscientist——[not that these topics aren’t indeed vital to helping us understand the world and human nature]…. but — family experiences are a more natural draw to me. I enjoyed simple things shared in these essays …. like being a young girl playing (with siblings), out in the woods…. There is something that feels so nice reading about young girls playing outside - getting muddy ….. exploring the outdoors. But interesting….. overall….. I wasn’t ‘as’ crazy about these essays as I was in her other books where I had to work harder to digest-and understand. But they were good — I’m just not certain these essays will have any lasting power —- whereas her other books ‘did’ - does - still have lasting powers. I didn’t share all the same metaphoric descriptions to ‘explain’ the realm of motherhood…..( perhaps it was a language barrier/discrepancy) …..but by observing the ‘good mother’ as that to being in a straitjacket felt more like a play on words than a more ‘straight- direct -authentic discussion about the complexities of motherhood….(to me)…. These essays include background stories about Siri’s grandmother, (a Norwegian immigrant) father, (intellectual memories that shaped her own intellectual Quest-for-Knowledge ), her own mother Esther, , (who served time in prison during the Nazi occupation), And….stories about traveling during summers…. Special mother/daughter/sibling memories…. She also had a few essays devoted to ‘reading-books-genres > books topics we choose - and why…. I found her ‘book’ essays most stimulating…. “If you are at home, and have enough to eat, do you read toward or away from fear? Reading for comfort and escape is readily desirable…. But why (say as during the Pandemic), do we enjoy weeping over the sorrows through our books… When devastating current events, violence, death, illness, injustice, is factual news in our every day lives? Philosophers have studied for years why people take a weird interest in devastating events…. I found the ‘book’ essays interesting - (fiction or non-fiction > books about hope, fantasies, and our future). She wrote thoughts about the classics: Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Louise Bourgeois…..and her book club discussion about Wuthering Heights Heights (which wasn’t even one of the books chosen)….yet I enjoyed the emotional diversity from the book club members. Siri wrote about moods, death, marriage, art, living in Minnesota, her 50th Birthday celebration—(where her 82-year-old mother gave a speech about being pregnant with Siri)….etc. These stories were interesting but they didn’t ‘wow’ me - At the same time these essays invite self-inventory assessments. Siri Hustvedt’s power, seduction, breath, and radiance still shines — she hasn’t lost her touch…. but what happened to me is I asked to myself…. “Why haven’t I read the novel “What I Loved” yet? ….. About 3.5 rating…..rating up.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This book of essays is further proof of the seemingly limitless reach of Siri Hustvedt's brilliance. I particularly liked the early ones, more biographical than the others, that concerned her life and family, her history, her grandmother's life in Minnesota. Her mother's life in Nazi occupied Norway. Many of these works which could comprise an in-depth study of art and feminism, were fascinating in their attention to detail particularly with regard to iconic examples of literature, and the chapt This book of essays is further proof of the seemingly limitless reach of Siri Hustvedt's brilliance. I particularly liked the early ones, more biographical than the others, that concerned her life and family, her history, her grandmother's life in Minnesota. Her mother's life in Nazi occupied Norway. Many of these works which could comprise an in-depth study of art and feminism, were fascinating in their attention to detail particularly with regard to iconic examples of literature, and the chapter on Wuthering Heights could be the cornerstone for an entire symposium. Hustvedt's range of knowledge is not limited to art and literature, but she has presented papers on neuroscience, and has been described by her husband, Paul Auster, as the "intellectual of the family." This in defense of her own work which critics have tended to credit to her husband since men are viewed as being the more fiercely brilliant. Whether it's novels, in which work by women authors is approached differently than those of men, or art installations, women are expected to produce works of domesticity while men, works of intellect. She proves this an erroneous concept. I am fascinated by her range of knowledge and expression. The only one that I really couldn't read was the final piece that dealt with a notorious murder of a young woman in 1965 by some kids and a hellish woman. I remember that case when it broke, and couldn't read about it then either. But then Hustvedt was making a point about crowd mentality, so it is valid.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anastasiya Mozgovaya

    a very exciting and educational discovery. Hustvedt has deeply touched me with her personal essays just as much as she has impressed me with the ones about feminism and literature. i cannot wait to read her other works!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Lechner

    Mothers, Fathers, and Others is a collection of essays focusing on the connections we have, both consciously and unconsciously, with the world around us. Hustvedt explores everything from our families to society to true crime. I found these essays really interesting. Instead of just exploring the effect of our immediate surroundings on our ideologies, Hustvedt looks further and draws us into realms we never would have thought of on our own. My only wish is that the essays would have been tied tog Mothers, Fathers, and Others is a collection of essays focusing on the connections we have, both consciously and unconsciously, with the world around us. Hustvedt explores everything from our families to society to true crime. I found these essays really interesting. Instead of just exploring the effect of our immediate surroundings on our ideologies, Hustvedt looks further and draws us into realms we never would have thought of on our own. My only wish is that the essays would have been tied together better. A few of the entries felt more like tangents that were unconnected to the overall message. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the ARC!

  6. 4 out of 5

    GONZA

    A bit challenging this latest collection of essays, sometimes extremely personal, sometimes funny like the various versions of Simbad, and sometimes upsetting like the last one. Other than that, the topics are the usual and the reflections on literature and teachers in my opinion are the best. Un po' ostica questa ultima raccolta di saggi, a volte estremamente personali, a volte divertenti come le varie versioni di Simbad e a volte sconvolgenti come l'ultimo. A parte questo, gli argomenti sono i A bit challenging this latest collection of essays, sometimes extremely personal, sometimes funny like the various versions of Simbad, and sometimes upsetting like the last one. Other than that, the topics are the usual and the reflections on literature and teachers in my opinion are the best. Un po' ostica questa ultima raccolta di saggi, a volte estremamente personali, a volte divertenti come le varie versioni di Simbad e a volte sconvolgenti come l'ultimo. A parte questo, gli argomenti sono i soliti e le riflessioni sulla letteratura e sugli insegnati secondo me sono le migliori.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is the first book I've read by Siri Hustvedt. She is a terrific writer, deep thinker and effective communicator. However, this collection of essays is uneven. Some are fantastic. The chapter on misogamy should be required reading in every American high school. Her essays on her family's complicated history and parental relations are thought-provoking in an uncomfortable although relatable manner. But the literary chapters are just odd. The deep academic dive into Sinbad the Sailor was dull This is the first book I've read by Siri Hustvedt. She is a terrific writer, deep thinker and effective communicator. However, this collection of essays is uneven. Some are fantastic. The chapter on misogamy should be required reading in every American high school. Her essays on her family's complicated history and parental relations are thought-provoking in an uncomfortable although relatable manner. But the literary chapters are just odd. The deep academic dive into Sinbad the Sailor was dull and Wuthering Heights has been done to death. No one needs another treatise on this novel. The last essay about the torture and murder of a 16 year old girl was disturbing in the extreme and Hustvedt's attempts to reduce it to a moral lesson about gender roles and cultural issues felt... wrong. I'd like to read more by this author, but I fear this collection was put together to fulfil a contract and wasn't well thought out.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Siri Hustvedt's essay collection, "Mothers, Fathers, and Others" was my first introduction to this very intellectual and cerebral feminist writer, and although a few of the interdisciplinary essays included were a little too specialized to be of general interest to me, all were well written and the vast majority were very enjoyable and/or thought provoking. My favorites were the lovely piece in which Hustvedt remembers her grandmother, which was richly evocative of the lives of Norwegian immigra Siri Hustvedt's essay collection, "Mothers, Fathers, and Others" was my first introduction to this very intellectual and cerebral feminist writer, and although a few of the interdisciplinary essays included were a little too specialized to be of general interest to me, all were well written and the vast majority were very enjoyable and/or thought provoking. My favorites were the lovely piece in which Hustvedt remembers her grandmother, which was richly evocative of the lives of Norwegian immigrants in Minnesota in the early part of the 20th century, and the essay about her mother, who among her many other attributes also defied the Nazis during their occupation of Norway. Fans of the Emily Bronte classic "Wuthering Heights," as I am, will enjoy Hustvedt's probing piece dissecting the many questions and problems that novel poses, and there are several interesting essays on art (including a piece on Louise Bourgeois) that I also appreciated. I'm definitely late in finding this author, but the writing in "Mothers, Fathers, and Others" has inspired me to delve into Hustvedt's backlist. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    sofia

    super interesting and thought provoking, adored hustvedt's writing style, also loved almost every essay in this collection in very different ways (which is rare for me). could have done without the sinbad variations which mostly bored me until the final part, but overall this was spectacular. super interesting and thought provoking, adored hustvedt's writing style, also loved almost every essay in this collection in very different ways (which is rare for me). could have done without the sinbad variations which mostly bored me until the final part, but overall this was spectacular.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    3.5*

  11. 4 out of 5

    MK LaFs

    Love the way she wrote about her mom. No one comes close to describing my love for my mom but this was pretty good.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    An eclectic collection of essays that proved to be a lot more than what the title suggests. Hustvedt took me on a weighty, intellectual and thought-provoking journey through a diverse range of topics; from art, to neuroscience, to misogyny, and more. It was like I skyrocketed through her plane of thought and wow, were her musings packed with a lot of validity and depth. The first few essays are centred around the parent ideal and its reality. She narrates a beautiful and honest account of her own An eclectic collection of essays that proved to be a lot more than what the title suggests. Hustvedt took me on a weighty, intellectual and thought-provoking journey through a diverse range of topics; from art, to neuroscience, to misogyny, and more. It was like I skyrocketed through her plane of thought and wow, were her musings packed with a lot of validity and depth. The first few essays are centred around the parent ideal and its reality. She narrates a beautiful and honest account of her own upbringing and gives the reader some background into her family history. Her writing is evocative and made me take stock of my own motherhood journey while bringing to the forefront some of the family constructs from my childhood. The next lot of essays take on a more philosophical and feministic theme. Hustvedt is an expert at creating unusual links between topics. In one particular essay about “borders”, she opens with a personal anecdote about a family road trip. This then turns into a contemplation on US state borders and other intangible boundaries in science, in literature before delving into art, sexism and ending with small snippets of history that demonstrate race exclusion. All within 10 or so pages. This may sound like a strange hodgepodge of unrelated topics, but Hustvedt does something remarkable with it. Using her intimate writing style, she intelligently weaves each secular idea and binds them together into an overarching philosophical discussion worth reflecting on. There are extracts on living through COVID. There are essays on the examination of society. They are some parts memoir, other parts critiques on such things like memory, imagination and how they relate to literature. There is also some creative storytelling, where Hustvedt demonstrates her skills with 7 retellings of Sinbad in 7 different writing styles. Her last few essays were quite dark featuring thoughts on misogyny and an investigation into the brutal abuse and eventual murder of a young 16 year old girl in 1965. Underlying each of the 21 essays Hustvedt uses a strong feministic tone. It is dense, scholarly, at times a bit overwhelming with the magnitude in scope, but her critical analysis and philosophical reflections were very fascinating. Worth the read if you can handle the mind boggle. Thank you Hachette Australia for the review copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    A lot of five star ideas and material. Essay collections can be difficult because some things inspire differences for different audiences and a few of the pieces didn't always connect with me as much as some of the others. The Paul Auster/Siri Hustvedt version of Sinbad is not to be missed though. A lot of five star ideas and material. Essay collections can be difficult because some things inspire differences for different audiences and a few of the pieces didn't always connect with me as much as some of the others. The Paul Auster/Siri Hustvedt version of Sinbad is not to be missed though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arevik Heboyan

    Deeply grateful to the author, publishers, and NetGalley team for the opportunity to review advanced readers' copy of the memoir. "Mothers, Fathers, and Others" is a work of non-fiction that depicts the deep impact and influence our immediate family, relatives, people surrounding us from early childhood through physical presence or even through stories and memories are having on the formation of our consciousness and self, motivation and interests and most of all traumas we are born to and get i Deeply grateful to the author, publishers, and NetGalley team for the opportunity to review advanced readers' copy of the memoir. "Mothers, Fathers, and Others" is a work of non-fiction that depicts the deep impact and influence our immediate family, relatives, people surrounding us from early childhood through physical presence or even through stories and memories are having on the formation of our consciousness and self, motivation and interests and most of all traumas we are born to and get into... Through the stories of family, family trauma, and immediate interaction or the absence of interaction with our families, through the lens of her own family, we see how small moments or interactions change us, define us, make us... The author masterfully brings in her heritage and even national trauma to herself and depicts the complexity and deepness of self, family, and love, in any form we know it. Devotion, sacrifices, and knowledge passed through verbal and non-verbal interactions, through attitudes and expectations make us and we need to acknowledge the importance of our expressions as parents, kids of just bypassers... It may have a huge impact on the formation of one-self...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica B

    Did I love every essay in this collection? No (I hope one day I understand The Sinbad variations), but now Siri Hustvedt is in my head and I will never be able to get her out. I knew i would enjoy it from the first essay, but when I came to ‘The Enigma of Reading’, a loving analysis of Wuthering Heights, I paused and read the entire novel. I’m not sure if you have ever read an entire book to fully appreciate an essay but I highly recommend the practice. Read this sentence and then tell me you do Did I love every essay in this collection? No (I hope one day I understand The Sinbad variations), but now Siri Hustvedt is in my head and I will never be able to get her out. I knew i would enjoy it from the first essay, but when I came to ‘The Enigma of Reading’, a loving analysis of Wuthering Heights, I paused and read the entire novel. I’m not sure if you have ever read an entire book to fully appreciate an essay but I highly recommend the practice. Read this sentence and then tell me you don’t want to run off and lose yourself in Wuthering Heights: ‘this particular book is rather like a bomb, which when ignited by its readers, explodes and sends a thousand fragments flying in all directions.’ My favorite essay was ‘What Does a Man Want?’ Which exploded my brain more than Wuthering Heights and had me physically yelling ‘YES!’ aloud. However, nothing will erase that gut punch of a final essay ‘Scapegoat’ that evoked a physical reaction in me. Finally, the writing. Oh my, the writing. How Hustvedt starts an idea, fills in all the knowledge and research and then returns to the idea is sheer brilliance. I was enamored by her prose, her intellect and her delivery. A true master of the craft, in my opinion. Needless to say, I will be exploring Hustvedt’s backlist (I have already purchased her novel ‘What I Loved’) and will be forever indebted to her for finally getting me to read Wuthering Heights.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Riet

    Een verzameling essays van een geweldige schrijfster. Ik vond ze niet allemaal even interessant, maar vooral de essays over haar moeder (geimmigreerd uit Noorwegen) en haar vader (van Noorse afkomst) waren erg mooi. In een aantal andere essays laat ze veel van haar werk in de neurofysiologie zien. Ook interessant, maar het sprak mij iets minder aan. Toch wel heel goed haar essay over misogynie. Ze is de vrouw van een eveneens beroemde schrijver (Paul Osten) en haar wordt vaak verweten, dat hij h Een verzameling essays van een geweldige schrijfster. Ik vond ze niet allemaal even interessant, maar vooral de essays over haar moeder (geimmigreerd uit Noorwegen) en haar vader (van Noorse afkomst) waren erg mooi. In een aantal andere essays laat ze veel van haar werk in de neurofysiologie zien. Ook interessant, maar het sprak mij iets minder aan. Toch wel heel goed haar essay over misogynie. Ze is de vrouw van een eveneens beroemde schrijver (Paul Osten) en haar wordt vaak verweten, dat hij haar wel zal helpen of iets dergelijks. Belachelijk natuurlijk. Ik heb toch meer genoten van haar romans.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Nichols

    not what i expected. wanted more memoir, got more literary critique. not a problem, just makes me wish i were more well-read so i could better engage. my favorite essay was "a walk with my mother". 10/10 cover art. interested to read more of her work not what i expected. wanted more memoir, got more literary critique. not a problem, just makes me wish i were more well-read so i could better engage. my favorite essay was "a walk with my mother". 10/10 cover art. interested to read more of her work

  18. 4 out of 5

    Betelgeuse

  19. 4 out of 5

    books4chess

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne Yudaken

  22. 5 out of 5

    Harte Reads

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leah Wingenroth

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tone

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jada spencer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leona

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Dimoia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emma Forsyth

  29. 4 out of 5

    Songul Aktas

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

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