Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt
Siri Hustvedt
  • Born: February 19, 1955
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Writer

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Siri Hustvedt is an American novelist and essayist. Hustvedt is the author of a book of poetry, six novels, two books of essays, and several works of non-fiction. Her books include: The Blindfold (1992), The Enchantment of Lily Dahl (1996), What I Loved (2003), for which she is best known, A Plea for Eros (2006), The Sorrows of an American (2008), The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves (2010), The Summer Without Men (2011), Living, Thinking, Looking (2012), and The Blazing World (2014). What I Loved and The Summer Without Men were international bestsellers. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages.

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All human states are organic brain states - happiness, sadness, fear, lust, dreaming, doing math problems and writing novels - and our brains are not static. Happiness & Unhappiness
Although sometimes the morbid is also the transcendent, the transcendent cannot be reduced to the morbid.
American mass media culture, with its celebrities, shopping hysteria, sound bites, formulaic plots, received ideas, and nauseating repetitions, depresses me.
As one of four daughters, I grew up with an imaginary brother - wondering what it would have been like if one of us had been a boy. There's no question that there was a phantom boy child in my imagination when I was young.
Bedtime rituals for children ease the way to the elsewhere of slumber - teeth brushing and pajamas, the voice of a parent reading, the feel and smell of the old blanket or toy, the nightlight glowing in a corner.
Being a mother is complicated because it's not just a paternal culture making demands on you; it's those internal demands and expectations that women have and are self-generated. Women
Both depression and anxiety disorders, for example, are repeatedly described in the media as 'chemical imbalances in the brain,' as if spontaneous neural events with no relation to anything outside a person's brain cause depression and anxiety.
Children are not in a position to assess risk and safety; it must be done for them, and it must be done carefully.
Creativity has always depended on openness and flexibility, so let us hope for more of both in the future. Future ;Hope
Each person does see the world in a different way. There is not a single, unifying, objective truth. We're all limited by our perspective. Truth
Ego, id, and superego are terms familiar to all, but for many years, Freud's psychoanalytic theory has thrived in English departments around the country as a tool for interpreting literary texts but has rarely, if ever, been discussed in science departments. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Even in fiction, I feel rigorous honesty applies. It doesn't apply to facts; it applies to what I think of as not telling emotional lies, which is a funny business. Humor ;Business, Commerce & Finance
Every mental state is also physical.
Every time I finish a book, I say to an imaginary god that I do not believe in, 'Please let me live to write another one.' Time ;Religion & God
Every time the DSM prepares for a new edition, there are countless groups lobbying to get their particular mental illness recognized by the diagnostic manual. Surely, this is a social and cultural phenomenon. Time
Far more women read fiction than men, and because of this, novels have become marginalised as serious texts. Women
Flashbacks rarely involve language. Mine certainly didn't. They were visual, motor, and sensory, and they took place in a relentless, horrifying present.
Having children is one of the most passionate and involving bits of business in human life. Life ;Business, Commerce & Finance
Henry Miller is a famous writer whose work has fallen out of fashion, but I strongly recommend that readers who don't know his work pick up a book and experience this writer's zealous, crazy, inventive, funny, sexy, often delirious prose. Humor ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Hysteria is something that I've been interested for a very long time. I thought I might have it, but it seems that it's unlikely. Time
I am always suspicious of those who impose 'rules' on child rearing. Every child is different in terms of temperament and learning, and every parent responds to a particular child, not some generalized infant or youngster. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I am an American, but a sense of otherness was part of my growing up. I spoke Norwegian before I spoke English. My mother is Norwegian.
I am convinced that during bouts of insomnia, I have sometimes slept without knowing it.
I am married to a writer, and this - writing - is an odd enterprise. It's something we both support very strongly.
I am not a physician, but I am deeply interested in diagnostic categories and have read extensively in the history of the subject. History
I bought myself a rubber brain, familiarized myself with its many parts, listened intently, and read more. In fact, I read obsessively, as my husband has told me repeatedly. He has even suggested that my rapacious reading resembles an addiction.
I continue to write essays about art. The visual is always part of my work, and it gives me immense pleasure to make up the words of art and create them verbally rather than build them. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I enjoy domestic life. Cooking gives me great pleasure, especially if I can chop vegetables slowly and think about what I'm doing and dream a little about this and that. Life
I found myself fascinated by neuroscience, attended a monthly lecture on brain science at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, and was invited to become a member of a discussion group devoted to a new field: neuropsychoanalysis. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I garden. It's very relaxing to me.
I have a longstanding fascination with visual art. I do, in fact, draw as well, as I did in 'The Summer without Men.' I also write essays about visual art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I have a tendency to face my bad fantasies in my books.
I have found that all of my memories seem to need a place and that a good part of what we think of as explicit memory has to do with location.
I have not been diagnosed with epilepsy. I did have an MRI of the brain, and they found no abnormalities in my brain. Now, there are people with epilepsy who have completely normal MRI's, too. I just think also, you know, epileptic seizures can be triggered by emotional stress, by all kinds of things, lights.
I have suffered from migraines since childhood and have long been curious about my own aching head, my dizziness, my divine lifting feelings, my sparklers and black holes, and my single visual hallucination of a little pink man and a pink ox on the floor of my bedroom.
I knew I wanted to be a writer at 13. Before that, I told everyone I was going to be an artist.
I like 'nerves'! I like the word 'migraineur'. I like the word 'madness'. These are OK words. The 19th century had a very handy term: 'neurasthenic'. I think that's a very useful word. We all know what that means: it means extra-sensitive.
I love making up visual works of art in language. I get to be an artist without actually being an artist in that sense. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I love the little garden in the back of my family's brownstone in Brooklyn. Digging out there in the dirt is a joy for me, although by the time August rolls around and my roses have black spot, I need the break winter provides. Time ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Families, Children & Parenting
I published my first poem in 'The Paris Review' in 1980.
I saw Joseph Cornell's lyrical work for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in the late seventies and have internalized many of his boxes. Time ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I was 13 when I had my first bout of insomnia. My family was in Reykjavik, Iceland, for the summer, and day never really became night. Families, Children & Parenting
I watched 'Holiday' in college, and that was when I had my first fantasy of being Katharine Hepburn, standing at the top of the staircase in a huge Hollywood mansion.
I'd been writing poems for many years, but most of them I didn't like. Then, when I was 23, I wrote one I did like, sent it to 'The Paris Review' - the highest publication I could think of - and they accepted it. No other moment in my literary life has quite come close to that. Life
If I have open time, and I'm in Manhattan, I'll just walk to wherever I'm going, even if I could get there faster on the subway. I just love walking the streets of New York. Time ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
If something's not working, it's wonderful to have a reader you can trust to say, 'Actually, you've gone off the deep end here'. Trust
In August of 2002, I survived a car accident. Although I can still see the van speeding toward us, I cannot bring to mind the crash itself - only its aftermath.
In sleep, we leave behind the sensory stimulation of the outside world.
Intellectual curiosity about one's own illness is certainly born of a desire for mastery. If I couldn't cure myself, perhaps I could at least begin to understand myself.
It is tempting to think of this form of insomnia, the inability to fall asleep, as a disease of agency and control: the inability to relinquish high self-reflexive consciousness for the vulnerable, ignorant regions of slumber in which we know not what we do.
It's hard to penetrate characters who are very cut off and lack empathy and to do it with sympathy. It's so easy to make a damaged character repugnant. Sympathy
It's not as if I've been unlucky. My books have been published and reviewed. I haven't lived through terrible literary suffering!
It's thought that about 96% of us have visual imagery, and there's a very tiny minority in the population, some of whom are normal, some of whom have brain lesions, who cannot produce visual imagery.
I've come to understand that migraine is a part of the personality. I have migraine troughs. These often follow high productivity. I have a hypo-manic phase, then I'll crash.
Many scholars working in the humanities have already shown interest in brain research. For years, contemporary theory in the humanities has left the body and biology out of their discussions.
Most of us accept that although we may believe our dreams to be real events, upon waking, we can tell the difference between nocturnal hallucinations and reality.
My feeling is, when you are writing an essay, you don't make anything up. This may be a very Protestant notion, and I'm aware of the fact that memory is fallible, that if I had access to films or some absolute documentary evidence of what happened, it might look different; we get confused and fuzzy.
My greatest pleasure is spending time with my family: my husband and daughter, but also my mother, my three sisters, and their families. Time ;Families, Children & Parenting
My parents were gigantic influences on me. I had a deep hunger to impress my father, who was a professor and an intellectual. I wanted his approval.
Neurobiological research has shown that in people with chronic PTSD, both stress hormone secretion and areas of the brain connected to memory function, such as the hippocampus, appear to be affected, although exactly how and why remains controversial.
Nobody knows what either sleep or waking consciousness is, even though these two have long been seen as the two sides of being: part of life's unvarying diurnal rhythm. Life
None of us is immune to suggestion. We are social beings and live in a social world.
Novelists embody plural selves all the time. What are characters, after all, if not other selves? Time
Only time will tell in what ways Freud was prescient and in what ways he failed to understand how the mind functions. For example, no scientist and very few psychoanalysts still embrace Freud's death instinct. Time ;Death
Our great cultural error is to assume that 'truth' arrives only through reductive theories. Truth
People who grow up with two or more languages understand that each can express certain aspects of reality better than the other.
Perception plays a vital role in the diagnosis of bipolar illness. Symptoms are perceived through the categories of psychiatric medicine at a given moment in history, categories which are continually shifting and being named or renamed. History
Rage has such focus. It can't go on forever, but it's invigorating.
Scientists have a tendency to believe in absolutes, in studies and the repeating of them. Psychoanalysis is firmly based in subjective accounts. We need both.
Sigmund Freud makes people irritable. Whenever someone mentions Freud, say, at a dinner party, I see eyes roll and listen to the nasty remarks that follow.
Sigmund Freud was very much a creature of his time. He did not 'invent' the unconscious. Time
Sleep resistance, bouts of insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, crawling into bed with parents in the middle of the night - all these are so common among children, it seems fair to call them 'normal.'
That's one of the great lies of intimacy, to pretend you know everything - you cannot. No matter how close you've been, over however many years, there remain secrets. I think we all know that - that you don't tell everybody everything.
The brain is an immensely complex organ, and many mysteries remain. Exactly how brain and mind or soma and psyche are related is one of them.
The brain-mind is not a computer, and regarding it as one has led to a variety of theoretical dead ends.
The computer model will be replaced by an organic model, in which the brain-mind is embodied - part of a whole, dynamic, living organism: one driven by emotional forces, not only cognitive ones.
The English expression 'to fall asleep' is apt because the transition between waking and sleeping is a gradual drop from one state of being into another: a giving up of full self-consciousness for unconsciousness or for the altered consciousness of dreams.
The future is, of course, imaginary - an unreal place that I create from my expectations, which are made from my remembered experiences, especially repeated experiences. Future
The history of fiction is about family - an inexhaustible subject for literature. We are creatures driven by emotions that are on high display in intimate relations - inside the family. History ;Families, Children & Parenting
The idea that skiing might not be fun, might not be for everyone, had never occurred to me. Where I come from, the sport signified pleasure, nature, family happiness. Nature ;Happiness & Unhappiness ;Families, Children & Parenting
The mind-brain is lived only from a first-person perspective, and it is a dynamic, plastic organ that changes in relation to the environment.
The relationship between the imagined and the real is more complicated than people imagine.
The third-person or 'objective,' static, reductive models used in most science are important and yield significant results, but they have their limitations. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
There are no rules in art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
There is a difference between using a made-up name and using real people as pseudonyms. People are not costumes you can wear. They are flesh and blood.
There is no reason we should expect young children to enter the nocturnal darkness of sleep and dreams without help.
There is this assumption that much of what I write is about my life, and that simply is not true. Life
There was a film class in my high school in Northfield, Minnesota, which was very unusual. I saw my first Buster Keaton film there, aged about 15. It made a gigantic impression on me.
We all live in a culture that is continually isolating feminine and masculine aspects, even when they're not related to people.
We live in a culture that is much happier talking about organic brain disease than about psychic illness because the former suggests that something that is physically wrong in a brain is wholly unrelated to that person's upbringing or experiences in the world, but that is not necessarily true.
We sometimes imagine we want what we don't really want.
When I don't get enough sleep, I am cranky, vulnerable to headaches, and my concentration is poor.
When I taught writing classes to psychiatric patients, I met people whose stories of manic highs and immobilizing lows appeared to be textbook descriptions of classic bipolar disorder. I met other patients who had been diagnosed with myriad disorders. No doctor seemed to agree about what they actually suffered from.
When I was an impoverished graduate student, I would sometimes spend $20 or $30 on a T-shirt or accessory I didn't need or even particularly want. What I craved was the purchase, not the thing itself. Of course, a sense of not being deprived may fill an emotional void without ruinous consequences.
While reading 'David Copperfield' in the middle of the night - probably because of the light, I had insomnia for the first time - I looked out of the window and thought, 'If this is what books can do, this is what I want to do.' Time
With almost no exceptions, art by men is much more expensive than art by women. Even great women artists, like Louise Bourgeois and Lee Krasner, are only fully embraced very late in their career. Women ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Writers are in control of editing processes - making a sentence better, cutting out a paragraph. But the initial outpouring has very little to do with conscious control or manipulation.
Writing isn't a job so much as a compulsion. I've been writing since I was very young because for some strange reason, I must write, and also because when I write, I feel more alive and closer to the world than when I'm not writing.
Years ago, when I was in Siena for the first time, I saw the works of Duccio, whose deeply emotional painting from the thirteenth century has never left me. Time

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