Hustvedt brings a surprisingly scientific approach to her artistic and literary subjects ... Here is Hustvedt’s unique contribution and genius: By bringing a placenta into a fight about misogyny, she fortifies her argument with physical evidence ... Other pieces in the collection don’t fall short, exactly; it’s more that they fall out of place ... When Hustvedt returns to the idea of what’s missing, her writing takes off ... 'A Walk With My Mother' could easily be an entire book, one I would eagerly devour.
... engrossing ... Hustvedt has combined the lively and tactile with more wide angled philosophical questions about perception and reality. Mothers, Fathers, and Others sifts a wide range of memory, experience and disciplinary perspectives into essays that bring into focus the profound contradictions of motherhood ... The most memorable entries in this collection are Hustvedt's reminiscences of mothers in her extended family ... Mothers, Fathers, and Others makes a fascinating companion to Motherhood: A Manifesto ... The two books brilliantly capture the joy and pain of motherhood: elation and depression, wonder and weariness, love and hate for the offspring.
... she engages readers in heady discussions while simultaneously telling entertaining tales about her Minnesota childhood ... readers can anticipate scintillating discussions of subjects such as psychoanalytic theories, Plato, Bourdieu, Jane Austen and the Brontes. Hustvedt's enthusiasm for her subjects and the ease with which she discusses them make it a delight to plunge into the deep end of a subject previously unknown to the reader ... Hustvedt is brilliant at exploring how our various reactions to disrupting boundaries plays out in notions of the monstrous, the chimerical, and their perceived threat ... On rare occasions, Hustvedt reveals her own blind spots when it comes to perception. In several essays, she does a tremendous reading of language, translation and conscious thought. The languages, for the most part, were transmitted orally or in written text. I found myself wondering how some of her conclusions might have shifted with the incorporation of languages like ASL, that rely on a variety of body clues to convey meaning. I imagine it would make a fascinating topic at Hustvedt's next fascinating salon.
Siri Hustvedt’s insatiable curiosity and deep immersion in many disciplines — literature, philosophy, history, anthropology, art criticism, political theory, psychiatry, neuroscience, embryology, and epigenetics — shine through each of the 20 essays in her latest book ... Siri Hustvedt’s keen intellect is evident on every page of this stunning collection, proving herself an authority worthy of attention.
Considering the intellectual vigor with which Hustvedt approaches most of her writing, it’s refreshing to catch these glimpses into her childhood and family dynamics. That’s not to say that these more memoir-like pieces are lacking in rigor, as she grapples with issues of death, remembrance, ritual and parenthood. But readers who come to Hustvedt’s writing for her more academic considerations of neuroscience, philosophy, visual art and literary theory will also find much to appreciate here ... Perhaps the least successful essays --- or at least the ones that already seem dated, even though they were published just last year --- are two that were written during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. They aren’t bad, or even particularly unsuccessful; they just stick out as being relics of another time, in contrast with Hustvedt’s other, more enduringly relevant works.
In this latest collection Siri Hustvedt demonstrates her tremendous range as an essayist, with topics ranging from motherhood to reading during a pandemic to misogyny to Jane Austen’s expertise in rhetoric. Even within individual essays in Mothers, Fathers, and Others she jumps from topic to topic, and this diversity presents a dichotomy of sorts. While the variety keeps each essay interesting and creates a picture of well-rounded, holistic arguments, the essays at times feel unfocused and meandering, varying in density and interest level. At its best it is engaging, at its worst pedantic, but it has something for almost anyone ... While the facts and arguments may seem familiar, such as contrasting the expectations of fathers versus mothers, Hustvedt pinpoints the philosophy behind them in a unique, accessible way ... Many of the longer essays run into this issue, relying more on digression than thematic cohesion. It is why the shorter essays in this collection ring true ... Hustvedt’s collection as a whole reads like a personal diary, albeit the well-thought out diary of an accomplished, knowledgeable person ... The standout essays are truly memorable, and for this the collection is worth exploring, and has certainly piqued my interest in Hustvedt’s lengthy bibliography.
The writer’s descriptions of Tillie and her other stoic Scandinavian relatives are vivid and heartbreaking. These are recollections of familial hostility, regret and anger, of people failing to tell one another what they feel, or alternately, telling them very cruel things ... The essays about her family are particularly engrossing, as is the one called 'Mentor Ghosts,' a sort of Hustvedtian take on Rebecca Solnit’s 'Men Explain Things to Me,' where Hustvedt describes the repeated attempts of men to credit her husband (the novelist Paul Auster) for writing her novels. But too many of the essays that follow feel like the product of pandemic restlessness ... Critical arguments she makes about such well-tread topics as the purpose of art and the marginalization of motherhood don’t feel very fresh, either. The collection would have been far stronger had Hustvedt left out the musings on too-familiar works—and to be honest, I probably didn’t need to read that much about the lack of proper appreciation of the placenta.
When Hustvedt does address motherhood, she is sharpest when reflecting on the personal to theorize about larger structures ... Once a friend of mine told me an essay collection felt like a grab-bag of internet articles with no coherent theme. Hustvedt’s collection is similar. Some pieces are hardly a few pages, reading like fragments without heft. There are plenty of wonderful fragmentary books–but often these pieces fail to resonate ... These essays that touch on gender occasionally spark with insight but often retread well-worn paths ... Misogyny, homophobia, and racism are theorized alongside one another without much discussion of their differences.
Hustvedt is a transporting storyteller ... [a] richly stirring and resonant collection... Steeped in literature, art, and science, Hustvedt...is a mind-revving investigative thinker and a commanding essayist who stirs the waters, overturns stones, opens curtains, and lifts veils with authority, refinement, and cogency.
Another outstanding compilation of essays from Hustvedt ... The author, one of our most appealing literary polymaths, quotes innumerable resources, and she maintains a pleasingly nuanced balance between striking originality and intellectual synthesis ... Brilliant and utterly transfixing.
... profound arguments about memory, art, gender, and family in this stunning collection ... In her typical fashion, Hustvedt pulls from psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature, and art criticism to make brilliant connections among her takes on the world. Fans of Hustvedt’s work will welcome this, and those less familiar will delight in discovering her witty, lavish style.