Good Reading : March 2008
14 goodreading ı MARCH 2008 Siri Hustvedt wraps her legs together and makes a confession: sometimes in her dreams she is a man. Gender-bending fantasies are hardly risqué. But you don’t expect them from the likes of Hustvedt (pronounced Hoost- vedt) whose Nordic beauty makes her the very picture of femininity. At 183 centimetres tall, with the rake-thin physique, full lips and angular cheek- bones of a fashion model, she’s the kind of flaxen bombshell, ageing with style, that publishers fawn over. But dreams are rarely frivolous, as Hustvedt – a long-time admirer of Freud – would surely concede. ‘I’ve often wished that I never showed my face and that no one knew whether I was a man or a woman,’ Hustvedt, 53, tells me later. ‘That’s not a very practical route in publishing, but there’s a part of me that has fantasised about that.’ It doesn’t help Hustvedt’s ambivalence about her glamour that she’s married to Paul Auster – the cult novelist of The New York Trilogy fame, whose dark good looks make female journalists swoon. Curled sideways over a couch in the parlour of their four- storey brownstone in Brooklyn, New York, Hustvedt is dressed for comfort in black tights and a grey cashmere cardigan.The aroma of Auster’s cigars wafts own the stairs. ‘This is a house full of cigars,’ she ys laughingly. It’s here that America’s leading literary couple lay hosts to writer friends such as Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo, Russell Banks and Peter Carey.Their 20-year-old daughter, Sophie Auster, s a singer and film actress who recently featured on the cover of Spanish Rolling Stone magazine. t’s hard to think of a more romantic image of New York intellectual life since Hannah Arendt’s egendary New Year’s Eve parties in the fifties. Hustvedt’s first two novels, The Blindfold (1992) and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl (1996), were psychological thrillers which featured vulnerable young heroines, navigating their way through offbeat encounters with often sinister male characters. But despite critical acclaim, Hustvedt didn’t win international fame until her 2003 novel What I Loved. A brainy saga that traced the ives and loves of four artsy New York intellectual types over 25 years, t became a global bestseller translated nto about 25 languages. Some were perplexed by A Plea for Eros (2005), Hustvedt’s collection of ersonal essays, in which she described he feelings of anxiety and mental author profile Nordic New York Acclaimed novelist and essayist SIRI HUSTVED New York’s intellectual elite. But below the surfa NAPARSTEK discovers.