'Living, Thinking, Looking,' by Siri Hustvedt Drawing on everything from her own experience of writing fiction and her struggles with insomnia and migraines to neuroscience, psychoanalytic theory and visual art, Hustvedt argues for the dynamic interconnections of memory and imagination. In one of the book's strongest pieces, "Three Emotional Stories," she deploys Augustine, William James, a scientific paper on bilateral hippocampal lesions and much more to explore the nature of memory and how it's transmuted in artistic creation. Writing ardently of a Zurburán still life, Hustvedt describes her reaction as "an active projection, or to use the psychoanalytic term, a form of transference of my memories and my lived past onto the painting." A brief meditation on ambiguity, another obvious candidate for exclusion, aims for poetic concision and comes perilously close to saying nothing at all. The piece "On Reading" begins with a Zen-like provocation ("Reading is perception as translation"), moves to a recollection of her young daughter learning to read, touches on neurophysiology and contains a contentious argument about the reading process, all within the first page and a half. Steven Winn is a freelance writer and regular host of City Arts & Lectures conversations.

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  • Siri Hustvedt
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