The Blazing Gym

the blazing world by siri hustvedt1476747237.01.LZZZZZZZThere are some books you should never take to the gym.

One of them is Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World.

Perhaps your gym is like a library, but mine is like the Superbowl.

Books longlisted for the Man Booker Prize make unsuitable reading while pedaling a stationary bicycle.

“What are you reading?”

I hold up the book.  I don’t say the name.  It might jinx it.  If people know I’m reading The Blazing World, they might tease me until I put it away.  Yup.  It happens.

I pedal and flip the pages.

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt

The Blazing World takes the form of a critic’s scholarly book about Harriet Burden, an artist who challenged gender politics by hiring three men to exhibit her work under their names. The novel consists of documents:, interviews, journals, art criticism, and letters.

I  am reading an intellectual bit about Kierkegaarde when —BANGGGG–Led Zeppelin suddenly pounds my head loudly  from a speaker directly above my head.

“Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, well I’m down, so down.”

OW.  Why is the sound right on my head?  Should I move?

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it is that I ripped my stretchpants when I bent over to adjust the pedals.  Nope, this is the only bicycle not in front of the mirrors.  I’m staying.

Meanwhile, in The Blazing World, Harriet, or Harry, as she calls herself, does not have Led Zeppelin pounding on her head.  An art dealer’s widow, she is furious rather because her art has never been fashionable or respected.  Men make the rules.   These days she is making winged penises and husband dolls and plotting revenge on the art world.

Harry feels men have the advantage in art.

…I knew that youth was the desired commodity and that, despite the Guerilla Girls, it was still better to have a penis.  I was over the hill and had never had a penis.

I wonder if she is going to become a transgender person.

She hires three men to present her art as their own.  The critics admire it.

I understand her ravings about the penis.  A vagina is problematic to some of the women at Mount Holyoke, I read recently in New York Magazine.

A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas. These sorts of episodes now hardly even qualify as exceptional.

So many smart, charming, exceedingly naive people go to the The Seven Sisters schools! I once had to  give an assertiveness training course over dinner to a friend, an alumna of Bryn Mawr or Wellesley, who said men often tried to date-rape her.   Honestly, her manners were so good that it was impossible ever to tell that she disliked anyone.  I taught her to frown and say no.

Led Zeppelin always gives me a headache, so I ‘m going to close my book now.

I’ll start it over when I get home.

“Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh,”

2 thoughts on “The Blazing Gym

  1. 🙂 I don’t even go to the gym but there are always plenty of interruptions that seem to get in the way when I want to read (though not often Led Zeppelin!)


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