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A Plea for Eros: Essays

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  526 ratings  ·  41 reviews
From the author of the international bestseller What I Loved, a provocative collection of autobiographical and critical essays about writing and writers.

Whether her subject is growing up in Minnesota, cross-dressing, or the novel, Hustvedt's nonfiction, like her fiction, defies easy categorization, elegantly combining intellect, emotion, wit, and passion. With a light touc
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 27th 2005 by Picador (first published 2005)
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May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Whether she talks about memory, the self, passions, feelings or words, Siri’s essays from this volume really hit home with me. I could not help but highlight lots and lots of fragments from this book because they could mirror ideas that have been fleeting through my mind at times, ideas that I never could quite grasp.

She talks about places that live in our mind once we have left them in the essay/short story called “Yonder” which is my favorite from the collection. She talks about how we ima
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I suppose I am drawn to Siri Hustvedt's writings, because I am interested in the same things she is: memory and place; the nature of art; Henry James; Our Mutual Friend; Dickens; and 19th-century English literature in general, all of which (and more) she addresses in this collection. I relate to her descriptions of her inner world, especially those from when she was a child and an adolescent. But Hustvedt is a lot smarter than I am, so I'm happy to have my outlook on these topics expanded by her ...more
Sep 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
After nearly two months of trying to get through this, I'm giving up. I love Hustvedt - three of her novels are among my all-time favourites - and it isn't even that I thought there was anything specific wrong with any of the essays I read (although none of them made much of an impression on me either), I just couldn't summon up any enthusiasm or motivation to finish reading this.

I did make a lot of notes on this when I first started it, so might write a longer review later.

From a Tumblr post
May 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt was a revelation for me. That's why I wanted to read this collection of earlier published essays. Hustvedt shows she is a very self-conscious observant of the world (cf the essay about New York, 1 year after Nine-Eleven), but foremost a gracious observer of herself.
I especially liked the opening essay "Yonder", about the unreachable space between here and there, that she relates to her migration background (Norwegian), but also to her literary work. The title essay
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
The earliest of Hustvedt's essay collections (2006). Cerebral but also extremely personal. Overarching themes include identity, family, memory, gender identity, personhood and the self - especially the boundaries/fluidity between idea of the self and perception of the Other.
Beanslover Jacob
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I got this book because several of my friends read and loved the blazing world. I think I will still read that, but I found this collection of essays hard to get through. I liked all the stuff about childhood and family, but I didn’t love the literary analysis stuff (I just don’t usually like reading things that remind me of having to write essays for school, although hers are obviously better and more insightful than anything I ever wrote). Basically, I think she’s brilliant and talented, but I ...more
robin friedman
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Siri Hustvedt's Plea For Eros

"A Plea for Eros" is a rarely insightful and succinct title for an essay. It summarizes the subject matter and importance of what the essay itself has to say in many more words. The essay, "A Plea for Eros", gives its name and theme to this collection of twelve essays published as a book in 2006 by the American author Siri Hustvedt. I read the essay and the book of which it forms the key part after reading Hustvedt's novel, "What I Loved" (2003). My book group has ju
Joan Winnek
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The collection of essays is fascinating--the only one I didn't finish was "Charles Dicken and the Morbid Fragment," because I'm not into Dickens. I did skim it and was rewarded with some nuggets of psychological insight. I particularly enjoy Hustvedt's autobiographical writings. "9/11, of One Year Later" moved me to tears.
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews, read-2009, essays
Siri Hustvedt is such a beautiful and evocative writer. (Her first novel, The Blindfold, had a huge impact on me). This is a collection of 12 essays written from 1995 to 2004. I love the way she seamlessly weaves imagination with reality - for me there is exhilaration at discovering someone who captures the inner world so well (or at least mine!) My favorite essays were "Being A Man", "9/11 or One Year Later" and "Notes on a Wounded Self." I didn't enjoy her literary criticism as much, finding i ...more
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
A great book to read after The Blindfold, it covers a range of topics, including the boundaries and puzzles necessary for eroticism to survive ("A Plea for Eros"), the mask one must put on to survive in a crowded city and the benefits of sometimes lifting that mask ("Living with Strangers"), and the ambiguity of the distinction between males and females and how this false dichotomy helps her as a writer and as a grown adult understanding her own family (>"Being a Man"). Perhaps not a great book ...more
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-copy, non-fic
5 stars for Yonder. The rest I enjoyed, but already they fade. Maybe since I read them while eavesdropping on a plane (half helplessly, half on purpose). Yonder I read on a beautiful morning, stretched in a shaft of sunlight, alone, on a bed with white sheets, a stack of books newly acquired, a french pastry on a little plate, and a juice my wife thoughtfully brought me before thoughtfully fucking off. It was exquisite. A perfect moment of glory.
Kate Elliott
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, essays
I feel like the title and the essay it refers to are not really very emblematic of the whole collection. I really enjoyed this work-- from her tales of childhood to the later chapters which are pretty much lit crit infused with soul.
However, I did resent having it look like I was reading a bodice-ripper on the bus.

Good book
Bad cover.
Bad title.
Scott Strand
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I like her recurring theme of "wobble."
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First things first, Siri Hustvedt writes beautifully (the German translation reads already very smoothly and I'm sure reading it in English would only improve my impression) and her intelligence is apparent on almost every page. In short the book is amazing.

Nonetheless, the fact that she is obviously as smart as she writes makes me judge her a lot harsher than I would judge other peoples writings, which gets particularly tricky when considering the personal nature of most of her essays in this c
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an interesting collection of brief personal essays and literary criticism. Intriguing arguments and astute observations are juxtaposed with other claims that I find kind of irritating: from Dad's point of view, this is the optimal mixture for maximal engaging-ness, and I can't say I disagree.

Hustvedt uses a lot of psychoanalytic lit crit, which in the hands of other critics I often find uncompelling. Somehow, though, the approach feels fruitful here. Her essay on Henry James's "Bostonian
Marcus Hobson
Nov 13, 2016 rated it liked it
A very entertaining book of 12 essays.

Although two of the essays were about novels I haven't read, The Bostonians and Our Mutual Friend, the other pieces were interesting and absorbing. In particular I enjoyed hearing more about Hustvedt's background, of Norwegian descent and brought up in Minnesota. I love to hear about the contrasts that those two backgrounds provide and then changing both to become a long time resident of New York City.
I have read a number of Hustvedt's novels, such as The Bl
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I had read and really enjoyed Hustvedt’s intense novel “What I Loved” and although I am not a big reader of nonfiction, one day in the bookstore this just insisted on coming home with me.

These are really interesting essays. My favorites were the literary ones – ponderings on The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), The Bostonians (H. James) and Our Mutual Friend (Dickens) – and, as someone who was a New Yorker at the time, her essay on 9/11 from a NYer’s point of view.

The Minnesota stuff is all very famil
Anyone intriged by the cover image of a woman in panties and corset might be disappointed to discover essays on Gatsby, Franklin Pangborn, James, and Dickens within. I'm interested in all of these subjects and yet preferred the essays that resonate most with her novelistic obsessions, including her Norwegian heritage and the mind/body connection. I love reading about her sisters Liv, Astrid, and Ingrid in "Yonder," which memorably defines fiction as remembering what didn't happen. The title essa ...more
Anita George
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Hustveldt's writing on life and literature is often insightful. I loved her essay on The Great Gatsby which provides a lot of insights into the act of reading. The least successful essay for me was the one on 9/11. I confess to feeling offended when she refers to this single terrorist act as America's Holocaust, and puts the act on a par with Auschwitz, Cambodia's Killing Fields, Mao's Cultural Revolution, etc. I understand the intense emotional responses to 9/11, but there is a massive differen ...more
Dec 24, 2009 rated it liked it
I wanted to read a novel by Hustvedt, but when you live in a non-English speaking country and prefer to read in English, you read what you can get your hands on. This was it, a selection of essays. Usually I like most essays, but these left me lukewarm, especially the personal ones in which the writer is rather enthralled with every thought she's ever had on whatever subject she is discussing and anything tangential (or not!) that she can find to say. But I still want to read a novel by Hustvedt ...more
Sep 01, 2007 is currently reading it
Recommends it for: lovers of essays.
hustvedt can marvelously interweave the art illuminati into her fiction w/o seeming pretentious or pedantic, and writes straightforward non-fiction essays in the first person without seeming narcissistic. i find her to be wonderful.
Dec 30, 2010 added it
"This is my call for eros, a plea that we not forget ambiguity and mystery, that in matters of the heart we acknowledge an abiding uncertainty."

A plea of Eros is a beautiful essay on boundaries and unreachable territories. Highly recommended.
Jean Kelly
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
A collection of essays that includes very interesting writing on some of Henry James and Charles Dickens works. Particularly fascinating was her essay on Dicken's Our Mutual Friend. Articulate and fun at the same time.
'The very idea of a library for me is bound to my mother and father and includes the history of my own metamorphoses through books, fictions that are no less part of me than much of my own history.'
- from 'Yonder', 28
I bought this book thinking that it would be Eros-centric but unfortunately nothing like it. I'm 3/4 in and I don't think I'll find anything that tackles my interest. Great read nevertheless but not what I was expecting.
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
i read this collection of essays in december of 2006 and my new years resolution for 2007 is to meet siri hustvedt
Anton Roe
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
brilliant. the stories of her childhood and the 9/11 story is excellent. I felt the Dickens piece was very odd and not overly engaging.
Linda B
Oct 12, 2010 rated it liked it
As with any collection, some essays are better than others.
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
I always struggle with short stories, I prefer getting drawn into the characters, so these essays, as fascinating as they were, just weren't for me.
Kris Babe
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Yonder as well as the title essay are very worthwhile reading. I enjoyed her essays enough to purchase one of her novels. It's on my shelf awaiting attention ...
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Hustvedt was born in Northfield, Minnesota. Her father Lloyd Hustvedt was a professor of Scandinavian literature, and her mother Ester Vegan emigrated from Norway at the age of thirty. She holds a B.A. in history from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University; her thesis on Charles Dickens was entitled Figures of Dust: A Reading of Our Mutual Friend.

Hustvedt has mainly made

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