A quote from Oscar Wilde in Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World crystallises the novel’s central study of adopted guises: ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.’ The book’s protagonist, underappreciated New York artist Harriet Burden, dons a trio of masks when she puts forward her art as the work of three different male artists. But many other masks emerge in Hustvedt’s telling, which takes the form of Burden’s personal notebooks as well as accounts from her assorted friends, family, and critics, all compiled by the fictitious editor I.V. Hess.
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