Hustvedt’s comic ‘Summer without Men’

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Siri Hustvedt could really use some science fiction in her life.

The writer, teacher, poet, and lecturer is the busiest she’s ever been, one week flying off to speak at the Sorbonne on the psychobiology of trauma, the next participating in a book club with Jennifer Egan and Margot Livesey, and the one after that giving a reading.

“I’m so busy, that’s my only problem,” said Hustvedt. “I wish I had three selves at the moment.”

In that scenario, one self, at least, would be writing. The longtime Park Sloper (and wife of fellow novelist Paul Auster) recently released her fifth novel, the heady, yet zippy, “The Summer Without Men.”

The summer in question belongs to Mia Fredricksen, a poet who, after her husband leaves her for a younger woman, suffers a breakdown and flees Brooklyn to her Minnesota hometown to recover among a land of women that includes a group of sage widows and, on the opposite spectrum, catty teenage girls whom she winds up teaching.

Despite its serious start, the novel finds the writer stretching her funny bone thanks to Mia’s caustic, ironic voice — much a departure from Hustvedt’s “rational, calmer” one — which calls her husband’s adulterer “the Pause,” as Hustvedt dives into the deep well of inspiration that is love, marriage, and gender differences.

“I’ve never written a character with that kind of voice,” said Hustvedt. “I’ve heard reports of people on planes laughing out loud while reading it. That makes me very happy.”

Hustvedt is already deep into her next work of fiction — the provocatively named “Monsters at Home” — though no doubt will be pulled towards essays and lectures on neurobiology, trauma, psychoanalyst — whatever suits her fancy. When not hitting the keys, she can be found browsing the aisles at her local Blue Apron Foods, or in her backyard garden, tending to her rhododendrons, roses and azaleas.

“When I’m gardening, the thing that I call my internal narrator, the voice in my head that’s generating inner speech, seems to turn off entirely,” said Hustedt. “It’s a relief, because I’m constantly manufacturing sentences in my head.”

Suffice it to say, she must not do a lot of gardening.

Siri Hustvedt reads at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677], June 2 at 7 pm. Free. For info, visit

Updated 5:24 pm, July 9, 2018
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