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    Wrestling with a difficult book? Just relax.

    Siri Hustvedt’s newest novel, “Memories of the Future,” is a lightly fictionalized memoir about the strangeness of time and what it is like to become reacquainted with her younger self. This is Hustvedt’s seventh novel, including “The Blazing World,” which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She has also published papers in scholarly journals and is a lecturer in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Hustvedt reads from her new novel at 6 p.m. on April 24 at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. Admission is $6 or $28.75, which includes a book.

    BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

    HUSTVEDT: I read about four hours each afternoon. I’ve been working on a speech and for that have been rereading Alfred North Whitehead’s “Process and Reality,” which I’ve spent years struggling to understand. He was a mathematician and physicist who wrote a famous book with Bertrand Russell, “Principia Mathematica.” I also wrote a lecture on Margaret Cavendish, the duchess of Newcastle and 17th-century natural philosopher, so I was reading her work. My novel before this one took its title from “Blazing World,” Cavendish’s philosophical work of fiction. I have also been reading Michael Palmer, who’s a terrific poet. I was rereading his essays in “Active Boundaries.”


    BOOKS: What got you reading about science and philosophy?

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    HUSTVEDT: In college I got very interested in Christian mysticism and found some books about neurology and the mystical experience. Then when I was writing my dissertation on Charles Dickens at Columbia I ran across material about aphasia. I realized I wanted to know more about the biological piece of human beings, especially that which related to the mind.

    BOOKS: Were there books that were pivotal for you in this kind of reading?

    HUSTVEDT: Years ago I read Oliver Sacks’s book on migraines. To me that may be his best book, that and “Awakenings,” but “Migraine” is not written for a popular world. He was influenced by A.R. Luria, the great Russian neurologist, who I then started reading and who was important for me.

    BOOKS: Are there any novels that touch on these scientific issues?


    HUSTVEDT: Proust’s ideas about memory, which people tend to think came out of the blue because he was such a genius, but he was heavily influenced by scientific work on memory at the time. This is one of the reasons I read around. No single discipline can address the complexity of the human experience.

    BOOKS: Which of Dickens’s novels were the most meaningful for you?

    HUSTVEDT: When I was 13, my family spent the summer in Iceland. My father was studying the Norwegian saga. The sun never went down, and I had trouble sleeping, so I read novel after novel. The Brontës, Jane Austen, and Dickens. I felt transformed by “David Copperfield.” But before that my mother gave me Emily Dickinson and William Blake. I read Dickinson every week because it reminds me of what the English language can do. It’s very hard to paraphrase the meaning of Dickinson’s poems, but they do produce meaning. We have a tendency to want to reduce art to little messages. To me that makes it banal.

    BOOKS: Do you read contemporary fiction?

    HUSTVEDT: The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka is a small, beautiful novel. There’s an interesting writer, Kate Zambreno, whom I follow. I’m a great admirer of Israeli novelist Zeruya Shalev. She’s never been properly published in the United States but has a novel coming out this fall called “Pain.” This is a writer of astounding psychological insight.


    BOOKS: Do you have any tips for how to tackle a difficult book?

    ‘Art is like sex, if you don’t relax you won’t enjoy it.’

    HUSTVEDT: I’ve been thinking about this for years. When I was a teenager I got it into my head that I wanted to read Joyce’s “Ulysses.” I started it at least twice, then on the third or fourth attempt I thought, ‘Oh the heck with it, relax.’ It worked. I loved the book. I’ve been saying this for years. Art is like sex, if you don’t relax you won’t enjoy it.

    BOOKS: Have you ever met your match with any books?

    HUSTVEDT: With many. I’ve been reading Kierkegaard since I was 15. I’ve not penetrated all the layers of irony and meaning in his work, but that’s one reason he remains compelling. I’m not particularly interested in things I understand immediately.

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    Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane’’ and she can be reached at