Janet's Reviews > Nightwood

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
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Jul 14, 10

Read from July 04 to 14, 2010

Another book that the star rating system barely fits. This is a classic, interior, brilliant, odd, irritating, lovely, unpleasant, lyric, weird book from the '30's... self-impressed European decadence... traces of Sally Bowles, definitely expect that green nailpolish. It was heavily promoted by TS Eliot in one of those strange literary love affairs... You wince at the anti-semitism (I hate when people try to explain their characters as racial specimens, rather than human beings), and flounder a bit in the overwrought emotionality of the despair of a lesbian relationship gone bad--but then again, the language is so heady and incredible... the strange insights so apt! I compare it most to Anais Nin, who is a great favorite of mine--her 'Spy in the House of Love', where Sabina takes the place of the almost cypheristic object of desire in Nightwood, Robin Vote--but I believe Sabina where Robin is just a shadow on the cave wall. Yet, in digging further, I discovered that this is a largely autobiogrpahical book about Barnes and her own obscure object of affection. The only character who does actualy seem real and well observed is the one Barnes felt to be unregenerately and scathingly portrayed, Jenny the thief of love, the "looter" who can only experience things that have been experienced by others and then stolen for herself. (in the end, in a great scene, Robin lights a votive candle and Jenny sneaks in and blows it out and lights it herself). Didn't know whether to give it 4 or 5 stars, four for its maddening note of superiority vis a vis its characters, or five for the beautiful wiritng. Well, being me, I give it five. A five with flaws.
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