Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Book Notes: "Nightwood" by Djuna Barnes

NightwoodNightwood by Djuna Barnes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While it is not fair to compare Barnes to other authors (and on International Women's Day it was poignant to read T.S.Eliot's foreword suggesting that Barnes is one of the few good female authors), I could not help but feel like I was reading a cross between Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka, with a touch of Gertrude Stein. The discussion of night and day was interesting, especially after reading Scott Fitzgerald's "The Crack Up" from Esquire magazine in 1936 which touched on similar ideas. Given that Nightwood and "The Crack Up" were both published in 1936, it is clear that the period represents a significant change in the style and tone of literature from the greats of the 1920s. Nightwood has intrigued me enough to want to read Barnes' earlier work. What distinguishes Barnes' dialogue from Charlotte Brontë and Mary Shelley was that when I felt it was far too long for realistic conversations, the author indicates that the listener had also tuned out (on occasion). I found this clever and kept me intrigued, whereas Brontë and Shelley drag on with their dialogue without apology, and I find this hard work to stay interested. Not so with Djuna Barnes and I am glad I found this gem at the Argyle Emporium in Goulburn the other day.



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