Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rediscovering Djuna Barnes (1892-1982)

A "rediscovered" short play by Djuna Barnes, Kurzy of the Sea (1920), will be featured as part of the upcoming Authors Theatre program, "Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century," on March 11, 2010.

Barnes's work in general is currently a subject of rediscovery by readers, writers and scholars. New editions of Nightwood (1936), The Book of Repulsive Women (1915), The Antiphon (1958), and other works have appeared in recent years.

Here is an appreciation in the Guardian (UK) of Nightwood by major avant-gardist Jeanette Winterson, who wrote the foreword to the new 2006 edition of Nightwood (which also retains the original foreword by T. S. Eliot).

"Certain texts work in homeopathic dilutions; that is, nano-amounts effect significant change over long periods of time. Djuna Barnes's Nightwood is not much more than a couple of hundred pages long, and more people have heard about it than have read it. Reading it is mainly the preserve of academics and students. Others have a vague sense that it is a modernist text, that TS Eliot adored it, that Dylan Thomas called it "one of the three major prose works by a woman" (accept the compliment to Barnes, ignore the insult directed elsewhere), that the work is an important milestone on any map of gay literature - even though, like all the best books, its power makes a nonsense of any categorisation, especially of gender or sexuality."

"Nightwood is itself. It is its own created world, exotic and strange, and reading it is like drinking wine with a pearl dissolving in the glass. You have taken in more than you know, and it will go on doing its work. From now on, a part of you is pearl-lined." Read more....