Liked It1 of 1 members found this review helpful
“I've read this book twice. It's a very powerful prose novel. Djuan Barnes is a master at prose. She uses a very intricate technique in sentence structure and descriptiveness. A master at evoking emotion. A master at vicariously evoking deja vu within the reader. Her style is hard to...”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It
“Forgot about it as soon as I had read it!”see full review » see other reviews »
“For whatever reason, it seems that “Nightwood” has one of the more precarious reputations in twentieth-century literature. The name of its author, Djuna Barnes, is still synonymous with the life of the modern, and Modernist, American expatriate living in Paris; however, like Lawrence Durrell, another author I have been thinking quite a bit about, she seems to have fallen into disfavor – and this is quite a loss.
And like Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet,” this coheres as fiction in a completely different way from most other fiction. While Durrell’s prose is florid and sometimes downright meretricious, Barnes uses her characters, especially the eccentric Dr. O’Connor, to stretch the limits of language and meaning. O’Connor, a fay dandy and philosopher-mystagogue, is so preposterous and unbelievable it’s a miracle that he even works as a character. He serves as a perennial touching conversational touching stone for all the other characters, endlessly and giddily upending their assumptions and, especially in the case of Nora, emotional commitments.
The other characters, each histrionic in their own way, are all fairly normal in comparison; the plot is barebones and simple. The “Baron,” a self-stylized aristocrat manqué, marries Robin Vote, who seems lost and discontented whoever she surrounds herself with and wherever she goes, often being driven to roam the streets of the city at night, a listless flaneur. The chapter “Watchmen, What of the Night?” is one of the most beautiful meditations on night that I have ever read in literature.
Soon after having a child with the Baron, she leaves him and moves in with Nora, with whom she is just spiritually out of place. Robin then finally leaves Nora for Jenny, at which point Nora turns to Dr. O’Connor for solace. His brand of consolation is some peculiar poesy to say the least. At the height of Nora’s despair, her heart rent in two by a woman she truly loved, O’Connor offers these words: “For the thickness of the sleep that is on the sleeper we ‘forgive,’ as we ‘forgive’ the dead for the account of the earth that lies upon them. What we do not see, we are told, we do not mourn; yet night and sleep trouble us, suspicion being the strongest dream and dead the throng. The heart of the jealous knows the best and the most satisfying love, that of the other’s bed, where the rival perfects the lover’s imperfections. Fancy gallops to take part in that duel, unconstrained by any certain articulation of the laws of that unseen game.”
T. S. Eliot’s beautiful introduction does two things introductions rarely do: holds back any plot spoilers (not that there is really anything to “give away,” per se) and actually sheds light on the text. It can safely be read, as I read it, before finishing the book. And I second Eliot’s take on the novel, especially his observation that in “Nightwood” you will find “great achievement of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterization, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy.” The brilliance of wit and characterization is something I can only second and treble. This is bold, high Modernism at its most audacious, and the sum of its effects is simply stunning. ”
“Jeanette Winterson likened this novel to a pearl dissolved in wine, which is then drunk, thus becoming a part of you forever. I think this novel is more of a Faberge egg - intricately crafted, beautiful, perplexing and requiring multiple readings before any comprehension can be gained. It is worth five stars on language alone, but be warned, it is by no means an easy read. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating study of the Lost Generation and it is remarkable character study.”Carys wrote this review Saturday, January 19, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A lush, staggering, incomprehensible book about intimacy and being. Beautiful, like stepping into a dark and frightening poem. I should reread it. ”Kathryn W wrote this review Wednesday, December 26, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Forgot about it as soon as I had read it!”Lise Lyng Falkenberg wrote this review Wednesday, June 6, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Couldn't be better. Like Two Serious Ladies. Strange, funny, grotesque. That doctor in his bed.”Elliott Stevens wrote this review Saturday, February 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Liothe said: 3 stars
Though it has an incredible flow, at times it falls apart in to sound, and somewhat less sound, bites.”
“what the hell ? i read every word and still don't know what that book was about.”Caitlyn G wrote this review Saturday, October 22, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Though it has an incredible flow, at times it falls apart in to sound, and somewhat less sound, bites.”Liothe wrote this review Wednesday, May 25, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I have been loved, she said, by something strange, and it has forgotten me.