Archive for September, 2008

Nightwood

September 19, 2008

The Reviews

By  S. H. Pearson

    Djuna Barnes was a demonic freak.  It’s a crying shame that her twisted, unwholesome novel is being shoved down the throats of literature scholars at universities in the name of feminism and homosexual pride.  The novel is loosely autobiographical.

     There have been great homosexual writers and film-makers, but this woman should have stuck to her booze instead of riding the coat-tails of  T. S. Eliot into the publishing house.  Now we have to read her freak drivel in college. 

     Nightwood is a demonic tutti-frutti of lyricism and bogus gibberish.  The most interesting character in the novel is a quack gynecologist by the name of Matthew O’Connor.  He is a closeted, American queen who couches privately in women’s underthings and cosmetics.  He basks in the forbidden pleasure of realizing his true nature in his rooms — a safe haven from 1920’s/30’s Paris.  In the night, he moves in a seedy homosexual underworld partaking of anonymous abandon in public toilets.  The thought occurred to me as I was reading this of how much has changed — and how much remains the same.

     It is the chunks of text attributed to O’Connor that earned Barnes the nods from her male supporters (T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas).  Some of it grazes the lyrical as it delves like a wounded sperm whale into the bowels of what demons call “The Kingdom.”  Dr. O’Connor becomes a vessel for Barnes’ channeling of the demonic.  She houses in him the iconoclast, the blasphemer, the Anti-Christ and he whose name is legion. 

     The only impressive read one can expect out of this novel is the bits that peep out at you between lines of muddling half-truths and gibberish.  And to catch it you need to be a hawk-eye for abstruse poetry.  The opposite of the kind one reads in the King James Bible — and yet a queer mirror of it.

     Dylan Thomas needs to like this stuff because he, like Arthur Rimbaud, channeled a lot of his writing from the same black well.  Give a man enough to drink and he eventually taps it.  They don’t call it “demon alcohol” for nothing.  Alcoholic scribblers unite!  It lends credence to the Oriental proverb that reads:  “First a man takes a drink — then the drink takes a drink — then the drink takes the man.”

     If you have a strong stomach and are not easily frustrated, you may wish to read this novel for sheer freak appeal.  In my literary opinion, however, it is a waste of time unless you are Gabriele Amorth and need more proof that you are on the right track. Djuna Barnes suffered from penis-envy and was a stumbling, scribbling, expatriate drunk.  Now they call her “body of work” modernism and make us read it in school.

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