Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NIGHTWOOD by Djuna Barnes

Nightwood is not so much a novel as an arrangement of exquisitely written notes for a novel.

Better, Nightwood is the libretto for an opera that can never be performed.

Even better, Nightwood is a novel in which the story is rendered as prose-poem rather than plot.

Nightwood is so self-consciously avant-garde, so hardcore an experimental performance, that writing my usual blocky paragraph-or-so of critical thoughts would be almost a betrayal of the text under discussion.

Nightwood is a book I've read 3 or 4 times, but shortly after each reading the book mysteriously erases itself from my memory.

This makes Nightwood rather difficult to criticize.

Nightwood is an experiment, but for me the experiment fails. Even the grand, bawdy monologues of Dr. Matthew O'Connor, which most critics consider the novel's crown jewels, become tiresomely monotonous after ten or fifteen pages.

The chapters dominated by the doctor, however, are the only ones with the stink of the real upon them. The rest of Nightwood smells too much of the literary laboratory and too little of life.

Nightwood is beautifully written, though.

Nightwood is a phenomenon I can only fail to explain.

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