Friday, August 08, 2008

On NPR's 'You Must Read This' feature...

Siri Hustvedt talks about Nightwood:

But the wonder of Nightwood is not only stylistic. It lies in the range and depth of feeling the words convey. There is irony here and humor, too, but in the end, the novel is a hymn to the dispossessed, the misbegotten and those who love too much. At one time or another, I suspect that those adjectives describe most of us.

A part of me was amused by Djuna Barnes' reply to Siri Hustvedt's letter. It offered a shadow of a glimpse into the cryptic mind of Djuna Barnes - though it answered nothing about how she came to live and die a recluse, in a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village.

One afternoon, that same spring, I found myself sitting next to an elderly woman on the subway. She looked down at the volume in my lap, and said, "Oh, Djuna Barnes. I know her. Would you like to write to her?" She gave me the author's address, and I sat down to write a page-long testament to the power of Nightwood.

A year and a half later, I received a reply: "Your letter," Barnes wrote, "has given me great difficulty."

That was all. A couple of months later, I read in the newspaper that the 90-year-old Barnes was dead. I realized that her letter to me must have been one of the last things she wrote.

Sometimes it frustrates me to keep reading these tributes to books I want to read, but has yet to read.

5 comments:

Bybee said...

So, do you think that was Djuna on the subway, too? I've always meant to read Nightwood...next time I see it, I'm buying it!

Dark Orpheus said...

Bybee - Nay. I heard Djuna Barnes got really wierd and just removed herself from human contact. Carson McCullers actually had something of a crush on her and stalked her. Djuna Barnes however, just ignored McCullers.

Tasses said...

Thanks for reminding me to move that title higher on the TBR pile. I'd forgotten that I want to read it.

Dark Orpheus said...

Tasses Me too. I forgot where I put my copy of "Nightwood" too. :/

Andi said...

I've never read Barnes, but Siri Hustvedt is one of my favorites. Thank you for this!