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Djuna: The Life and Work of Djuna Barnes Paperback – November 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (November 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140178422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140178425
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,716,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Biography of the cult modernist writer.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Frustrated by his futile attempts to understand Barnes's complex, poetic, satirical novel Nightwood (1936) and by the lack of a sufficient biography on the author, literary scholar Herring explored private papers and manuscripts and contacted family and acquaintances of Barnes to provide this in-depth intimate portrait of the individual and her work. It is the first comprehensive biography of American modernist Barnes (1892-1982), poet, journalist, dramatist, fiction writer, and artist. Delving into the details of Barnes's bizarre, tumultuous life, Herring portrays her family, who believed in sexual freedom; her passionate love affairs with men and women; and her depression, alcoholism, and poverty. He also relates Barnes's professional relationships with publishers and writers, such as T.S. Eliot, and their responses to the works of this ingenious writer. Readers will feel they know the character and person of Barnes intimately and will come to a better understanding of her writings.?Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. A Troutt on July 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Biographies are sometimes the powerful of all writing to me. The best ones are the books that open a person's life, that reveal without judgement how the person became what they were.

Djuna Barnes's early life was horrific almost beyond understanding. Rape(?),incest(?), paternal abandonment and grinding poverty -she was the financial supporter of her extended family while she was still in her late teens. Yet it is a mark of her genius that she was able to overcome all the odds and become a true modern author.
All of her best works were autobiograpical and all dealt with the critical tragedies of her life. 'Ryder' was an attempt to deal with her father - incest or rape,'Nightwood' to deal with her failed relationship with Thelma Wood, and finally 'Antiphon' to deal with her entire disfunctional family. The wellspring of her most bitter invective was her own life.
This biography is good, thorough and complete. Djuna suffered pain and repaid that pain over and over again. Her venom, her rage, the sheer angst she had flows like blood on every page. But in spite of all that, her artistry was able to give her pain a rich voice and this book captures her spirit as well as her wraith.
But in some ways, this book is almost like watching a car wreck...there is a human impulse to look away not see such suffering. I was both repelled by and drawn into the recounting of such public agony by such a private person. Djuna Barnes's writing is not meant for everyone, and this biography isn't either.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By m morrissey on December 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I will weigh in because there are only 3 reviews here and a couple of them seem rather misguided. Before this volume there was only Barnes' work and an extremely self indulgent book by Edward Field - to my mind a horrible writer - which, after the example set by Djuna's own interviews - her journalism gigs - is much more about the writer writing than the subject being written about. Whatever flaws the Herring bio has (to me, none were evident) it provides valuable insight into Barnes' life and writing.

As for shock effect, there isn't a "free spirit" I've ever read about who's left me as slack jawed as daddy Wald Barnes. Unless you want to include maybe Leonard Lake and Kenneth Ng, Aleister Crowley or maybe Jim Jones or the Matamoros Cult leader guy. And where else would you learn that Djuna's brother was one of the men responsible for composing the immortal line "Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?"

Subsequently there has appeared the rather cruel account of Djuna in her dotage which is more a portrait of dementia than anything else - not uninteresting but unpleasantly exploitative and axe grinding. I suppose that guy earned the right to take advantage for what it was worth, which was likely not a great deal!

Anyway, I would venture to guess this book will fascinate even if you don't care for Djuna Barnes as a writer. After all, it appears that this feisty femme might have murdered Hitler! My recommendation is that you purchase it for sure and lap it up! Starting at 2 cents a copy? Order now!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Hodges on November 16, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I appreciated being able to find something about Djuna Barnes whose life is quite fascinating but little told, I was put off by some of Phillip Herring's style. In several places he makes reference to claims Barnes was molested as a child by either her father or possibly even her paternal grandmother. But in instance when he is suggesting the grandmother molested Barnes he says it might have been a case of "good-natured fondling." Say what???

Barnes did not make it easy for anyone to write about her. She lived a long and eventful life but to the end she refused to cooperate with those wishing to write about her life rather than those who shared her life. She was an important facet of a stunningly creative time; Paris of the twenties, when many Americans sought refuge with each other as the entire world tried to put the tremendous tragedy of World War I behind them.

Although Barnes' writing does not have the acclaim today of many others from that time (Hemingway, Stein, Joyce and Eliot to name a few) she was lauded by some of those writers who would be acclaimed as literary giants as a great source of inspiration and encouragement. It is too bad we do not have more written about her other than this florid, rather precious account of her life.

JLH
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