Posted from The Citrus Report
Reading Djuna Barnes’ cult 1936 novel, Nightwood, isn’t an easy task, whether reading it when you are 19 or 39 or 59. It took us a few sit downs with the novel to understand the significance of the prose, the author, and what we have come to understand as a monument of Modernist writing. When Gertrude Stein said “Paris was where the twentieth century was,” we feel she was saying this because Modernism was at home in Paris, and Modernism is was the voice of a new consciousness. And Barnes was at the center of it. Maybe even the center-left.
We hate using the phrase, but she was almost like the first hipster. As a teen, she was a major part of the Greenwich Village scene of the early 1910s, and in the 1920s, she befriended the likes of James Joyce while living in Paris and gained the confidence of her own fiction. Of course, hanging out at Peggy Guggenheim’s rented home in the early 1930s to write Nightwood helps with the hipster on the heels of the rich and famous that we see today, but her output was more than just whimsy.
We share with you some of our favorite passages from Djuna Barnes’ works… and show you some of her personal drawings below as well. —The Citrus Report staff
“New York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.”
“We are beginning to wonder whether a servant girl hasn’t the best of it after all. She knows how the salad tastes without the dressing, and she knows how life’s lived before it gets to the parlor door.”
“The heart of the jealous knows the best and most satisfying love, that of the other’s bed, where the rival perfects the lover’s imperfections.”
“A strong sense of identity gives man an idea he can do no wrong; too little accomplishes the same.”
“Sleep demands of us a guilty immunity. There is not one of us who, given an eternal incognito, a thumbprint nowhere set against our souls, would not commit rape, murder and all abominations.”
From Fifth Avenue Up
SOMEDAY beneath some hard
Spreading its light a little
We’ll know you for the woman
That you are.
For though one took you, hurled you
Out of space,
With your legs half strangled
In your lace,
You’d lip the world to madness
On your face.
We’d see your body in the grass
With cool pale eyes.
We’d strain to touch those lang’rous
Length of thighs,
And hear your short sharp modern
It wouldn’t go. We’d feel you
Coil in fear
Leaning across the fertile
Fields to leer
As you urged some bitter secret
Through the ear.
We see your arms grow humid
In the heat;
We see your damp chemise lie
Pulsing in the beat
Of the over-hearts left oozing
At your feet.
See you sagging down with bulging
Hair to sip,
The dappled damp from some vague
Your soft saliva, loosed
With orgy, drip.
Once we’d not have called this
When leaning above your mothers
Spleen you drew
Your mouth across her breast as
Trick musicians do.
Plunging grandly out to fall
Upon your face.
With your belly bulging stately
Posted By The Citrus Report