Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bound To Please { part III }

Continuing with my reading, I've encountered the following writers and their books which caught my fancy, and would like to read them someday :

NIGHTWOOD by Djuna Barnes


Nightwood is not only a classic of lesbian literature, but was also acknowledged by no less than T. S. Eliot as one of the great novels of the 20th century. First published in 1936, the novel, set in Paris in the 1920s, revolves around the lives of five characters: the mysterious, elusive and beautiful Robin Vote, her Viennese husband Felix Volkbein, her lover Nora Flood, her subsequent lover Jenny Petherbridge and their loquacious, outrageous Irish friend Dr. Matthew O'Connor (a transvestite): two of whom are actually based on Barnes and Thelma Wood, the lesbian love of her life, and it reflects the circumstances surrounding the ending of their eight-year relationship.

Barnes' own life was melodramatic. Her father was a loser who make little effort to support the family of one mother, one wife, one mistress and eight children financially. Zadel, Barnes' grandmother, was the one who struggled to provide for the entire family, supplementing her diminishing income by writing begging letters to friends and acquaintances.

At 16 Barnes was raped, apparently by a neighbour with the knowledge and consent of her father, or possibly by her father himself. She referred to the rape obliquely in her first semi-autobiographical novel Ryder and more directly in her furious final play The Antiphon. There was also suggestion of incest with her grandmother Zadel, with whom she shared a bed for years. Shortly before her 18th birthday she reluctantly "married" a 52-year-old man in a private ceremony without benefit of clergy. The match had been strongly promoted by her father and grandmother, but she stayed with him for no more than 2 months.

In 1912, the move to New York City after the split up of her family due to financial ruin gave Barnes the opportunity to study art formally the first time, though only lasted for about 6 months. The burden to support herself and her family soon drove her to leave school and take a job as a reporter. Over the next few years her work appeared in almost every newspaper in New York; she wrote interviews, features, theatre reviews, and a variety of news stories, often illustrating them with her own drawings. In 1915, she moved out of her family to an apartment in Greenwich Village. Soon thereafter, she entered a thriving community of artists and writers, and engaged in a numbers of affairs with both men and women.

HAUNTINGS by Vernon Lee

There are 4 fantastic stories :
- A beautiful and deadly Italian ghost
- A rescued orphan girl with mystical powers
- A modern woman in love with a long-dead poet
- A composer haunted by a "wicked voice"

Anyone ? You can download the ebook here for free.

THE TALE OF THE 1002ND NIGHT by Joseph Roth

In essence, the book examines the cultural crucible of Vienna thru the eyes of the Shah-in-Shah of Persia and his one-night-stand with a young Viennese prostitute, with wonderful dialogues and lyrical, sexy, lust descriptions. Ooh la la !

Let me serve you the following excerpt as a starter :
On his first momentous trip, this sovereign finds himself utterly dazzled by the European women at ball: "Thus far, the women he had known had been of two kinds: either naked bodies or arrangements of drapery. But here were both together, at one and the same time! A gown that seemed to want to fall of its own weight, and yet clung to a body: it was like a door that wasn't locked and wouldn't open. When the women curtsied to him, the Shah caught a glimpse of cleavage and then the downy hair on an exposed neck. And the split second in which the ladies raised their skirts with both hands before bending at the knee had something indescribably modest and at the same time fabulously indecent about it: it was like a promise that they had no intention of keeping..... How inexhaustible the amorous arts of the Occident must be!"

You can also go here to read chapter 1 and 2, to have a taste of it and enjoy.

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