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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Having just finished it, I completely loved Nightwood, being the type of reader that goes heavily for imagery and metaphor, and found it one of the most exciting, fascinating books I've ever read, like the warped love-child of Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Brontė. Challenging, yes, but I found it much more accessible than, say, Ulysses, which I never could get on with. I...
Published on 7 Nov 2008 by nestingdoll

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the strangest book I have ever read.
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes is perhaps the strangest book I read during my 4 years of studying English. Not only in a thematic and literary sense, but also in its narrative, which seems to glide between these characters who are desperate to escape the confines of societal norms.
For all of its brevity, Nightwood is a hard-going and challenging read. At the end, I was...
Published on 10 May 2011 by PhilipStirups


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the strangest book I have ever read., 10 May 2011
This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes is perhaps the strangest book I read during my 4 years of studying English. Not only in a thematic and literary sense, but also in its narrative, which seems to glide between these characters who are desperate to escape the confines of societal norms.
For all of its brevity, Nightwood is a hard-going and challenging read. At the end, I was not overly convinced by it- not to say, I disliked it, but I didn't really rate it either.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, 7 Nov 2008
This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
Having just finished it, I completely loved Nightwood, being the type of reader that goes heavily for imagery and metaphor, and found it one of the most exciting, fascinating books I've ever read, like the warped love-child of Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Brontė. Challenging, yes, but I found it much more accessible than, say, Ulysses, which I never could get on with. I just let it wash over me. Vital, visual, unique; can only say that I found it breathtaking. I have read modernist writers before, so might be accustomed to oddities, but do not be scared off; it's writing that's alive and wild, and good grief, it's brilliant. I liked the way it takes the imagination into new and strange places, with such energy. This is what I read for.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, sad and wonderful, 4 Sep 2013
This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
I just adored this. This was beautiful and sad and wonderful. The prose was gorgeous. The characters were easy to identify with. I got this from the library but will definitely be buying my own copy as it's something I will want to read again.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, 23 Dec 2011
By 
Vincent Creelan "Vincebelfast" (Newtownards N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This is a remarkable read, for so many reasons; the language, the characters and the journey. Yes it is about three women and their sexual and emotional relationships and the men that circle around them, but about a deal more. The narrator of sorts is the Dr, happy as he is a charlatan of his own creation provides telling insights and amazing turns of phrase. Definetly one to make you think and want to re-read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A prose poem..., 10 Jan 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
... is T. S. Eliot's description of Djuana Barnes novel. It is that, and much more. I first read this novel almost 40 years ago; felt I understood very little of it. In the intervening time I have walked past, and patronized the Café de la Mairie, a backdrop for much of the action, on the north side of the square in front of St. Sulpice numerous times. Unquestionable a radically different café in the `30's, certainly not surrounded by the very chic shops of today. The Café "nagged" me into giving it a second try.

I am truly grateful that it was not a school assignment. I imagined a Professor expecting effusive praise, and that my report on the book would have to be filled with ramblings on "transgender identification," "anomie," "angst," "symbolism," "codependence," "transcendent wisdom" and of course, "stream of consciousness." And with a bit of luck, I might get a B -.

But when your main motivation is a pleasant café, and a "does-your-perspective-improve-with-age" attitude, then what? No question the prose is rich and dense, with wonderful insights, coupled with sheer and utter nonsense. Consider some of the wonderful passages: "Love is the first lie; wisdom the last." or "We give death to a child when we give it a doll--it's the effigy and the shroud; when a woman gives it to a woman, it is the life they cannot have, it is their child, sacred and profane:..." There is a wonderful analogy for love in the ducks in Golden Gate park so heavy on overfeeding that they cannot fly. But regrettably these oscillate with the utter nonsense of: "He had a turban cocked over his eye and a moaning in his left ventricle which was meant to be the whine of Tophet, and a loin-cloth as big as a tent and protecting about as much." And that is why so many readers, including myself, find the book such a difficult read. Brilliance, alternating with the drug-induced ramblings worthy of William Burroughs, NOT, James Joyce.

"Baron" Felix seems the best drawn, and most understandable of the characters. His child, Guido, likewise, for a minor character. The four central characters: Robin Vote, Nora Flood, Jenny Petherbridge and Dr. Matthew O'Connor all seemed far too opaque, motivation is clearly lacking for so many of their actions. True, a central theme is lesbian love, and its betrayals, with bit parts for transvestitism. All of which I am constitutional incapable of having deep insights into... but still, if reading is too illuminate, there was only a small candle glowing on these issues.

I was struck by the quality of the other reviews on this book, the best, by far, of any other book on Amazon. Many of their insights do not need to be duplicated in this one - one commenter in fact said there was no need to write one after reading Eric Anderson's. Yes, it is an excellent review.

Overall I settled on a 3-star rating. It is a provocative, radical book, particularly for the `30's, with some wonderful insights into the human condition. But it is so hard to stay focused when these are combined with the William Burroughs nonsense. (Sorry, "Professor.") It was with a sense of profound relief that I finished the book, realizing in the unlikely event I have another 40 years to go, there will not be a third try.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on January 09, 2009)
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drama Queens on Parade, 30 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Nightwood (Hardcover)
In Nightwood there is a purposeful distortion of biographical facts. The past is based on self-deception and self-forgetfulness. The characters speak about their identity as if it were something they are trying to lose by constantly forgetting and reformulating who they are. Felix begins the novel with a past that is admitted to be one based upon deceit. Instead of trying to clarify it, he is compelled to associate with men and women of the theatre who have assumed titles that are equally false. By absorbing himself in this community of carnival freaks, he is able to relieve himself of the need to technically defend the presentation of his identity and he is able to more fully believe in the illusion himself. It is apparent that his assumed identity is no less true than the one that has been given to him through inheritance. An implied assertion is made through his actions that an understanding of identity cannot be achieved by either historical or self-evaluative means. The reaction, then, is to cast the notion of one's own identity out away from oneself as something to be created externally. This effect is illuminated upon in Dr. O'Connor's speech about the continual process of the night: Let a man lay himself down in the Great Bed and his ' identity' is no longer his own, his 'trust' is not with him, and his 'willingness' is turned over and is of another permission. His distress is wild and anonymous. He sleeps in a Town of Darkness, member of a secret brotherhood. He neither knows himself nor his outriders; he berserks a fearful dimension and dismounts, miraculously, in bed! By giving oneself over to the "Night", you dispel with the responsibility for your own identity. It is a space of anonymity that can be used to escape from identity because it becomes something completely outside of the self. The suggestion is that this is a process that people are a continual participant in. It is a necessary ritual performed in order to not only to escape what identity is understood to be, but to escape false layers of identity as well. To 'berserk a fearful dimension' is to be rid of the aspects of identity that are used as props to cover what is really unknown about identity. Consequently, the greatest fear of anyone in Nightwood would be the discovery of any certain facts about themselves and, more importantly, their own remembrance of their actual identities. Yet, this is unlikely to happen to any of the characters because they have subjected themselves to enough 'Nights' to never remember themselves again. The result is that the reader is left in a labyrinth of each character's creation where they may open any one door to find another display, but no certainty because the true identity of the character has been irretrievably lost.
Barnes's elliptical descriptions of her characters create a sense that she knows as little about the characters in their narration as the reader knows reading of them. This is not a failure to properly think out the characters, but a condition intentionally created to blur the character's past and relinquish control of the character's enactment of their identity. The authorial descriptions of the characters are largely metaphorical, but as the identities of the characters become more layered the descriptions become more actual than metaphorical. An example is the description of the Duchess of Broadback (Frau Mann): She seemed to have a skin that was the pattern of her costume: a bodice of lozenges, red and yellow, low in the back and ruffled over and under the arms, faded with the reek of her three-a-day control, red tights, laced boots-one somehow felt they ran through her as the design runs through hard holiday candies, and the bulge in the groin where she took the bar, one foot caught in the flex of the calf, was as solid, specialized and as polished as oak. The stuff of the tights was no longer a covering, it was herself; the span of the tightly stitched crotch was so much her own flesh that she was as unsexed as a doll. The metaphor becomes more than an artistic way to relate the characters to reality. The characters absorb them and they transform into the thing described. This creates a space where the distinction between stage and reality is also blurred and the character can thus create a reality built on their own terms. Frau Mann's erased sexual being can now choose to assume the identity of a male or female. Reality and performance become inextricable linked to each other. The absorbed descriptions of the characters create a distance between the author and character so that the characters create their own identities to perform. In this way the characters are given as much creative freedom as the author. Just as the author's imagination in the creation of the story is limitless, so is the character's scope of their identity. Thus they are able to perform as they like while giving and withholding bits of their own identity.
The purpose for performing identity originates in the character's belief that there is something essential about their identity that does not work within the social mode they inhabit. In Nightwood characters are revealed to be Jewish, homosexual and transgendered. They have all found ways to express facets of these parts of their identity in ways that are safe within the community they inhabit. Because the character's past is obscured, there is no concrete sense of the identities they abandoned or the circumstances under which it did not fit into a set of social norms. Doctor O'Connor's physical identity does not coincide with his belief of what his essential identity is and so he must create a sense of being through words and by dwelling in places that are uninhibited by social norms. The creation of an identity that is closer to the self is based upon a dismantlement and reconstruction of identity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adrift, but found, 17 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
The work requires something from you that most people give up on in the first instance. Fair enough, sometimes we want a page-turner, a flow of pleasure rather than exquisite pain. When I first read it I was baffled. I felt the vexation, the disorienting murmur of incomprehensibility. But I re-read it. I saw the power and thrust of Barnes's strange sentences. I stopped and read them over, and started to see shades of humour, of drollery previously hidden. I thought about the Semitic thread; I thought about the way it blocks black and white interpretation. I ached for Nora and felt compelled by the same strange love for Robin as the characters feel. I saw it conjuring a language yet to exist. I filled in blanks, then realised I was tampering. I went at it again, slower. I read her other works. All I can say is that with perseverance, Nightwood is a jewel lost in the ocean, and Djuna Barnes a genius.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nightwood, 27 Sep 2010
By 
Mrs. C. Burns "Anna" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
This is the most precious book I've ever had. It will need re-reading to get its
dark message. T.S. Elliot reviewed it some time ago. To reveal the plot would be
to spoil it for the reader.
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32 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A minefield of aphorisms, 20 Dec 2002
Unless you enjoy being beaten over the head with aphorism after aphorism, avoid this novel. I thought the quotes on the cover proclaiming it as a classic were pernicious lies. There was a good story in there, but the prose just emasculated it. There were even many great lines but they didn't tesselate. It largely reminded me of anodyne sessions of appalling poetry and prattle. I encountered a reading-induced fit of nausea at page 72 and chapter seven has possibly the worst ever dialogue between two characters in living memory. This is like Dawson's Creek from the 1930's. It doesn't work as parody, and as earnest literature is completely insufferable.
I doubt highly I've misread it either, as I read it twice just to make sure. If I could say anything good about it: I enjoyed pages 26, 57 and 60.
There's one character who can't utter a single sentence unless it's an aphorism: 'Sorrow fiddles the ribs and no man should put his hand on anything...the foetus of symmetry nourishes itself on cross purposes, this is its wonderful unhappiness...oh Lord, why do women have partridge blood and set out to beat up trouble?' Relentless verse posing as dialogue.
Mind you, there is an inane line later in the novel where a character says: 'there's no last reckoning for those who have loved too long so for me there is no end. I can't live forever,' she said frantically. 'I can't live without my heart!'I suppose if you pick the odd good sentence and enjoy marvelling at the awfulness of the others, this might just be a good way to spend some time. For everyone else: watch some telly instead.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 17 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Nightwood (Paperback)
did not grip me
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Nightwood
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (Paperback - 5 April 2007)
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