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on 13 February 2016
I did not know that it was a lesbian novel, only hear about great books of twentieth century. But interesting reading.
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on 17 November 2012
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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on 25 September 2012
...but I'm glad it was accomplished. We all *know* a novel when we see one, but rarely do we come up with a testable and workable definition of one. We may define a novel by length, and were that the case then we would certainly consider "The Count of Monte Cristo" a novel, bulging on our bookshelves at 1312 pages, were we elaborate enough to purchase the Penguin edition. "Ulysses", likewise catches our scansion of people's bookshelves at 1296 pages (again, with the Penguin edition, this time with annotations). "Anna Karenina": 992; "Don Quixote": 1056. Despite these behemoths, "Nightwood" stands proudly alongside them at a mere 153. As any physicist will tell you, a novel's density is not solely dependent on its volume. It has to have mass, and "Nightwood's" gravitas is made all the more salient for being able to weave such power, beauty, and tragedy into its small volume. Saturn, with a large enough bath, would float despite its size; Nightwood would pierce through the heavens and pull all things towards it, such is its density and terrible beauty.

But what of other factors that would comprise a novel? We may consider theme or character, and "Nightwood" has them in abundance. Barnes' facility with prose justifies its poetic attribution, and she twists her words into a tapestry nothing short of gorgeous, giving us the memorable Matthew O'Connor, "the greatest liar this side of the moon"; the Baron Felix Volkbein, and the principal women of this theatrical cast; Robin Vote, a woman with the body of a boy, Jenny Petherbridge, and Nora Flood. This hymn to forsaken love gives us a novel that is operatic, sung in a Baudelairian mode in 1920s Paris. The Beloved, the Night, the swell of hearts so misfit that they must surely belong if only for an instant, are what we encounter through the unique voices of our anti heroes.

I will say no more. "Nightwood" is a novel and a poem, and is a work not to be missed.
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on 10 May 2011
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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on 17 October 2014
did not grip me
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on 17 December 2015
Can't seem to get into this book, but will try again over the festive season. At first sight it feels rather precious but I might be wrong. It arrived on time and in perfect condition.
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on 5 May 2016
Not in good condition
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on 23 December 2011
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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... 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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on 7 November 2008
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 Brontë. 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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