Friday, August 17, 2007

Jeanette Winterson on Nightwood

A moment of synchronicity:

I was reading Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods this morning and I decided to revisit her tribute to Djuna Barnes' Nightwood.

It is a rousing laudation of an outmoded author, and so highly quotable it must be read in its entirety. Winterson is at her best when she is most impassioned. Rereading this tribute I am reminded why I love Winterson's writing.

But this is not about Jeanette Winterson. It is about Djuna Barnes. So, Jeanette Winterson, on Nightwood:

Nightwood has neither stereotypes nor caricatures; there is a truth to these damaged hearts that moves us beyond the negative. Humans suffer and, gay or straight, they break themselves into pieces, blur themselves with drink and drugs, choose the wrong lover, crucify themselves on their own longings and, let's not forget, are crucified by a world that fears the stranger - whether in life or in love.

In Nightwood, they are all strangers, and they speak to those of us who are always, or just sometimes, the stranger; or to the ones who open the door to find the stranger standing outside. And yet, there is great dignity in Nora's love for Robin, written without cliche or compromise in the full-blown, archetypal language of romance. We are left in no doubt that this love is worthy of greatness - that it is great. As the doctor, Matthew O'Connor remarks: "Nora will leave that girl some day; but though those two are buried at the opposite ends of the earth, one dog will find them both."

This line alone clinched the book for me: "Nora will leave that girl some day; but though those two are buried at the opposite ends of the earth, one dog will find them both."

Oh yes. Oh yes.

Peculiar, eccentric, particular, shaded against the insistence of too much daylight, Nightwood is a book for introverts, in that we are all introverts in our after-hours secrets and deepest loves.

Who else is joining me for Nightwood?

3 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

I'm in! I'm in!

ted (myrtias) said...

Me too (I hope I hope).

Ex Libris said...

I've put it on my list. I'd also like to work in some of her short stories as well.