Thursday, November 11, 2010
Literary Blog Hop: November 11-14
That is the question for this week's Literary Blog Hop, a fantastic new weekly event hosted by Ingrid and Connie at The Blue Bookcase. If you are interested in joining in, please hop over to their site and join in on the linky.
This question is difficult! Questions including "best" "worst" and "most" are always challenging for me. I'd rather say "one of the" thus hedging my bets.
There have been books at which I've had to launch more than one attempt, like a climber defying a particularly vertiginous cliff. In this category I include Crime and Punishment and Moby Dick. And it often seems that a very long book is, by virtue of length, difficult. But I've decided to talk about Nightwood, by Djuna Barnes, a slender but challenging novel.
Nightwood, not so much.
I first encountered Nightwood in a graduate class in Experimental Literature. I absolutely loved everything about the class; I found, however, that my tastes in literature are really much more traditional than I had thought. Plot is deeply satisfying to me, and Nightwood is virtually plotless. Still, I persevered, probably because of my extremely high tolerance for confusion and ambiguity. I am one of those readers who will ride the narrative wave for long stretches, not really worrying that I don't actually understand everything I am reading. That's what rereading is for.
So, while I find plot deeply satisfying, it is not actually necessary. What I do find necessary is very fine writing, and my preference is for poetic prose. Therefore I love Faulkner, Morrison, and Woolf. Stream of consciousness narrative is fine with me--I just jump right into the stream.
What kept me reading Nightwood is the highly poetic prose, as well as the challenging ideas presented in the novel. Barnes violated nearly every social taboo of her time: her characters were explicitly lesbian and bisexual, and their actions violated social norms. Extremely self-destructive and often unlikable characters contributed to the difficulty of Nightwood. Yet the poetry and the courage of the novel make Nightwood a worthwhile if challenging read.
If you are here on the Literary Blog Hop, sponsored by The Blue Bookcase, welcome! Take a look at my The Story on Thursday post on "The Yellow Wallpaper," if you are so inclined--it is right below this post....