The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives


Ink-drawn eye, looking right towards bridge of nose.
Cropped and edited version of Djuna Barnes’s caricature of Helen Westley.

It was happenstance, the purchasing of a copy of Interviews by Djuna Barnes. I was looking for a book about Pushkin and somehow found the Interviews at a local bookstore that happens to be in the same building as my dentist, although I didn’t know it at the time.1

Djuna Barnes has always seemed to me an odd figure for modernism. I remember being rather delighted by The Ladies Almanack and somewhat disappointed by Nightwood, which seemed to want to be serious without quite knowing how. That could have been a description of myself at the the time of reading it, though, so perhaps my disappointment was projection.

The Interviews are something else entirely. Often they do not rise above the level of caricature (of the subject, but also of the idea of celebrity interviews as a genre), but frequently enough they provide a keen glimpse into the character of notables long since generally forgotten. Naturally the fans of high modernism are delighted by her ‘interview’ with Joyce, which is not so much an interview as an appreciation, a meeting or series of meetings observed and combined into an impression that is at once tender and sharp. Like much of Barnes’s work, the interviews defy brute classification – but still they delight.

  1. Did not, in fact, find it out until yesterday morning, when I braved the bridges for the first time since March and followed all necessary protocols to go to the dentist. []


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