Djuna Barnes

Life is not to be told, call it as loud as you like, it will not tell itself.

Djuna Barnes (June 12, 1892June 18, 1982) was an American novelist, poet, and playwright.

QuotesEdit

I am not a critic; to me criticism is so often nothing more than the eye garrulously denouncing the shape of the peephole that gives access to hidden treasure.
New York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.
Is not everything morbid?
The Seal, she lounges like a bride,
Much too docile, there's no doubt;
Madame Récamier, on side,
(if such she has), and bottom out.
  • We are beginning to wonder whether a servant girl hasn’t the best of it after all. She knows how the salad tastes without the dressing, and she knows how life’s lived before it gets to the parlor door.
    • The Home Club: For Servants Only, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (12 October 1913)
  • I am not a critic; to me criticism is so often nothing more than the eye garrulously denouncing the shape of the peephole that gives access to hidden treasure.
    • "The Songs of Synge: The Man Who Shaped His Life as He Shaped His Plays", in New York Morning Telegraph (18 February 1917)
  • New York is the meeting place of the peoples, the only city where you can hardly find a typical American.
    • Greenwich Village as It Is, in Pearson’s Magazine (October 1916)
  • After all, it is not where one washes one’s neck that counts but where one moistens one’s throat.
    • Greenwich Village as It Is, in Pearson’s Magazine (October 1916)
  • Well, isn’t Bohemia a place where everyone is as good as everyone else — and must not a waiter be a little less than a waiter to be a good Bohemian?
    • Becoming Intimate with the Bohemians, New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine (19 November 1916)
  • Morbid? You make me laugh. This life I write and draw and portray is life as it is, and therefore you call it morbid. Look at my life. Look at the life around me. Where is this beauty that I am supposed to miss? The nice episodes that others depict? Is not everything morbid? I mean the life of people stripped of their masks. Where are the relieving features? Often I sit down to work at my drawing board, at my typewriter. All of a sudden my joy is gone. I feel tired of it all because, I think, "What's the use?" Today we are, tomorrow dead. We are born and don't know why. We live and suffer and strive, envious or envied. We love, we hate, we work, we admire, we despise. ... Why? And we die, and no one will ever know that we have been born.
  • If Helen of Troy could have been seen eating peppermints out of a paper bag, it is highly probable that her admirers would have been an entirely different class.
    It is the thing you are found doing while the horde looks on that you shall be loved for — or ignored.
    • What Do You See, Madam? (1932)
  • The Seal, she lounges like a bride,
    Much too docile, there's no doubt;
    Madame Récamier, on side,
    (if such she has), and bottom out.
    • Creatures in an Alphabet (1982)
  • We are adhering to life now with our last muscle — the heart.
    • Quoted in "The Way of Transition : Embracing Life's Most Difficult Moments" (2002) by William Bridges, p. 204
  • There is always more surface to a shattered object than a whole.
    • In a letter to Emily Coleman, as quoted in The Book of Repulsive Women and Other Poems : Selected Poems (2003), edited by Rebecca Loncraine, p. xi

The Book of Repulsive Women (1915)Edit

  • Someday beneath some hard
    Capricious star —
    Spreading its light a little
    Over far,
    We'll know you for the woman
    That you are.
    • From Fifth Avenue Up
  • What turn of card, what trick of game
    Undiced?
    And you we valued still a little
    More than Christ.
    • In General
  • Ah God! she settles down we say;
    It means her powers slip away
    It means she draws back day by day
    From good or bad.
    • From Third Avenue On
  • Somewhere beneath her hurried curse,
    A corpse lies bounding in a hearse;
    And friends and relatives disperse,
    And are not stirred.
    • From Third Avenue On
  • What turn of body, what of lust
    Undiced?
    So we've worshipped you a little
    More than Christ.
    • In Particular
  • One sees you sitting in the sun
    Asleep;
    With the sweeter gifts you had
    And didn't keep,
    One grieves that the altars of
    Your vice lie deep.
    • Twilight of the Illicit
  • We watched her come with subtle fire
    And learned feet,
    Stumbling among the lustful drunk
    Yet somehow sweet.

    We saw the crimson leave her cheeks
    Flame in her eyes;
    For when a woman lives in awful haste
    A woman dies.

    The jests that lit our hours by night
    And made them gay,
    Soiled a sweet and ignorant soul
    And fouled its play.

    • To a Cabaret Dancer

Nightwood (1936)Edit

One's life is peculiar to one's own when one has invented it.
Destiny and history are untidy.
  • The heart of the jealous knows the best and most satisfying love, that of the other’s bed, where the rival perfects the lover’s imperfections.
    • Ch. 5 : Watchman, What of the Night?
  • I’m a fart in a gale of wind, a humble violet, under a cow pat.
    • Ch. 5 : Watchman, What of the Night?
  • Dreams have only the pigmentation of fact.
    • Ch. 5 : Watchman, What of the Night?
  • Sleep demands of us a guilty immunity. There is not one of us who, given an eternal incognito, a thumbprint nowhere set against our souls, would not commit rape, murder and all abominations.
    • Ch. 5 : Watchman, What of the Night?
  • The night is a skin pulled over the head of day that the day may be in torment.
    • Ch. 5 : Watchman, What of the Night?
  • One's life is peculiar to one's own when one has invented it.
    • Ch. 6 : Where the Tree Falls
  • In the acceptance of depravity the sense of the past is most truly captured. What is a ruin but time easing itself of endurance? Corruption is the Age of Time.
    • Ch. 6 : Where the Tree Falls
  • Destiny and history are untidy.
    • Ch. 6 : Where the Tree Falls
  • A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow as well as himself — and what is a man's shadow but his upright astonishment?
    • Ch. 6 : Where the Tree Falls
  • Life is not to be told, call it as loud as you like, it will not tell itself.
    • Ch. 7 : Go Down, Matthew
  • A strong sense of identity gives man an idea he can do no wrong; too little accomplishes the same.
    • Ch. 7 : Go Down, Matthew

Quotes about BarnesEdit

  • Contemporary writers and artists praised her style, feared her tongue; she was a beauty, but a talented, acerbic, and powerfully intelligent one.
    • Mary Lynn Broe, in Silence and Power : A Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes, Introduction, p. 3
  • Complex in her privacy, refusing to be controlled by an audience or pinioned to a single representation, she once told Henry Ramont of the the New York Times, "I used to be invited by people who said, 'Get Djuna for dinner, she's amusing.' So I stopped it."
    • Mary Lynn Broe, in Silence and Power : A Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes, Introduction, p. 5
  • She was a spendthrift of the spirit, an American in Paris when, as Evelyn Waugh said, the going was good.

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 12 April 2014, at 16:56