Conceived with Malice: Literature as Revenge

Overview

"Every creative act is a declaration of war," wrote Henry Miller. This fascinating book examines the motive of revenge as a catalyst for the creative process. Evoking Bloomsbury and Paris in the twenties and thirties, acclaimed biographer Louise De Salvo focuses on four famous literary partnerships where the written word was used as a weapon of revenge. Like her pioneering Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work, Conceived with Malice challenges our conceptions of how and why great works of literature are ...
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1995-11-01 Paperback New A great book in new condition. may show slight signs of shelf wear. We provide USPS confirmation tracking and email when we ship. We want your complete ... satisfaction. Read more Show Less

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Overview

"Every creative act is a declaration of war," wrote Henry Miller. This fascinating book examines the motive of revenge as a catalyst for the creative process. Evoking Bloomsbury and Paris in the twenties and thirties, acclaimed biographer Louise De Salvo focuses on four famous literary partnerships where the written word was used as a weapon of revenge. Like her pioneering Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work, Conceived with Malice challenges our conceptions of how and why great works of literature are written. The "ideal" marriage of Leonard and Virginia Woolf not only linked Leonard Woolf to a partner far more talented than he but "elevated" him to a social class that dismissed him as the son of a Jewish shopkeeper. His retaliation was the novel The Wise Virgins, actually penned during the couple's honeymoon. It portrayed a thinly disguised Virginia as deranged and sexually inadequate, sending the shattered bride spiralling toward depression and attempted suicide. The mercurial relationship between D. H. Lawrence, a coal miner's son, and his patron Lady Ottoline Morrell, whose list of lovers included Bertrand Russell, Roger Fry, and Henry Lamb, began as a union of "soulmates" but deteriorated into an enmity that spawned Lawrence's vicious portrait of her as the morally corrupt Hermione Roddice in Women in Love. The legendary writer Djuna Barnes reveals the psychic wound that lay at the core of her classic novels Nightwood and Ryder - and that at last was excruciatingly exposed in her final major work, The Antiphon, the amazing play that discloses a family history of multiple incest and child abuse, making her pain-filled and boldly experimental work all too comprehensible. Henry Miller's wife, June, the beautiful, strung-out, coked-up taxi dancer who kept him up all night talking about writers, who lived with him and her lesbian lover in a squalid Brooklyn apartment, nearly drove him mad. But she also became his lodestone

Evoking Bloomsbury and Paris in the 1920s and '30s, an acclaimed biographer illuminates the dark motives behind masterpieces of 20th-century literature--particularly in the works of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Djuna Barnes, and Henry Miller. A daring analysis of much never-before-addressed material.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
DeSalvo (Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work) examines here the psychological forces that inform creativity in this lively literary study. Focusing on three 20th-century novels and one play, she presents biographical research to demonstrate how each author exacted revenge through writing fiction. Barnes's play, The Actiphon, according to the author, was a thinly disguised history of the sexual assaults she had endured from her father and brothers. Henry Miller wrote Crazy Cock to strike back at a wife who obsessed him, and the negative portrait of Hermione in Lawrence's Women in Love, DeSalvo argues, was based on former lover Lady Ottoline Morrell. DeSalvo also suggests provocatively that Leonard Woolf's characterization of his wife, Virginia, in The Wise Virgins, as frigid was inaccurate; rather, it was Leonard who was repelled by Virginia's sexual needs. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
DeSalvo (English, Hunter Coll.) here provides a riveting account of the role of revenge as muse in the lives and works of four modern writers. Using psychobiography, the author fashions provocative readings of Leonard Woolf's The Wise Virgins, D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love, Djuna Barnes's The Actiphon, and Henry Miller's Crazy Cock. For example, Barnes's work is read as a revenge play directed against a family history of incest and sexual abuse, while Miller's entire oeuvre is motivated by his love and hatred for June Miller. Although the book reads like an Oprah Winfrey show for the literati, DeSalvo convincingly demonstrates that revenge is a far more common motivation for literary works than most would like to acknowledge. What emerges from this fine study is a portrait of the artist as pathologically insecure. Highly recommended.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Westerville P.L., Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452273238
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/1995
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Literature as Revenge 1
2 "That Strange Prelude": Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf, and The Wise Virgins 23
3 "Like a Lion Raging After Its Prey": D. H. Lawrence, Ottoline Morrell, and Women in Love 91
4 "Justice, Not Revenge": Djuna Barnes and The Antiphon 209
5 "A Desperado of Love": Henry Miller, June Miller, and Crazy Cock 275
6 Afterword 353
Notes 357
Sources 399
Acknowledgments 421
Index 429
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