Holy Skirts: A Novel of a Flamboyant Woman Who Risked All for Art (P.S. Series)

Overview

No one in 1917 New York had ever encountered a woman like the Bar-oness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven -- poet, artist, proto-punk rocker, sexual libertine, fashion avatar, and unrepentant troublemaker. When she wasn't stalking the streets of Greenwich Village wearing a brassiere made from tomato cans, she was enthusiastically declaiming her poems to sailors in beer halls or posing nude for Man Ray or Marcel Duchamp. In an era of brutal war, technological innovation, and cataclysmic change, the Baroness had ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$12.84
BN.com price
(Save 14%)$14.99 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (39) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $3.50   
  • Used (29) from $1.99   
Holy Skirts: A Novel of a Flamboyant Woman Who Risked All for Art (P.S. Series)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99
BN.com price

Overview

No one in 1917 New York had ever encountered a woman like the Bar-oness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven -- poet, artist, proto-punk rocker, sexual libertine, fashion avatar, and unrepentant troublemaker. When she wasn't stalking the streets of Greenwich Village wearing a brassiere made from tomato cans, she was enthusiastically declaiming her poems to sailors in beer halls or posing nude for Man Ray or Marcel Duchamp. In an era of brutal war, technological innovation, and cataclysmic change, the Baroness had resolved to create her own destiny -- taking the center of the Dadaist circle, breaking every bond of female propriety . . . and transforming herself into a living, breathing work of art.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
“Steinke has drawn a fully realized character whose Dadaist impulses, even though the filter of time and fiction, still startle.”
BookForum
“Steinke is a consummate prose stylist. She has a poet’s ear for words....”
Playboy
“The baroness’s antics make the Andy Warhol crowd seem tame by comparison.”
W Magazine
“A fascinating read.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Steinke’s graceful prose adds intimate texture to a woman so cutting-edge that Duchamp called her ‘the future.’”
Time Out New York
“Steinke’s book reminds us why Elsa’s frenetic, avant-garde world is worth remembering.”
Wendy Smith
Elsa's reckless courage is beginning to look like lunacy even to her bohemian comrades. Steinke wisely leaves the question open; we know that Elsa's syphilis is flaring up, and the illness could be driving her mad. The fragments of her poetry in the text are provocative and oddly beautiful, but the author makes no claim for her protagonist as a world-class artist. Instead, this fascinating and moving novel celebrates the baroness as a remarkable woman whose boldness took her to extremes that make most of us flinch.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Literary Review editor Steinke's second novel (after The Fires) is a lively, sympathetic fictionalized account of the true adventures of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, a poet, artist's model and friend of Marcel Duchamp whose irrepressible life bordered on the fashionably sordid. Fleeing her burgher home in Swinemunde, Germany, at age 19 for the liberation-and poverty-of Berlin circa 1904, Elsa learns early to lie about her past and dress outrageously (often in male clothing), attracting numerous men who provide entr e to high society. Three husbands determine the direction of her life: the first, August, is an effete, hashish-smoking architect; the second, his best friend, Franz, is a charming, tortured poet and con man who brings Elsa to New York only to desert her; and the last is a German baron who gambles away his fortune and abandons her as well. Yet Elsa is an intrepid heroine who continually rises from her own ashes, muscling her way into artists' parties with bon mots and conversation-stopping "self-apparel pieces." Reading an account of an interior life that is not entirely fictional and not entirely factual can be disorienting, but Steinke shows palpable admiration and respect for her proto-feminist protagonist. This is an intelligent, spirited work that stimulates interest in the baroness's work and times. Agent, Ira Silverberg at Donadio & Olson. 5-city author tour. (Mar. 15) Forecast: Blurbs from sources as diverse as J.T. Leroy and Phillip Lopate suggest Steinke's range-she deals as confidently with cross-dressing as she does with modernist art history. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060778019
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,206,148
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

René Steinke

René Steinke is the author of The Fires. She is the editor in chief of The Literary Review and teaches creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Biography

René Steinke is the author of The Fires and Holy Skirts. She is the editor in chief of The Literary Review and teaches creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Brooklyn.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

Good To Know

When she's not writing, Steinke plays keyboards in a rock band called Ruffian.

In December 2004, she gave birth to a baby boy.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 27, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Richmond, Virginia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Valparaiso University, 1986; M.F.A., University of Virginia, 1988; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1993

Read an Excerpt

Holy Skirts Chapter One Berlin 1904

Elsa had never been like the other girls she knew, modest and squeamish about their bodies. Men seemed to sense this. When she was twelve, the doctor, while examining her, had winked and pinched her breasts, and she had been stunned at the sweet stars of pain there, the moist heat between her legs. She had been infatuated with him for weeks, inventing fevers and asking him about his ornithology prints on the examining-room wall. Then there had been the fisherman's son who met her twice at a certain spot in the woods and, laying her down in the leaves, had let her touch his penis, the little eye with its crumpled pink hood. It amused her the way it stiffened and grew in her hand as if she had commanded it with a spell, and when the semen spilled on her arm, it felt like tears. There was the shy milk boy, whom she took behind the house to a little shed where the shovels and gardening tools were kept, and when she put his hand under her skirt, on her thighs above her stockings, he pushed her up against the tines of a rake, but she did not mind. She had a theory that she simply had more heat in her limbs, more blood than most girls, and sensitive skin (she was also prone to hives and blushes), and so her body's chemistry gave her these pleasures other girls were not so lucky to feel.

At home she had been warned about the sailors who roamed the streets near the marina, that they were dangerous and wily. And so at night she would put on her red chemise and imagine them climbing through her bedroom window, one by one. They would admire her, touch her pale skin, slip a thumb beneath the strap on her shoulder, keepingtheirvoices low so that no one would hear. She fantasized about being kidnapped by a sailor with green eyes and sunburned skin. As he was taking her off to China or India, he would tell her about volcanoes, zebras, and pygmies, about the monkey's brains and grasshoppers he had eaten. The ocean would spread ahead of them in its dark infinity, the moon winking, as he slipped his hand inside the secret spot where her bodice met the chemise. She finally lost her virginity one night on a rowboat with a boy who smelled of salt and grunted into her hair. The boat rocked, and water splashed over them. Afterward she put her hand in the cool sea and, opening her fingers, imagined her virginity floating away like a lock of hair in the waves.


When she stepped off the hot train, after the five-hour ride from Swinemünde to Berlin, she realized she had no idea where to go. It was a gray day in January, the air cold and still. As Elsa wandered the streets, her duffel bag slung over her shoulder, she kept an eye out for landmarks from her earlier visits -- that giant pockmarked door that opened onto a courtyard of discarded wheels, the candy shop with the bonbons like tiny breasts. She looked for the dark cathedral with its low, despairing bells but found herself on a strange street of vegetable carts and stores selling pots and pans.

She was nineteen years old, tall and long-limbed. In a hat that fell low on her brow, she walked with a gangly abruptness that made her skirt appear to stop and then start again suddenly, sweeping the pavement in odd bursts of movement. People rushed past her, their faces pressed into mufflers and coat lapels, and on the street smoky plumes rose up from thehorses'nostrils. She had not thought it would be so difficult to find a place to stay the night, having imagined she would stay at the Bristol Hotel, where she had always stayed before with her mother, but now she couldn't find it.

When her fingers turned numb and her nose was running, she hurried into a café, the door's bells clattering after her. Green and red bottles behind the bar gleamed, and the air smelled of licorice. "I need a boardinghouse," she said to the woman.

"Down that way," the woman said, pointing toward the church. "Is Frau Hoffman's. She might have a room."

Elsa went to the address and knocked on the door of a tall, narrow house with pointed eaves.

Elsa had assumed she could survive for a year or more on the money she had brought. She also had her notebook, three books of poetry, an extra dress, her favorite yellow shoes, and that last gift from her mother, which she didn't have a name for yet -- all that she could fit in the bag when she climbed out the window of her bedroom and ran for the train.

She was shocked when Frau Hoffman asked for almost all the money remaining in her purse.

"For the first month's rent." Her loose cheeks flapped like dog ears around her mouth, but her face turned hard when she spoke of money. "And after this, always on the first Friday."

She showed Elsa to a small room with a bed, a dresser, and a chipped washstand. The bedspread was gray with city ash. "You'll share the toilet and bath with the two others on this floor -- they're nice girls, seamstresses."

In the parlor, crowded with dark furniture and black-faced china dolls, Frau Hoffman sat in a chair with a high back like a throne.Shetook Elsa's money and put it in an envelope that she sealed. "Now, don't tell me where you go at night. If someone comes looking for you, I don't want to have to lie."

Elsa's throat clenched. She had never known a woman as old as Frau Hoffman who did not watch girls, waiting for them to make a mistake. "No one will be looking for me." She tried not to think of her father's threats ...

Holy Skirts. Copyright ? by Rene Steinke. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Holy Skirts

Chapter One

Berlin 1904

Elsa had never been like the other girls she knew, modest and squeamish about their bodies. Men seemed to sense this. When she was twelve, the doctor, while examining her, had winked and pinched her breasts, and she had been stunned at the sweet stars of pain there, the moist heat between her legs. She had been infatuated with him for weeks, inventing fevers and asking him about his ornithology prints on the examining-room wall. Then there had been the fisherman's son who met her twice at a certain spot in the woods and, laying her down in the leaves, had let her touch his penis, the little eye with its crumpled pink hood. It amused her the way it stiffened and grew in her hand as if she had commanded it with a spell, and when the semen spilled on her arm, it felt like tears. There was the shy milk boy, whom she took behind the house to a little shed where the shovels and gardening tools were kept, and when she put his hand under her skirt, on her thighs above her stockings, he pushed her up against the tines of a rake, but she did not mind. She had a theory that she simply had more heat in her limbs, more blood than most girls, and sensitive skin (she was also prone to hives and blushes), and so her body's chemistry gave her these pleasures other girls were not so lucky to feel.

At home she had been warned about the sailors who roamed the streets near the marina, that they were dangerous and wily. And so at night she would put on her red chemise and imagine them climbing through her bedroom window, one by one. They would admire her, touch her pale skin, slip a thumb beneath the strap on her shoulder, keeping their voices low so that no one would hear. She fantasized about being kidnapped by a sailor with green eyes and sunburned skin. As he was taking her off to China or India, he would tell her about volcanoes, zebras, and pygmies, about the monkey's brains and grasshoppers he had eaten. The ocean would spread ahead of them in its dark infinity, the moon winking, as he slipped his hand inside the secret spot where her bodice met the chemise. She finally lost her virginity one night on a rowboat with a boy who smelled of salt and grunted into her hair. The boat rocked, and water splashed over them. Afterward she put her hand in the cool sea and, opening her fingers, imagined her virginity floating away like a lock of hair in the waves.


When she stepped off the hot train, after the five-hour ride from Swinemünde to Berlin, she realized she had no idea where to go. It was a gray day in January, the air cold and still. As Elsa wandered the streets, her duffel bag slung over her shoulder, she kept an eye out for landmarks from her earlier visits -- that giant pockmarked door that opened onto a courtyard of discarded wheels, the candy shop with the bonbons like tiny breasts. She looked for the dark cathedral with its low, despairing bells but found herself on a strange street of vegetable carts and stores selling pots and pans.

She was nineteen years old, tall and long-limbed. In a hat that fell low on her brow, she walked with a gangly abruptness that made her skirt appear to stop and then start again suddenly, sweeping the pavement in odd bursts of movement. People rushed past her, their faces pressed into mufflers and coat lapels, and on the street smoky plumes rose up from the horses' nostrils. She had not thought it would be so difficult to find a place to stay the night, having imagined she would stay at the Bristol Hotel, where she had always stayed before with her mother, but now she couldn't find it.

When her fingers turned numb and her nose was running, she hurried into a café, the door's bells clattering after her. Green and red bottles behind the bar gleamed, and the air smelled of licorice. "I need a boardinghouse," she said to the woman.

"Down that way," the woman said, pointing toward the church. "Is Frau Hoffman's. She might have a room."

Elsa went to the address and knocked on the door of a tall, narrow house with pointed eaves.

Elsa had assumed she could survive for a year or more on the money she had brought. She also had her notebook, three books of poetry, an extra dress, her favorite yellow shoes, and that last gift from her mother, which she didn't have a name for yet -- all that she could fit in the bag when she climbed out the window of her bedroom and ran for the train.

She was shocked when Frau Hoffman asked for almost all the money remaining in her purse.

"For the first month's rent." Her loose cheeks flapped like dog ears around her mouth, but her face turned hard when she spoke of money. "And after this, always on the first Friday."

She showed Elsa to a small room with a bed, a dresser, and a chipped washstand. The bedspread was gray with city ash. "You'll share the toilet and bath with the two others on this floor -- they're nice girls, seamstresses."

In the parlor, crowded with dark furniture and black-faced china dolls, Frau Hoffman sat in a chair with a high back like a throne. She took Elsa's money and put it in an envelope that she sealed. "Now, don't tell me where you go at night. If someone comes looking for you, I don't want to have to lie."

Elsa's throat clenched. She had never known a woman as old as Frau Hoffman who did not watch girls, waiting for them to make a mistake. "No one will be looking for me." She tried not to think of her father's threats ...

Holy Skirts. Copyright © by Rene Steinke. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    Brilliant!

    Books like this are what inspire me to continue reading. This novel is well written, and I enjoyed visualizing the Baroness's clothing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2005

    The most unique character I've encountered in months!

    One of the best books I¿ve read in the past 6 months! Ms. Steinke¿s writing is masterful, sensuous and deeply satisfying. Baroness Elsa is unique, artistic, intelligent and decades ahead of her time in her writing and self adornment. While reading of her life and times the world of 1920¿s Greenwich Village is so well described as to place the reader in the streets with it¿s outrageous scenes, characters and ¿signs of the times¿. What a time to be an artist, a German one at that, trying to reach out to people to understand your poetry and self. Being from Wisconsin with students at the University of Wisconsin where copies of the Little Review are stored, I am anxious to pursue looking at copies which should shed additional light on this character. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. It is very literary and heavily descriptive and should appeal to readers of great historical fiction 5*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)