PRAISE FOR DANIELLE DUTTON
Margaret the First
"Dutton’s remarkable second novel is as vividly imaginative as its subject, the 17th-century English writer and eccentric Margaret Cavendish... Though Dutton doesn’t shy away from the “various and extravagant” antics (such as attending the theater in a topless gown) that earned her subject notoriety and the nickname “Mad Madge,” her Margaret is a woman of fierce vitality, creativity, and courage. Incorporating lines from Cavendish herself as well as Virginia Woolf, whose essays introduced Dutton to Cavendish, this novel is indeed reminiscent of Woolf’s Orlando in its sensuous appreciation of the world and unconventional approach to fictionalized biography. Dutton’s boldness, striking prose, and skill at developing an idiosyncratic narrative should introduce her to the wider audience she deserves." starred review, Publishers Weekly
"Danielle Dutton engagingly embellishes the life of Margaret the First, the infamous Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne." Vanity Fair
“With refreshing and idiosyncratic style, Dutton portrays the inner turmoil and eccentric genius of an intellectual far ahead of her time.”Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com
"Despite its period setting and details, this novelmore poem than biographyfeels rooted in the experiences of contemporary women with artistic and intellectual ambitions. Margaret's alternating bursts of inspiration and despair about her work may feel achingly familiar to Dutton's likely readers, many of whom will probably also be aspiring writers." Kirkus Reviews
"A perfect dagger of book: sharp, dark sentences, in and out quick." Jonny Diamond, Literary Hub
"The taut prose and supple backdrop of courtly life are irresistible.... Dutton is something of a meteor herself."The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2016
"Beautiful, accessible, and hypnotic." Bustle, "15 Of The Best Books Of March 2016 That Will Make Your Literary Kite Soar."
"A fabulous (and fabulist) re-imagining of the infamous Margaret Cavendish... Margaret the First isn’t a historical novel, however; magnificently weird and linguistically dazzling, it’s a book as much about how difficult and rewarding it is for an ambitious, independent, and gifted woman to build a life as an artist in any era as it is about Margaret herself. Incredibly smart, innovative, and refreshing, Margaret the First will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with forging her own path in the world." BookRiot
"Layered and engrossing... Dutton’s profile constructs [Margaret] as a fully formed, complicated human being, as a woman whose interests and inclinations stem from a complex personal history. It’s this profile that’s the star of the novel as much as its subject, since it deftly weaves together primary and secondary sources to form a wholly integrated, believable and gripping account of a woman who didn’t belong to the times in which she was born, not least because these times were too volatile for her to ever plant herself in them." Electric Literature
"Dutton, an accomplished writer and daring publisher, here upends the genre of the historical novel in a brilliant book about Margaret Cavendish, a mold-breaking British Duchess of the 17th century who wrote poetry, drama, philosophy, and even science fiction." Flavorwire, "Most Anticipated Books of 2016"
"Dutton joins Alexander Chee in the camp of writers who are looking to history for vibrant settings and new ways to explore their themes of choice."Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“Margaret the First is set in the seventeenth century, but don't let that fool you. It's a strikingly smart and daringly feminist novel with modern insights into love, marriage, and the siren call of ambition.” Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation
"All this trouble for a girl," say the bears in the book Margaret Cavendish writes within this remarkable book written by Danielle Dutton, the story of a very real woman at a very particular moment in history that is at the same time the story of every woman artist who has ever burst loose the constraints of her particular moment in history to create "a new world called the blazing world." Kathryn Davis, author of The Thin Place and Duplex
"Margaret the First has such incredible sentences, and a sense of history that feels like intimacy." Sara Jaffe, author of Dryland
"Ever since I first encountered her writing, I've told every serious reader I know that Danielle Dutton is one of the most original and wonderfully weird prose stylists of our time, every bit the contemporary of Lydia Davis, Cesar Aira, and Diane Williams. How perfect that her new novel is a portrait of Margaret of Newcastle, whose perceived excesses and eccentricities were an object of fascination for her time, as well as for Virginia Woolf, who laments in A Room of One's Own, ‘What a vision of loneliness and riot the thought of Margaret Cavendish brings to mind!’ And what a visionary portrait Margaret the First is, not only for the sheer joy of the sentences, but also as it’s a marvel of tenderness, rewriting a historical caricature as a life, delighting in Margaret's passion for writing and love of the beautiful and strange from childhood on. I am in awe of what Dutton accomplishes here, in this novel of the small and the sublime. What a triumph!"
Kate Zambreno, author of Green Girl
Attempts at a Life: Stories (2007)
"Refreshingly eccentric. . .Glorious."
--Kate Zambreno, author of Green Girl, in Review of Contemporary Fiction
"Indescribably beautiful, also indescribable."
--Daniel Handler, Entertainment Weekly
"Danielle Dutton writes with a deft explosiveness that craters the page with stunning, unsettling precision."
--Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome
Sprawl: A Novel (2010)
"Both unabashedly voracious in terms of literary sources and an extraordinarily original text."
"In the long line of novels about the vapidity of suburbia, Dutton's has a narrator who may be one of the most likable. Aloof and hilarious, she dissects lives with the casualness of a cynical scientist."
"Dutton's mini-masterpiece--a womanly treatise on suburban decay and fatigued love--
is a triumph! Each sentence should be celebrated for its hilarity, rigor, eccentricity, and passion. Sprawl is the work of a brilliant mind."
--Deb Olin Unferth, author of NBCC finalist Revolution
A slim, poetic meditation on the writing life as seen through the experiences of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, a 17th-century woman of letters.In the Author's Note, Dutton (Sprawl, 2010, etc.) thanks Virginia Woolf for introducing her to her subject: the Duchess of Newcastle appears in Woolf's essay of that name as well as in A Room of One's Own, Woolf's famous plea for women's economic and intellectual autonomy. Woolf hovers over this brief novel, audible in its cadences and visible in its cascading images of nature, artistry, and oddity. Margaret Lucas, a daughter of royalist gentry, is sent to sit out the English civil war as a lady-in-waiting to the English queen in Oxford: "I found myself in an unknown universe, whirling far into space: African servants, dogs in hats, platonic ideals, sparkling conversation, and ivy-covered quadrangles with womanizing captains, dueling earls, actors." The war heats up and the queen's court moves to Paris. Back home, offstage, most of Margaret's family members die in the war. She wins the heart of William Cavendish, 30 years her senior. He's a rich, intellectual marquess, quite the catch, but the Parliamentarians have confiscated his vast estates and fortune. The couple lives in exile in France and the Low Countries, where they hang out with scientists, poets, and philosophers (Descartes, Hobbes, Waller, Davenant), writing plays, poems, and treatises, until the Restoration reverses their fortunes (and for some reason the narration switches from first person to third). Back in England, now a duchess, Margaret gets weirder and weirder, all in carefully crafted, lyrical sentences. She offends the new queen by showing up to an audience in a dress with an extravagant train. When visitors come, she rants and recites at them. She wears a topless outfit to the theater, rouging her nipples. People follow her around, calling her Mad Madge. Most of all, though, she struggles to write. Despite its period setting and details, this novel—more poem than biography—feels rooted in the experiences of contemporary women with artistic and intellectual ambitions. Margaret's alternating bursts of inspiration and despair about her work may feel achingly familiar to Dutton's likely readers, many of whom will probably also be aspiring writers.