I can't think of another book I've read recently that has sent me in so many interesting directions when it comes to finding ever more books and authors to explore. Revelations: Diaries of Women has turned out to be a veritable goldmine of information and a pleasure to read. I'll be very sorry when I turn the last page.
Many of the women I've encountered in the book are unfamiliar to me--like Evelyn Scott. My curiosity was instantly piqued when I read . . . "Evelyn Scott, a young poet, ran off to Rio de Janeiro with a married man when she was twenty. The time was just before the United States entered World War I, and because she and John neglected to obtain passports, for several years they were unable to return to the States." Although she was very much in love with the man she ran away with, life in Rio was not what she expected. They were poor and she had a difficult pregnancy. She was made to feel like nothing by the doctor who attended her. Her diary of these years was published under the title Escapade, which I am now curious to read. In the biographical information given about Scott, it's noted that she was quite popular in the 1930s turning to novel writing ("writing to the tastes of the time"), but she has since been largely forgotten. Along with poetry and novels, Scott wrote autobiography, juvenile fiction and criticism.
Plum pickings perhaps for my lost in the stacks project. Apparently I have not been the only one to think this. I found a copy of Narcissus on my library's shelves, which was published by the now defunct Arno Press. They put out a series of books called "Rediscovered Fiction by American Women: A Personal Selection" and Elizabeth Hardwick was the advisory editor, which to me seems to add a little cachet to the list of titles, Hardwick being a respected literary critic and novelist in her own right. She describes Narcissus as:
"Narcissus, published in 1922, is a complete work even though it continues the life of Laurence Farley after the death of his first wife in The Narrow House, a work that appeared in 1921. Farley has married again and his wife, Julia, is a woman much more complicated and worldly than the child-wife of the first book. The story is about marriage and the self-centered passions that make true unity and honesty impossible. Laurence is successful in business, but the dourness of his nature persists, arising out of his baffled sensitivity and acquaintance with the intractable murkiness of experience.
Julia, a woman for whom the author appears to have considerable sympathy, is a narcissist. Her marriage and her infidelities are examined in a masterly, subtle depth. Evelyn Scott's method of subjective, minute scrutiny of feeling and nuance is related to similar experiments being made by Virginia Woolf in the work that led to Mrs. Dalloway in 1925. But the scene in Narcissus is more reduced, perhaps one could say, more American. It is the loneliness and aspiration of women in our cities and in our middle-class marriages."
Forgotten or not, Scott's work merited merited a book of criticism in 2001, Evelyn Scott: Recovering a Lost Modernist, edited by Dorothy M. Scura and Paul C. Jones.
"Scott's public literary career lasted a little more than twenty years and fits into the two decades of the twenties and thirties. Her distinctive writing in all genres featured technical experimentation and verbal pyrotechnics that were at once new and at the same time representative of the modernist movement. While depicting realistic landscapes, she focused on the internal landscape of the individual. An intellectual, she addressed serious matters of art, culture, gender, history, religion, race, and economics. The body of work she produced in twenty-one years--including eleven novels, two volumes of poetry, two memoirs, and much more--is simply amazing."
I think I need to spend more time with both books. Despite the seemingly adventurous title of her memoir, I get the feeling that Scott is a serious writer, not one to simply offer sordid details to sell books, but rather Escapade is more of an exploration of her inner life. A little taste of Narcissus:
"At three o'clock in the afternoon Julia put on her hat. Her dressing table with its triple mirror stood in an alcove. It was a very fine severe little table. It was Julia's vanity to be very fine and dainty in her toilet. Here was no powder box, but lotions and expensive scents. When she sat before the glass she enjoyed the defiant delicacy she saw in the lines of her lifted head, and there was a thrill which she could not analyze in the sight of her long white hands lying useless in her lap. They made her in love with herself."