Nancy Cunard (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
To readers having more than a nodding acquaintance with literary modernism, Nancy Cunard will be something of a known figure. Her achievements as publisher, anthologist, poet, and general bad girl of letters have secured her a firm if secondary place in the genealogy of early twentieth century arts and culture. Even those unfamiliar with the literary history of this period and unaware of her actual achievements might well recognize Cunard from the by-now iconic photographs made of her by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton in the 1920’s. With her close-cropped hair and hard, chiseled features, the thin arms braceletted to the elbow with dozens of her signature ivory bands, she appears like some kind of fierce flapper siren, an embodiment of Jazz Age glamour, all edge and intensity, the image of insouciant daring and primitivist yearning. Lois Gordon’s new biography, Nancy Cunard: Heiress, Muse, Political Idealist, however, suggests that Cunard was considerably more than this modernist pinup. Gordon sees Cunard not only as a vivid emblem of the new twentieth century aesthetic but also as a deeply involved political activist, a progressive campaigner for black rights, and intransigent foe of fascism in all of its forms. The biography mounts a persuasive case for making a principal player of a woman whom other commentators on the period have so often made a colorful figure in the background.
Certainly she was colorful. Socially and sexually rebellious,...
(The entire section is 1916 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2008)
American Book Review 28, no. 6 (September/October, 2007): 21-22.
Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 30, no. 3 (Summer, 2007): 420-421.
Booklist 103, no. 12 (February 15, 2007): 28-29.
The Nation 285, no. 5 (August 13, 2007): 30-35.
The New York Times Book Review 156 (April 1, 2007): 1-11.
Publishers Weekly 254, no. 4 (January 22, 2007): 172.
The Times Literary Supplement, July 6, 2007, p. 34.
(The entire section is 41 words.)