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Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy (edition 1996)

by Carolyn Burke

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552214,390 (3.94)3
Member:RiversideReader
Title:Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy
Authors:Carolyn Burke
Info:Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (1996), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 493 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Your library
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Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy by Carolyn Burke

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I found Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy an utterly absorbing biography not only of a fascinating woman but also of the emergence and evolution of the Modern in the first half of the 20th Century. Although not well known today, Loy was at the center of Modernism's experimentation and social life as a painter, poet, Futurist, Dadaist, and designer.

Born Mina Gertrude Löwry in London in 1882 to a Hungarian Jewish tailor and a Methodist "English Rose," Mina was, even as a child, at odds with her bourgeois, religious mother. At 17, she began her art studies in Munich and London, eventually moving to Paris where she met her first husband, Stephen Haweis. It was a disastrous marriage, probably only embarked upon because Mina was pregnant, and her father would supply the married couple with a living allowance. The couple moved to Florence where living was cheaper and where Mina became involved with the Futurists having an affair with Marinetti, proclaimer of The Futurist Manifesto. In response to Marinetti's and the Futurists' general misogyny, Loy drafted her Feminist Manifesto: http://literarymovementsmanifesto.wordpress.com/text-2/mina-loy-feminist-manifes....

Migrating from Paris to Florence to New York and back to Paris, Loy became friends with Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Duchamp, Carl Van Vechten, Mabel Dodge, Luhan, Man Ray and the other luminaries of the teens and twenties. She was accepted into the Salon d'Automne, acted with Williams at the Provincetown Players, was published in the little magazines of the period, and participated in the bohemian life as a great beauty and wit. She became the lover of Arthur Cravan aka Fabian Lloyd, a boxer-poet and nephew of Oscar Wilde. When she became pregnant in 1918, the couple fled to Mexico as Cravan was avoiding the draft. He was drowned in a sailing accident, and their daughter was born in 1919.

Burke's biography of Loy draws on thousands of letters and works, published and unpublished, from the period as well as many interviews with surviving Dadaists (Burke's research went on for years, and the book was published in 1996). She is sympathetic to, but objectively balanced in her portrait of Loy, who was a complex, rather narcissitic, highly creative artist. Her reputation was eclipsed with the rise of the Modern formalists and the New Critics in the 30s and 40s, but many have championed her work including Ezra Pound; the Black Mountain poets, Kenneth Rexroth; her son-in-law, Julien Levy; and the poet Jonathan Williams, who interviewed her in Aspen in 1965 shortly before her death. An edition of her poetry The Lost Lunar Baedeker edited by Roger Conover is still in print as are some other collections of her writings.

I had run across Loy's name here and there in my readings of the Moderns, but knew nothing about her until I encountered some of her poems and "The Feminist Manifesto" in the latest edition of the Norton Anthology of English Lit -- it was the first time she had been included. I read Burke's biography because I was curious about who she was. It led me into a whole new understanding of the Modern scene than I had encountered before. Highly recommended.

An interesting interview of Carolyn Burke about the book is here: http://jacketmagazine.com/05/mina-iv.html ( )
2 vote janeajones | Jun 20, 2014 |
Mentioned in The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women by Harriet Rubin.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374109648, Hardcover)

Altering her family name, wearing the clothes she wanted (which she designed herself), encouraging nudity among her children, writing about sex, and befriending derelicts were among the life achievements of English poet Mina Loy (1882-1966). Loy emerged out of a tortured childhood into the age of free love and expression in Europe and America with irrepressible force. Though her behavior was at times reproachable, such as when she dumped her children in Florence to go gallivant among the elite in New York, her story is always interesting. Biographer Carolyn Burke tells it in generous detail in Becoming Modern.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:49 -0400)

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