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The Lost Lunar Baedeker


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Mina Loy was a British artist, poety, playwright, novelist, futurist and actress. She is the author of Lost Lunar Baedeker.


Mina Loy's wry, confident inquiries into the nature of men, women and sexuality are a great undiscovered treasure of modernism. Though her work was published beside Eliot's and Pound's in the little magazines of the 1910s and 20s, we are perhaps only now, in the post-feminist '90s, fully equipped to handle it. Through both her work and her transcontinental, bon vivant lifestyle, Loy (1882-1966) defined the "modern" woman, a detached, unsentimental, brutally witty creature who called it as she saw it: "The skin sack/ in which a wanton duality/ packed/ all the completion of my infructious impulses/ something the shape of a man." Her cool ironies, heady carnality and innovative line placement blew away the remnants of Victorianism that clung to poetry, clearing the way for more up-front, if still unresolvable, relations between the sexes: "Let them clash together/ From their incognitoes/ In seismic orgasm." While the extensive textual notes included by Conover, an editor at MIT Press, may seem excessive (one wishes for more of the poetry), his selection also allows the cerebral Loy to emerge as a sophisticated critic-in-verse of contemporaries Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein and others. (July) FYI: FSG will concurrently publish the first full-scale biography of Loy, Becoming Modern (Forecasts, May 6). A fictionalized treatment of Loy's life can be found in Albert J. Guerard's novel The Hotel in the Jungle (Baskerville, Forecasts, Apr. 15).

A collected edition of Loy's (1882-1966) elusive and neglected work has long been overdue. Conover provides a useful scholarly text (with 60 pages of editorial notes) that brings the bohemian cult figure of the 1920s out of obscurity into the mainstream of 20th-century poetry. Born in England, Loy became famous in America as a celebrity associated with avant-garde movements like Futurism. She has been denied serious critical consideration, her work regarded as satire of conventional morality‘an angry Edna St. Vincent Millay. With this comprehensive edition, one sees clearly that Loy's bold, original work‘brief as it is‘represents a gutsy, creative quest by an unusual woman to challenge biases that limit how a writer can define herself. Conover views her as a pioneer who paved the way for the likes of Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, and Ann Waldman. Recommended for large libraries.‘Frank Allen, North Hampton Community Coll., Tannersville, Pa

"[Mina Loy] may now be launched on a posthumous career as the electric-age Blake." --Hugh Kenner, The Washington Times"Mina Loy has finally been admitted into 'the company of poets, ' the canon. As if she cared." --Thom Gunn, The Times Literary Supplement

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