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By Djuna Barnes
Illustrations by the author
Introduction by Megan Mayhew Bergman
Afterword by Paul West

ISBN: 9781628974980

Publication Date: 6/25/2024

From the author of Nightwood, Djuna Barnes has written a book that is all that she was, and must still be vulgar, beautiful, defiant, witty, poetic, and a little mad.

Told as through a kaleidoscope, the chronicle of the Ryder family is a bawdy tale of eccentricity and anarchy; through sparkling detours and pastiche, cult author Djuna Barnes spins an audacious, intricate story of sexuality, power, and praxis.

Ryder, like its namesake, Wendell Ryder, is many things—lyric, prose, fable, illustration; protagonist, bastard, bohemian, polygamist. Born in the 1800s to infamous nonconformist Sophia Grieve Ryder, Wendell’s search for identity takes him from Connecticut to England to multifarious digressions on morality, tradition, and gender. Censored upon its first release in 1928, Ryder’s portrayal of sexuality remains revolutionary despite the passing of time and the expurgations in the text, preserved by Barnes in protest of the war “blindly raged against the written word.” The weight of Wendell’s story endures despite this censorship, as his drive to assume the masculine roles of patriarch and protector comes at the sacrifice of the women around him.

A vanguard modernist, Djuna Barnes has been called the patron literary saint of Bohemia, and her second novel, Ryder, evinces her cutting wit and originality. The nonlinear structure and polyphonic narration pull the reader into Barnes’ harlequin world like a riptide, echoing the melodic cascade of James Joyce’s Ulysses and the avant-garde feminism of Dorothy Richardson. The novel is a rhapsodic saga that could have come only from Barnes’ pen—and politics—as impactful today upon at its first pressing, a document of sexual revolution and censorship.

Biographical Information

Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, and worked as a journalist in New York before leaving the country to spend many years in Paris and London. She returned to New York in 1941, and lived in Greenwich Village until her death.


Go not with fanatics who see beyond thee and thine, and beyond the coming and the going of thee and thine, and yet beyond the ending thereof,—thy life and the lives that thou begettest, and the lives that shall spring from them, world without end,—for such need thee not, nor see thee, nor know thy lamenting, so confounded are they with thy damnation and the damnation of thy offspring, and the multiple damnation of those multitudes that shall be of thy race begotten, unto the number of fishes in thin waters, and unto the number of fishes in great waters. Alike are they distracted with thy salvation and the salva­tion of thy people. Go thou, then, to lesser men, who have for all things unfinished and uncertain, a great capacity, for these shall not repulse thee, thy physical body and thy temporal agony, thy weeping and thy laughing and thy lamenting. Thy rendezvous is not with the Last Station, but with small comforts, like to apples in the hand, and small cups quenching, and words that go neither here nor there, but traffic with the outer ear, and gossip at the gates of thy insufficient agony.