SLEEP HAS HIS HOUSE by Anna Kavan

SLEEP HAS HIS HOUSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reprints of early work by a much-institutionalized, drug-addicted English writer who died in 1968 (apparently of a heroin overdose) and whose last generally available work was the posthumous Julia and the Bazooka (1975), a grouping of twelve angles on a tormented consciousness. Similarly, the Asylum Piece collection--originally published in 1940, the first (and perhaps best) work that Kavan did under her own name rather than the Helen Woods pseudonym--offers 21 sketches of a tormented soul in and out of asylum: fantasies of persecution, interminable hours, galling humiliations. And strangely enough, the matter-of-fact experiences outside the asylum, among ""decent people,"" are far more wrenching than the more self-consciously evocative recreations of institutional misery. (A minor embarrassment at a restaurant: ""I began to wonder, as I have wondered ever since, whether the good opinion of anybody in the whole world is worth all I have had to suffer and must still go on suffering--for how long; oh, for how long.?"") Sleep Has His House, originally published in 1948, is a grim childhood memoir that has none of that matter-of-fact chill, straining instead for a dreamlike quality--often beautiful but generally less effective. At her best, Kavan is a powerful recorder of plain-spoken pain; elsewhere the self-pity and poetic rollings add up to banal overkill (as in much of Joyce Carol Oates' work). But in any case the real-life basis for this dark, bitter prose generates a degree of fascination; and for those interested in the literature of drug-heightened or drug-damaged minds, this will certainly be required reading.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0720611296
Publisher: Michael Kesend Publishing (1025 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10028)