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This article is taken from PN Review 137, Volume 27 Number 3, January - February 2001.

The Value of Scholarship: Mina Loy as fact and fiction Peter Quartermain

Antonia Logue's somewhat gushy pot-boiler of an epistolary novel, Shadow-Box, would not warrant much attention, perhaps, were it not that Logue's use of sources, and the extraordinary hype accompanying the novel's publication, raise interesting and disturbing questions. Now that some of the excitement following its initial publication has died down it might be possible to see them clearly, even if answers to the questions they raise do not spring readily to mind. The English edition of Shadow-Box (London: Bloomsbury, 1999), in the same year rapidly followed by its American and Canadian counterparts (New York: Grove; Toronto: McClelland & Stewart), appeared in a flurry of publicity and favourable reviews which - and I quote from the blurb to the New York edition - 'around the world' hailed the book 'as one of the year's most auspicious debuts'. In 1996, as Rosita Boland reported in the Irish Times, Bloomsbury had bought the publication rights at auction on the basis of a six-page sample, paying Logue an advance of £66,000. On publication early in 1999 Shadow-Box won the Irish Times prize for fiction, worth a further £ 5,000.

Told almost entirely through imagined letters between Mina Loy and Jack Johnson (the great bulk of them by Loy), Shadow-Box is a retrospective account of Loy's life in Europe and New York in the first two decades of the century, and her passionate relationship with Arthur Cravan who instead of drowning off the coast of Mexico in 1918 as everyone believed, in ...

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