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This review is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

MODERN WOMAN Stories and Essays of Mina Loy, ed. by Sara Crangle (Dalkey Archive Press) £11.99

Since Mina Loy's death in 1966, and her gradual admittance into the modernist canon nearly two decades later, the by now mythic image of her as insatiably modern has formed in the imaginations of her readers. The familiar histories from Carolyn Burke's biography, Becoming Modern (1996), as well as Roger Conover's two editions of Loy's writing, The Last Lunar Baedeker (1982)and the revised The Lost Lunar Baedeker (1996), attempt to fix the London-born Loy as witness to, and participant in, some of the radically avant-garde aesthetic movements of the early twentieth century: Futurism, Surrealism, Dadaism. Always the reluctant adherent, Loy couldn't be filed strictly within the ranks of any of these groups, nor directly allied to feminist ideologies of the time. She travelled across three continents, married twice (most significantly to the poet-pugilist Arthur Cravan), designed her own clothes, hats and, finally, lampshades (in a shop backed by Peggy Guggenheim). Loy's poetry put her in the company of Pound, Joyce and Stein. There is something beguiling and effortless about this 'modern woman' from whose profile, photographed in the 1920s by Man Ray, dangles a kind of 'ready-made': a darkroom thermometer-cum-earring registering a temperature of zero.

Whether or not Loy's living 'modernity' is her own carefully performed self-invention, posthumously and sometimes narrowly drummed up, the widening of her published oeuvre is a call to re-examine - and in some cases perhaps to re-evaluate - the existing status of Loy's modernism in light of the prose autobiographies, plays, essays ...


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