by Jinnean Barnard
READERS` expectations of the novels of Frederick Philip Grove probably fall significantly short of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven`s expectations of the man himself. Whereas readers seek literary pleasure, Baroness Elsa (who married Grove, whom she knew as Felix Paul Greve) sought, and found, orgasm. She was impressed by his 11 qualities of energy, determination and executive ability." While "two months of the most intense application" of these qualities (and presumably others) resulted in the heretofore elusive orgasm, Elsa remained unimpressed by Grove`s artistic ability. She writes: "He made - in spite of his intelligence the mistake of thinking himself` an artist.` How is that possible - I don`t know! He was just the opposite of it!" Readers intrigued by the story of Grove`s life - which, since the discovery of the highly fictionalized nature of his autobiography In Search of Myself (1946), has produced more questions than answers -will find some interesting pieces of the puzzle in Baroness Elsa (Oberon, 233 pages, $29.95 cloth), edited by Paul I. Hjartarson and Douglas 0. Spettigue. That`s not the only reason, however,
to read this lively volume of memoirs.
Elsa wrote her autobiography, in the form of letters to her friend Djuna Barnes, while she was extremely poor and isolated from the kind of life she had led as the "mother of Dada" in the New York art world. She focused on her early life in Europe, and on the relationships she had with various men. Despite the conditions under which she wrote, Elsa`s biography radiates energy, astonishing candour, and humour. In response to Grove`s accusation that she is flirtatious, Elsa replies that she has a "sexatmosphere unconsciously emanating from [her]." This "sexatmosphere" pervades her writing, too, and is stylistically reflected in the way her sentences, interspersed with dashes between phrases as well as between individual words, create an erotic playfulness, a drawing out of ideas.