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August 10, 1998

Biography garners awards and a musical score

By Barbara McKenna

Carolyn Burke's biography of Mina Loy has been well-received by critics

The most common thing Carolyn Burke used to hear about her book on Mina Loy was, "Don't you mean Myrna?"

Happily, Burke, a research associate in humanities, heard a different tune once the book was released in 1996. Burke's book, Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996; University of California, 1997) has received glowing praise in media and academic circles. And this past spring the book won a prestigious academic award and was also adapted as a musical.

Although an obscure figure now, Mina Loy was a force in the literary world of Paris in the 20s and 30s, on the literary front lines with such artists as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. Born in London in 1882, Loy was an accomplished poet and painter who, in her open expression of her sexuality and independence, became one of the early voices of feminism as well as an influential experimental poet.

Burke's book has been recognized by reviewers across the board as definitive and engaging. Praises have been printed in publications from the New York Times to the Atlantic Monthly to the Times Literary Supplement. Academic critics have also praised the book, which was chosen as a finalist for the Modern Language Association's 1997 Independent Scholars Prize.

Carolyn Burke

In an unusual turn for a scholarly book, Becoming Modern was also adapted this past spring for the stage. The work, "Mina and Colossus," is a musical written by students at the University of Michigan's School of Music. Along with text, an original libretto and compositions were created for the piece. A CD of the libretto has just been released, although it is not yet available commercially.

Becoming Modern is available at Bay Tree Bookstore, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Capitola Book Cafe, and other local bookstores.

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