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time magazine coverI was in San Francisco for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I thought about posting a year-end or new year’s message here but wasn’t sure what I might say that would be timely and relevant. But I didn’t have far to look.

My husband and I have our San Francisco rituals and routines–we frequent the same restaurants and take the same walks on every trip, adding new adventures as well. On our first night, as always, we stopped for a drink before dinner at Vesuvio’s in North Beach, the renowned Beat Generation haunt. Sipping my Bloody Mary, surrounded by the trappings of Kerouac and company, realized that I was sitting right under Virginia Woolf, immortalized here in a framed copy of the 1937 Time magazine cover.

City Lights, across the alley from Vesuvio’s, is one of my favorite San Francisco bookstores; the other is Book Passage at the Ferry Landing. There, on our second day, I finally acquired a copy of To the River, Olivia Laing’s beautiful tribute to the River Ouse and to Virginia Woolf. I started it right away and, having walked stretches of the Ouse, found myself right there with her.

An early To the Riverpassage about Woolf is evoked by observing some bees. She recalls Leonard’s bee-keeping at Monk’s House and an entry from Virginia’s diary about them, “the whole air full of vibration: of beauty, of the burning arrowy desire…” Laing sees Woolf “as attuned to nature as she is to artifice,” and the diaries “more shaggy, more luxuriant than the novels … a stronger sense of the writer at play, practising her craft.”

So now I have two sightings, enough for a respectable post, but things happen in threes, right?

Our third day took us to Bernal Heights, a neighborhood near the Mission District where I lived for two years as a child. There, at the charming Red Hill Books, I picked up a used copy of Amy Bloom’s latest story collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out. In the first story, “Your Borders, Your Rivers, Your Tiny Villages” (Bloom has a way with titles), there it was. Claire and William share popcorn and beer after their respective spouses have gone to bed (separately) and watch “Mrs. Dalloway.”

My list of Woolf sightings in fiction is now at 71, and I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities to add to it in 2013. Happy reading and best wishes for the new year to Woolfians everywhere.

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Talk about confluence. During the past nine days, the New York Public Library has announced a centennial exhibit that includes Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, the one she carried on the day she walked into the River Ouse. Leonard found it floating in the river after her death.

Virginia Woolf's walking stick at the NYPL

News of the exhibit has been widely publicized. At the same time, a new book about the River Ouse has been garnering lots of publicity. Reviews of To the River,  by Olivia Laing, are all over the Internet.

Here are the latest Woolf sightings:

  1. Kerouac’s Harmonica, Malcolm X’s Briefcase, Shelley’s Locks on View at the New WNYC
    In honor of the centennial of the library’s famous lion-studded Schwarzman Building, a free exhibit called “Celebrating 100 years” lets visitors view bizarre and rare artifacts — from a 4300-year-old Sumerian tablet to Virginia Woolf’s cane.
  2. What’s on View at the NYPL’s Centennial Exhibit (Slide Show)New Yorker (blog)
    … a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, “Cosmic Mystery” by Johannes Kepler, a manuscript of TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land” emended by Ezra Pound, and journals and diaries from Malcolm X, Vladimir Nijinsky, Annie Proulx, Virginia Woolf, and others. …
  3. The Short ListWall Street Journal
     including a 1911 letter from Houdini to the first library director, JS Billings, as the magician bestowed some books about handcuffs and his collection of “Conjurer’s Monthly”; a pair of Jack Kerouac’s glasses; Virginia Woolf’s last diary entry; 
  4. George Washington’s beer recipe will help NY library party on 100th birthdayThe Canadian Press
    A centennial exhibition opening on May 14 will feature more than 250 historical items, including Washington’s Farewell Address, Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, Malcolm X’s briefcase and Jack Kerouac’s harmonica.
  5. To The River by Olivia Laing: reviewTelegraph.co.uk
    But a more famous suicide looms over Laing’s book: that of Virginia Woolf, who ended her life in 1941, wearing a fur coat and Wellington boots as she waded into the river at Rodmell. Laing notes that it was an end apparently foreshadowed in Woolf’s …
  6. To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface by Olivia Laing – reviewThe Guardian
    History hasn’t crossed paths with the Ouse very often, and if we only know one thing about this river, it’s likely to be that it was where Virginia Woolf drowned herself – wearing Wellington boots, fastening on her hat and filling her jacket pockets 
  7. To The River is going with the flowEvening Standard
    But the story of the Ouse will forever be bound up with the writing and the death of the novelist Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in its murky waters one cold March day 60 years ago. Laing’s passages about the beauty and precision of Woolf’s prose …
  8. An Ego of One’s OwnTapped (blog)
    Last week at a panel, art critic Ben Davis spoke about rereading Virginia Woolf’s seminal essay and thinking about how we no longer need “a room of one’s own,” so much as “room in the head of one’s own.” In a culture of 24/7 news, . . .
  9. ‘Women and Work’ in music, words at cafeCanada.com
    The poem ”Virginia Woolf Arrives on the E&N” displays Carol’s sense of humour with both content and form. Tracy Myers, muscian and spoken word artist, known from not only her work with ‘Tongue and Groove’ but also for her jazz drumming will bring a 
  10. Is feminism relevant to 21st-century fiction?The Independent
    The viewpoint is not dissimilar to Virginia Woolf’s ideal of literary androgyny outlined in her 1929 essay, A Room of One’s Own. “It is fatal,” she wrote, “for anyone who writes to think of their sex.” The essay suggested that women write as women, …
  11. Stage calendar: May 13, 2011Ventura County Star
    “Goat”: The Elite Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Arthur Kraft’s drama about what might have happened if a psychologist had prevented writer Virginia Woolf from committing suicide in 1941. 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays, 
  12. Book review: ‘Between a Rock and a Hot Place’ by Tracey JacksonLos Angeles Times
    Jackson took her cues from her mother and from a Virginia Woolf quote “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” She began working on a documentary about privileged teens in the US and how we raise children, called “Lucky Ducks. 
  13. IN PRODUCTIONThe Daily Advertiser
    In “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf imagines a fictional sister of Shakespeare — Judith — who was equally talented and equally ambitious, but is lost to history because she is a woman. “William and Judith” uses Woolf’s creation as a jumping-off 
  14. Harold Bloom — a glimpse of the sublimeNew Statesman
    That particular imaginative displacement does not mark the critical work of Dryden and Coleridge, Hazlitt and Ruskin, yet enters again with Pater and his Aesthetic school: Wilde and Yeats, Virginia Woolf and Wallace Stevens. What can be the function of 
  15. Biography / The founding fatherHa’aretz
    The same year, Keter published the translated biographies of Marguerite Duras,Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as Israeli historian Tom Segev’s “Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends,” which was first published in English, 
  16. A grizzled scribe chases his last storyKansas City Star
    Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway” with the important personage in the back of a limousine driving through London while Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith walk the city’s streets on a collision course as the hour of Clarissa’s dinner party ...
  17. The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam: reviewTelegraph.co.uk
    This is the last line of a particularly exquisite paragraph, in which Anam writes like a mixture of George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. There is no purely “good” person here, least of all Maya, though there are innocent victims, including Piya, ..
  18. Suffolk: Meet acclaimed new author Katie Ward, a girl who loves Ipswich, The East Anglian Daily Times
    By the time she came to write Girl Reading, she was clear about the types of books she liked – the work of writers such as Sarah Waters, Salley Vickers and Virginia Woolf, and books about psychology and art. “Basically, beautiful, strong and tight work 
  19. CAREFUL, CAMILLA, HIS CROWN JEWELS ARE ON DISPLAYExpress.co.uk
    For over half a century Charleston House was the country getaway for the influential Bloomsbury Group – a band of artists, writers and philosophers made internationally famous by English author Virginia Woolf. The house is now open to the public as an 
  20. The Tension Of A War To Come, As Seen From ‘Exile’NPR
    She returns again and again to the activities and ruminations of Virginia Woolf. In 1940, Woolf writes in her diary: “Leonard says he has petrol in the garage for suicide should Hitler win.” Juers continues: “Virginia made some buns for tea. 
  21. Walking with GhostsBOOK Southern Africa (blog)
    Most notable amongst the writer-walkers, apart from Virginia Woolf, were the three German-language writers: Robert Walser – Swiss, and contemporary of Franz Kafka; Walter Benjamin; and WG Sebald. Apart from their walking habits, and their melancholy, 
  22. VIDEO: SNL Honors Tina Fey, Women Writers, in Unaired SkitBleeding Edge TV
    Jane Austin, Virginia Woolf and others are mentioned — and subsequently ridiculed by Bill Hader. Watch the skit, which wasn’t included in the live show, in the video above. Check out the Gear Live Touls that let you integrate Gear Live into your site. … Read Virginia Woolf on SNL? Not!
  23. The End Or The Beginnings Of A NovelistSwans
    Rather, the author of The End is a tardy modernist in the mold of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, or TS Eliot. He’s never playful and always deadly serious about his people and what they do. He constructs his story mosaic fashion and prefers collage to 
  24. Much loved professor retiresPUC Chronicle
    Selig is currently working on a book about Virginia Woolf he has wanted to create for several years. This novel, Selig said, would fall within the realm of both fiction and nonfiction. This can be done by coming up with the details other individuals 
  25. House of Exile: The Lives and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Mann The Star-Ledger - NJ.com
    The story of this unhappy exile — Nelly finally committed suicide in California in 1944, a few years before Heinrich died of a stroke there — is told in this tapestry of a book stylistically indebted to Virginia Woolf. The fates of such German 
  26. Private Voices in a Public Place: Diaries at the Morgan Library, WNYC
    mused diarist extraordinaire Virginia Woolf. The answer, in all these cases, is “us.” Sophia Hawthorne on love and marriage: “My heart is full, it rises to so high a mark, it overflows so bountifully, that were there not another heart to receive my …
  27. Story of artist’s descent into madness told in song for one-woman showWalesOnline
    A ONE-WOMAN show inspired by the lives and works of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and American poet Anne Sexton will be staged in Wales next week. The Big Smoke is performed by Canadian actor Amy Nostbakken and directed by 
  28. Powerful Canadian book offers insight into fathers, ourselvesVancouver Sun (blog)
    Gerard has been diligent in tracking down some of the world’s best English-language poems, essays and short stories about fathers, including about the fathers of Franz Kafka, Winston Churchill, ee cummings, Dylan Thomas and Virginia Woolf. …
  29. Outdoor structures are new backyard focal pointsSacramento Bee
    “I had been craving my own space for a few years after my son was born and when I turned 40, there was a loud, nonstop Virginia Woolf voice in my head, telling me I needed a room of my own!” said Spiegelman, who was constantly distracted while working 
  30. For the love of books – some of our top shopsNew Zealand Herald
    The final chapter on independent bookstores has probably been debated as long as the demise of the printed book, which Virginia Woolf talked about way back in 1927, long before ebooks were even invented. ..
  31. Making ends meet…. or reaching the end of the road?Stage (blog)
    As Lyn Gardner tweeted in reply to me when I mentioned this, “Must have got dispatch rider job pretty sharp cos only finished in Virginia Woolf at Northern Stage on Sat”. But while this may have been a case of an actor self-dramatising their plight to …
  32. Beloved Atlantic Book Shop Forced Out Of Business, Can Markowitz Save It?Gothamist
    The store has launched a “beginning of the end” sale, with everything on their already low-priced shelves (one Yelper reports snagging a rare collection of essays by Roland Barthes and Virginia Woolf for $2) going for 30% off. 
  33. Rooms of their own: Woman cavesNewsday (subscription)
    Writers, according to Virginia Woolf, need a room of their own. She believed they require privacy and big chunks of uninterrupted time to unleash their creativity. Men have known this for years. Peek into the basement, den or garage of …
  34. No Fear: Bring ‘em onGreensboro News & Record (blog)
    He looked up idly, noticed the mural of great authors that included Henry James,Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and so on as well as the display of “Oprah’s Selection” near the entrance. He asked himself, how did this happen? The answer he came up with is 
  35. Montaigne, a man for all seasonsLe Monde Diplomatique
    As a result, writers and thinkers, ranging from Flaubert to Stefan Zweig, Voltaire to Virginia Woolf, embraced Montaigne as their contemporary. The great merit of Bakewell’s book is to remind us, with the same confident and wry touch of her subject, …
  36. Gender and Unity of the Self in Virgina Woolf’sStudent Pulse
    The confluence of biography and fiction in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando raises the question, of which the book is highly aware, of which genre facilitates the proper perception of the truth. As Woolf writes, “Life, it has been agreed 
  37. The political brainTweed Shire Echo Community News
    It’s quite a challenge, considering a few years back Pell claimed condoms made AIDS worse because it encouraged promiscuity, and then went on to have a stab at Virginia Woolf as an instigator of sexual and moral waywardness. …
  38. Can pub trivia be hazardous to your health?Las Vegas Weekly
    The following week, when our team was renamed Virginia Woolf Is for Lovers, the people spoke, and never stopped. Mike’s constant apologies to the sports fans as he asked questions about “Thackeraaay” and the crowd’s booing and responses of “Who cares? 
  39. Top physical theatre companies announce Liverpool performance datesClick Liverpool
    Multi Award Winning Lecoq trained ensemble Theatre Ad Infinitum will present their piece called ‘The Big Smoke’, a poetic piece of physical theatre inspired by the lives and works of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plathand Anne Sexton. …
  40. Sarah Ruhl’s ‘Stage Kiss’ explores the fine art (and craft) of smoochingChicago Sun-Times
    After all, this is the Chicago-bred playwright and MacArthur “genius” fellowship winner who created the stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” (recently directed by Thebus in a winning Court Theatre production), as well as “The Clean House” and ..
  41. Albania the Beautiful: Francine Prose’s My New American LifeThe Millions
    In Reading Like a Writer, Prose extols the virtues of elegant sentences, citing Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Phillip Roth as some of the masters of the craft. In My New American Life, Prose is on top of her game in this respect, the fluidity …




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Nine days worth of Woolf sightings here. Some are difficult to understand, like Kirstie Alley’s claim that she will do a TV series that is “sort of Virginia Woolf.” Others are the usual — references to Woolf’s writing, Woolf reading, Woolf’s mental state, and Woolf-inspired plays and music. Oh, and a new book on the River Ouse.

  1. Virginia Woolf’s Words, a Singer’s VoiceNew York Times
    This astringent line, about Thomas Hardy’s funeral, is from the diary of Virginia Woolf, and also from Dominick Argento’s classic 1974 song cycle, “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf.” Jennifer Johnson Cano The mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Christopher 
  2. Hay Festival has its own bloggerTelegraph.co.uk
    Read Virginia Woolf’s story ‘A Mark On The Wall’ for proof. Reader, I got a job. A dream of a job! The offer came from Literature Wales, formerly known as Academi, a beautiful institution run by wizards who love books and don’t seem to mind …
  3. Behind the Beat: Horse StoriesValley Advocate
    These days she draws motivation from the likes of Catherine Ribeiro, Kim Gordon, Ally Harris, Virginia Woolf and “teenagers.” Kahn has been known to throw anything and everything into her work—even kitchen appliances—to complement Horsebladder’s core 
  4. Save Ferris: Pop-Culture Origins Of 16 Famous Band NamesHouston Press (blog)
    … on a speech-therapy exercise he was forced to repeat as a child, Brock actually chose the name “Modest Mouse” via a passage from Virginia Woolf’s “The Mark on the Wall,” rearranging words from the line “the minds of modest, mouse-colored people. 
  5. Dear Book Lover: Critically Acclaimed but Almost ForgottenWall Street Journal
    Virginia Woolf called their work “a mixture of geniality and sentiment stuck together with a sticky slime of calf’s-foot jelly.” I don’t know about the calf’s-foot jelly, but I don’t mind the occasional geniality and sentiment. 
  6. Festival of Books: Susan Straight and novelists examine the cultural fallout …Los Angeles Times
    At one point Reynolds referred to Prose as “fierce,” a “combination of Frida Kahlo and Virginia Woolf”, but that descriptor could easily be applied to all the panelists. Yet, beyond the politics, the authors also illuminate nuanced corners of American 
  7. Artists profileCalgary Herald
    With a nod to Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, Toronto-based artist Virginia Mak offers a series of photographs that comment on the conditions required to engage in the creative process. 
  8. Edna O’Brien’s Haunted at Sydney Opera HouseStreetCorner
    Her plays include A Pagan Place (Royal Court, London), Virginia (on the life and writings of Virginia Woolf at Haymarket, London), Iphigenia (Crucible, Sheffield), Our Father (Almeida, London), Family Butchers (Magic Theatre, San Francisco) and 
  9. Dramatic Paws: JR AckerleyThe Independent
    He persuaded many of the leading writers of the time to become regular contributors: Forster, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell, Wyndham Lewis, Kenneth Clark, Maynard Keynes, Geoffrey Grigson, Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice, 
  10. crazy life of Gérard DepardieuThe Independent
    But I also learnt a lot from female writers, like Virginia Woolf and Anaïs Nin. I prefer them to, say, Hemingway, and I would always prefer them. Although I very much like F Scott Fitzgerald, I would prefer Colette, for example. 
  11. Cheeshahteaumauk, Class of ’65 (1665)Wall Street Journal
    Her situation recalls that of the hypothetical sister that Virginia Woolf imagined for William Shakespeare in “A Room of One’s Own,” a brilliant woman denied education or self-expression. “Tend to your huswifery,” Bethia’s father tells her, 
  12. How Writers Build the BrandNew York Times
    The frumpy Virginia Woolf even went on a “Pretty Woman”-style shopping expedition at French couture houses in London with the magazine’s fashion editor in 1925. But the tradition of self-promotion predates the camera by millenniums. In 440 BC or so, 
  13. Kirstie Alley scores top marks for confidence as she pours her curves into Daily Mail
    It’s sort of Virginia Woolf.’ Alley is also said to be in talks about another HBO series to, which is rumoured to be a currently unnamed cable series being written for her. The actress also took the time to use her Twitter to try and drum up aid for 
  14. Dancing for Hope': Cancer survivor turns body into tool of expressionCentre Daily Times
    The dance draws images from the writings of Kate Chopin, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf
    , Halpin said, and delves into identity and “how we so often kind of submerge our true self to meet societal demands.” Halpin also will perform a solo created on . . . 
  15. No: Ted R Bromund: Are we voting for a better democracy or simply ignoring the , Yorkshire Post (press release)
    The enthusiasts were gently rebuked by Sir Leslie Stephen – father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell – who pointed out that they were mistaking the waterwheel for the water. The campaigners thought it was the political system – the waterwheel – that …
  16. Magical Messi leaves Mourinho’s Real reelingAmerican Chronicle
    Thus wrote one of the great British writers of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf in her highly acclaimed ‘Mrs Dalloway’, but the same could well have been applied to football and the Champions League semifinal 
  17. The Big Smoke comes to AberystwythNews Wales
    The one woman play is inspired by the lives and works of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and American poet Anne Sexton, The show is performed by Canadian actor Amy Nostbakken and directed by Nir Paldi. An original and unforgettable piece of theatre, …
  18. Classical Music/Opera Listings for April 29-May 5New York Times
    That organization is now bringing her to Merkin Hall with a terrifically varied program, including a Porpora aria, Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer,” Ravel’s “Cinq Melodies Populaires Greques,” and Dominick Argento’s “From the Diary of 
    Virginia Woolf. …
  19. Rae Meadows’ ‘Mothers and Daughters’ a tender and perceptive taleMadison.com
    It’s no coincidence that Iris is reading 
    Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” as she prepares for her own death. Iris is in many ways a typical woman of her generation — divorced after raising two children in a passionless marriage. …
  20. Ruhl’s ‘Orlando’ premieres at MuhlenbergAllentown Morning Call
    James Peck, a professor of theater at Muhlenberg College, admires the work of 
    Virginia Woolf so much that he regularly re-reads her books. “Woolf’s writing is one of the most sensuous and beautifully … Read Sara Ruhl’s Orlando playing in Allentown
  21. Kirstie Alley, have you called HBO yet?SheKnows.com
    We’re not quite sure what the adjective “
    Virginia Woolf” connotes, but we’re thinking something along the lines of “lesbians” and “high tea.” Juuust kidding — sort of. Woolf was a famous British writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries whom …
  22. To The River by Olivia LaingThe Skinny
    Skimming and deep-diving alternately into lives evermore bound by varying degrees to rivers, it also looks at the life of 
    Virginia Woolf through her relationship with the river. With Woolf at the centre, Laing nurtures a theme of mental illness with …
  23. Rabbit HoleCinema Blend
    When we think of a movie about closed-in people, instinct often goes to a 
    Virginia Woolf-like figure — a lonely person languorous in a walled room. John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole is about closed-in people, but he chooses to begin his film in the 
  24. Education calendarGoErie.com
    Corrine Egan will lead discussions on selections by Plato, James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot,Jane Austen and others. The cost is $50 plus materials. Visit www.JESerie.org. – America’s most underrated president: James K. Polk, 
  25. Creating the perfect space to fill with nothing, Irish Times
    Roy Foster quotes Virginia Woolf describing Bowen’s Court as “merely a great stone box,” which happens to be a remarkably apt description of the houses that we find in English’s paintings. They are often monolithic edifices standing incongruously in …
  26. Walking with SocratesCanada.com
    Those Toronto-based classes have grown; this summer, from July 17 to 22, Classical Pursuits will offer 11 sessions, accommodating 125 to 130 people, and covering everything from Chekhov and Virginia Woolf to “Vienna: World Capital of Classical Music. 
  27. Better Than Renting Out A Windowless Room: The Blessed Distraction Of TechnologyPublishers Weekly (blog)
    I think Nietzsche would have endured non-BCC’d e-mail dispatches in exchange for pills to de-spongify his syphilitic brain, and we can all agree 
    Virginia Woolf could’ve used a scrip for serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I digress. ...


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River OuseIt was 69 years ago today, March 28, 1941, that Virginia Woolf left behind Leonard, Monk’s House, and two suicide notes and walked across the Sussex Downs.

With stones weighing down her coat pockets, she waded into the River Ouse and drowned.

In memoriam, we repeat the last line of the memorial poem Vita Sackville-West wrote in tribute to Woolf, which was published in The Observer in April of 1941. It contains more truth than Sackville-West could have imagined.

“She now has gone/Into the  prouder world of immortality,” Sackville-West wrote.

For a touching video that pays homage to what Woolf accomplished during her life — and what she could have Afterwordsaccomplished if she had lived on — watch “The Adventures of Virginia Woolf” on You Tube.

For an earlier memoriam to Woolf, click here. You can also read the Associated Press “Today in History,” which mentions Woolf.

Or read more about the response of her contemporaries to her untimely death in the 2005 book, Afterwords: Letters on the Death of Virginia Woolf, edited by Sybil Oldfield, and in the post below, ” Bloomsbury archives newly open to public.”

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted on March 28, 2008. I have included new information and am reposting it today in Woolf’s honor.

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I went alone to the world premier of “Unpublished Dialogues.” Perhaps that was most fitting.

Virginia Woolf was, after all, alone when she died. And “Unpublished Dialogues” was based on the last day of her life.

The theater-dance piece premiered last month in a dark and cavernous old ice house that seemed a fitting space for conducting an artistic exploration of Woolf’s mind on the day of her death.

The building sits on a tipsy street that ends at railroad tracks. Inside, just as the name implies, the structure is as cool as a refrigerated case, even on a warm sunny afternoon in early fall.

The rough brick and concrete walls of the main space stretch up and up. On that day, they ended in rows of multi-colored lights strung above a stage set to resemble Woolf’s writing Lodge at Monk’s House in Sussex.

I sat in the front row, just inches from the low stage, ready to absorb the wordless drama about a woman who chose her words so well.

The stage was simply set, but each item was placed with special meaning. The wooden coat rack at stage left held the dark coat that Virginia would wear on her last walk. The small table at stage right held a framed photo of a couple that I imagined as Leonard and Virginia on their wedding day.

In the center was her famous writing table. I imagined that the notebook sitting there contained her draft of Between the Acts. When I noticed a walking stick leaning nearby, I wondered if Woolf had actually used one when she left for the River Ouse.

The performance itself froze me in my seat. I was mesmerized by its darkness and drama and lightness and euphoria all at once.

Two Virginias — the adult and her younger self — teased each other lightly and played cat and mouse with a pen. Two half-brothers struggled with the terrified young Virginia, who was consoled by her adult self.

Her lover Vita Sackville-West let down her long, flowing hair and romanced Virginia. Her nephew Julian Bell played at being a soldier then marched off to war as a real one. And Leonard Woolf was either there in the background or by her side, the steady companion.

When Virginia’s companions left her, and she pulled her coat off the rack and slipped it on,  I felt new empathy for this brilliant woman who felt forced to take that final walk. I did not want her to go alone. (more…)

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