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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’

A Facebook friend of mine is very good at spotting Virginia Woolf online. And when she does, she posts the links to my wall. Here are a couple of amusing Woolf sightings she posted just this week:

As a bonus, my friend Lisa also posted this quote a few weeks ago:

Woolf quote

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Vita BiographyA new biography on Vita Sackville-West, Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville West, by Matthew Dennison is now available in hardback, paperback and as an audiobook.

Vita was a celebrated poet, author and gardener whose love affair with Virginia Woolf is highlighted in Dennison’s biography.

This is the first biography of Vita that has been published in 30 years, and this new piece explores the “triumph and contradictions of Vita’s extraordinary life.”

From HarperCollins Publishers:

Dennison’s “narrative charts a fascinating course from Vita’s lonely childhood at Knole, through her affectionate but ‘open’ marriage to Harold Nicolson (during which both husband and wife energetically pursued homosexual affairs, Vita most famously with Virginia Woolf), and through Vita’s literary successes and disappointments, to the famous gardens the couple created at Sissinghurst.”

Early reviews of this biography are mixed:

Vita and Virginia, 1932

While a review by Gerard Henderson for Express praises Dennison’s treatment of Vita, “Dennison, whose previous work was a biography of another remarkable woman, Queen Victoria, shows true affection and admiration for his latest subject,” Rachel Cooke’s review, featured on The Guardian, challenges this new biography and calls it “deficient.”

Cooke writes: “the information contained in his book is so obviously inadequate, so frequently incomplete. I need give only one example to make the point. What kind of biography of Vita Sackville-West, I wonder, refers to the suicide of Virginia Woolf in a single sentence? The only possible answer is a wholly deficient one. This friendship was one of the most significant of her life.”

The author of this new biography, Matthew Dennison, is the author of several biographies, including one on Queen Victoria.

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Killing the Angel

Inaugural issue of Killing the Angel

My hat goes off to Jessica Rosevear, editor and publisher of the literary journal Killing the Angel, on the release of the third annual issue. Jessica started KTA two years ago during what continues to be a tough time for print lit journals—many are folding while others are going online, so Jessica not only bucked the tide but is continuing to swim upstream.

The content of the journal is a mix of fiction, personal essays and poems, not about Virginia Woolf but in her spirit. KTA states its goal as: “to celebrate writing that evokes response, be it joy, contemplation, sadness, inspiration, or otherwise.” Each issue explains the term “killing the angel” and offers its homage to Woolf.

The journal is available in just two physical locations, Womrath’s, a Tenafly New Jersey bookstore, and Shakespeare and Company in Paris—should you happen to be near either—or it can be ordered online.

And I guess this is where I add a disclaimer: my own essay about family and food, “Catch of the Day,” is included in this issue.

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What would Woolf drink?

If Virginia Woolf stood in front of the counter at Manhattan’s 114th Street Starbuck’s, what would she order?Woolf mug

A recent post on the Spectrum blog of the Columbia Daily Spectator speculates that her drink of choice would be a green tea cream frappuccino.

The post is said to be inspired by the new Tumblr titled Literary Starbucks, which does not include a Woolf sighting.

However, Woolf does show up in a humorous rant on the torturous process of writing a final paper published by the Spectator last spring.

Woolf herself mentions coffee in The Waves. Here’s the quote:

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.

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The cover article of this week’s (Oct. 5) New York Times Book Review is a glowing assessment, a “run, don’t walk”jThe Assassination of Margaret Thatcher rave of Hilary Mantel’s new story collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Speaking of Mantel’s deserved reputation in English literature, the reviewer, Terry Castle, declaims that:

“Mantel has assumed an esteemed place in what might be called a great tradition of modern British female storytelling, an ardor-filled, bluestocking lineage extending from Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield in the early part of the 20th century through Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Taylor, Iris Murdoch, Edna O’Brien, Barbara Pym, Penelope Fitzgerald, Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Doris Lessing, Beryl Bainbridge and many others in subsequent decades, all the way to such gifted living practitioners (again, to name only a few) as A.S. Byatt, Ruth Rendell, Maureen Duffy, Ali Smith, Jane Gardam, Emma Donoghue, Jeanette Winterson and Zadie Smith.”

I cite the entire list because it strikes me that what Castle is presenting here, in her homage to Hilary Mantel, is a sampling of Virginia Woolf’s vast legacy. These women and many more have fulfilled Woolf’s wishes for women and literature when, in A Room of One’s Own, she admonished them (us, that is) “to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast.”

Mantel’s fantastic title story is reproduced in its entirety in the Sept. 28 Review. I love its keenly observed descriptions and quirky but believable characters; I suspect that Virginia Woolf would have enjoyed it too.

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Garsington albumCan’t make it to the last week of the exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision at the National Portrait Gallery? You can see some of it online.

Society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell’s photograph albums provide a record of guests at her homes  in London and Garsington, Oxfordshire and are featured in the exhibition. You can explore her Garsington album online, which includes images of Woolf and her circle.

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A new two-part documentary series, Secrets from the Asylum, investigates how mental health was treated in Victorian Britain.

This show highlights the practices of “Lunatic Asylums” as they were called and connects British celebrities to their ancestors who were treated in these asylums.

In episode one, English comedian Al Murray encounters the history of his great-great-great grandfather, novelist William Thackeray, who tried to help his wife, Isabella, with her post-partum depression by having her admitted to an asylum at the age of 23.

LauraStephenEarlswoodAsylum

Woolf’s half-sister Laura Stephen

In episode two we learn about the history of Thackeray’s granddaughter, Virginia Woolf’s half-sister, Laura Stephen, who suffered from a learning disability and didn’t “fit in.”

An article by the producers of the show, Scottish Television, states:

Laura “was branded an imbecile and a potential embarrassment to her intellectual father, writer Leslie Stephen, and at the age of 22 was admitted to the Royal Earlswood Asylum.”

In the article Murray said: “What’s shocking about this is that Laura Stephen’s father Leslie was a member of the chattering classes. He couldn’t have been a more intelligent, plugged in, literary, engaged man with modern ideas.

The modern idea in the late 1800s was society was not to be undermined by people who were ‘feeble-minded’, so these people, for their own good and the good of society, were removed. It was the Victorian worry about the purity of the gene pool.”

You can watch the full episodes: Episode 1 & Episode 2

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