Jesse Blair is an editorial assistant for Killing the Angel, the new Woolf-inspired literary journal, so it’s no surprise that she inserts a dialogue about Woolf to introduce the characters in her novella, Lawrence and the Machine.
Lawrence responds to an ad for a room in a house near the New England university where he studies accounting and is taken into the living room to meet its eccentric inhabitants, self-professed intellectuals, in the midst of a discussion about Virginia Woolf:
“I don’t care what you say. The Voyage Out was Woolf’s most groundbreaking work.”
“Are you high?”
“Every Virginia Woolf scholar worth her salt knows that Mrs. Dalloway is her epic success.”
“To the Lighthouse.”
“Oh, please. How clichéd. Your literary opinions embarrass you and your sweet little library degree.”
“The scholars agree! To the Lighthouse revolutionized the modern novel. The Voyage Out was by far Woolf’s least brilliant novel.”
“According to you. Have you ever had an original thought, or do you just read the criticism of others to develop your theories?”
And so it goes, until they notice Lawrence and someone asks his opinion of Woolf’s greatest masterpiece. Lawrence: “Woolf, Woolf … I strained to recall syllabi from my one or two undergraduate literature classes, to no avail. ‘Well…’ I finally improvised. ‘They were all pretty good, weren’t they?’
The story veers off from there into some pretty bizarre territory, well beyond talk, and while Woolf doesn’t make any more appearances, I think she would have approved of the proceedings.
Summer’s coming–here’s one to take to the beach and read in a single outing (but don’t forget the sunscreen).
- “Mrs. Dalloway” At 88 (theawl.com)
- The Invisible Thread: the Anniversary of Mrs. Dallwoay (anniecardi.com)
- Happy Birthday, Mrs. Dalloway! (theparisreview.org)