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I have a large home. With lots of stuff. And though I feel obliged to regularly dispose of things — pawning them off on friends, donating them to charity shops, dropping them into the recycle bin — sometimes I just can’t resist adding a new possession. Particularly when it comes to Virginia Woolf.

I searched her name on Amazon this week and found this candle. I was tempted to buy it until I found what I considered a better one on Etsy.

Virginia Woolf Sainted Writers Secular Prayer Candle

Called the Virginia Woolf Sainted Writers Secular Prayer Candle, it comes with your choice of prayer printed on the back, a book charm fastened around the top, and an unscented soy candle that burns for up to 80 hours inside.

I immediately placed my order. It was impossible to resist our beloved Virginia dressed in a nun’s habit, holding a copy of the Penguin edition of A Room of One’s Own, and this sales pitch:

Before you write, seek passion and clarity from Saint Virginia by lighting this unscented white prayer candle.

Your choice of prayers

Currently available prayers, copied from the Etsy shop web page of Sainted Writers owner Michelle, are:

✑ prayer for essay writers
✑ prayer for readers
✑ prayer for creative writers
✑ prayer for prelims exam success
✑ prayer for dissertation writers
✑ prayer for thesis writers
✑ your choice of text (please leave a note with up to 100 words and any special instructions)

I chose the Reader’s Prayer. May it bring me illumination in these troubled times.

 

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I bought my first collection of Virginia Woolf’s short fiction in Brighton as an undergraduate on a study trip to “Bloomsbury in Sussex” (Charleston, Monks House, the river Ouse). Its cover, a detail from the painting Synthesis of the Supper Room at an Arts Club Reception by the Scottish post-impressionist Stanley Cursiter, patchworks together people and coffee cups, giving a sense of immediacy, of the fleeting moment, of lived experience. This depiction of the experience of consciousness, as Woolf put it in her essay “Modern Fiction,” the intention to “record the atoms as they fall upon the mind,” is also what draws me back to her short fiction.

Read the entire essay on the website of Open Letters Monthly: An Arts and Literature Review.

Virginia Woolf’s entreaties in A Room of One’s Own were directed to women, urging them to write. To write all kinds of books, to write whatever they wish. She said: “When I ask you to write more books I am urging you to do what will be for your good and for the good of the world at large.”

The authors of two recent essay collections are living Woolf’s legacy. Jericho Parms and Durga Chew-Bose acknowledge the footprints that precede them, and their successful debuts are a gift to today’s readers.

I was struck repeatedly in Jericho Parms’s collection, Lost Wax, by word constructions and rhythms that brought Woolf to mind, especially in her contemplations of memory and the self. It was no surprise to read in an interview: “I first fell in love with the essay and the unending possibility of the form from reading the works of Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, James Baldwin, and Virginia Woolf.” She mentions Moments of Being as a major influence, and it’s evident in reflections about her own life.

The final essay in Lost Wax is “Immortal Wound,” in which Parms ponders a dead luna moth and relates it to human mortality, to the recognition that one can expire “in a moment unobserved, as if it never came to pass.” Woolf had witnessed her moth’s death, and Parms says, “I envied Woolf her day moth zigzagging against a windowpane.”

The title of Durga Chew-Bose’s book of essays, Too Much and Not the Mood, comes from Woolf’s diary entry of April 11, 1931. Woolf is bogged down in making corrections to a number of her articles. She’s working with a faulty pen, for starters, “And not much to say, or rather too much & not the mood.”

The prose in these essays evokes Woolf’s interiority and love of language. I underlined phrase after phrase, passage after passage, as Chew-Bose, like a moth herself, lights here and there, pausing on family and friendship, on James Baldwin and Nina Simone and the young Al Pacino, on her name and her voice and her skin color.

The opening essay, “Heart Museum,” is a 90-page abstract meditation, in which she likens writing to body language, to “a woman narrowing her eyes to express incredulity,” to “an elbow propped on the edge of a table when you’re wrapping up an argument,” to “a closed pistachio shell.” In which she describes her version of happiness as “curling up inside the bends of parentheses,” and in which the odds and ends on a friend’s dressing table represent “a parish of miscellany,” “a village of items.”

The essay is alive and well, and women’s writing in all genres is more wide-ranging and abundant than even Virginia Woolf might have imagined.

Bookings are now open for Literature Cambridge summer courses in Cambridge during July 2018 — and both include Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf and Politics

Dates: July 1-6, 2018
A week’s immersion in Woolf’s political concerns, focusing on the 1920s and 1930s. A Room of One’s Own, Orlando, Three Guineas and The Years, plus some essays.

Women Writers Emily Bronte to Elizabeth Bowen

Dates: July 8-13, 2018
A week’s intensive study of five women writers, including George Eliot, Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf.

Discount for early bird bookings made before Dec. 22, and for members of recognized Virginia Woolf Societies.

Halle Mason is the winner of the Angelica Garnett Essay Prize with a paper that focuses on the Gothic, according to the fall issue of the International Virginia Woolf Newsletter.

Her essay, “A Modern Gothic: Septimus Smith Haunts the Streets of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway,” was written for Professor Emily James’s fourth-year course on The Metropolitan Mind at the University of St. Thomas.

Mason will receive $200 and her paper will be published in Issue 92 of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany.

The essay was one of a number of excellent entries for the Garnett prize, but stood out for the readers as “an original, layered, and well informed” engagement with Woolf’s 1925 novel. In particular, the essay was noted for the author’s skilled application of literary terminology and genre theory.

Drawing upon a breadth of knowledge, the author establishes the gothic nature of the “horrors of the everyday” in a postwar context.

Working from “Street Haunting,” she moves to detailed analyses of Mrs. Dalloway, creating a memorable, persuasive, and insightful argument. – IVWS Newsletter

In her essay “On Cookbooks: Collections and Recollection,” Alice Lowe travels through BloomsburyCookbook_title_26523the decades, from her first casseroles to Julia and Jacques, from Betty Crocker to Virginia Woolf.

In it, she shares her love for Woolf and her thoughts on Woolf and food.

Here’s a teaser: “My time in England launched and nurtured my interest in Virginia Woolf; my retirement has enabled my studies and published work on her life and writing. Books by and about Woolf have increased as cookbooks decline. The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art weds literature and artwork by Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell, and others of the legendary Bloomsbury circle, with anecdotes and stories, recipes and repasts both real and fictional. I haven’t allocated it to a shelf yet—is it a Woolf book or a cookbook?”

Visit Alice’s blog to read the rest.

Here’s a new take on Vita and Virginia. Vita Sackville West’s miniature book, written as an accessory for a famous doll house in 1922, is said to have been the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando.

The story, encapsulated in a volume about the size of a matchbox with just 20 words per tiny page, is titled “A Note of Explanation.” It was one of 200 volumes produced for the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, a replica of an Edwardian residence made as a gift for the consort of George V, according to The Telegraph.

Vita was among the greats

Some of the greatest authors of the day were commissioned to write works for the doll habitat, now on display at Windsor Castle. Besides Vita, they included Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The theme of Vita’s story will sound familiar to anyone who has read Woolf’s pseudo-biography. It tells the tale of an ageless figure who is present for major moments in history. However, in Vita’s version, the ageless figure is a sprite and the history the sprite lives through is fairytale history — from Cinderella’s ball to Sleeping Beauty’s kiss.

Woolf always acknowledged that Orlando had been inspired by Vita and her family, but apparently did not acknowledge that Vita had written a tiny book with a similar theme.

Get the book

A hardback cloth-bound publication of the book, sized 9.8 inches x 6.8 inches, went on sale Oct. 16 by the Royal Collection Trust, according to the BBC. It includes illustrations by Kate Baylay and an afterword by Sackville-West’s biographer, Matthew Dennison, The Guardian reported.

You can order it through the RCT shop. You can also find it on Amazon.

 

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