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Archive for June 23rd, 2008

As lovers of Virginia Woolf’s words and works, we often have a favorite novel that we read and reread. Some of us have several. But a Woolf novel that we loathe? Unimaginable. At least for me.

In the June 22 issue of The Sunday Times, however, critics and writers have named their most-loathed novels. And two of them are Woolf’s.

Here are their conflicting comments about Woolf’s work in the article “Critics Choose Their Most-Loathed Books“:

  • From Stephen Amidon, novelist, fiction reviewer, and former journalist:
    The Waves by Virginia Woolf is everything a novel should not be – and so much less. After the triumphs of Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, and the fascinating experimentation of Orlando, Woolf decided to change tack with this “playpoem” and wound up sinking into a putrid morass of unreadability. Beloved of American academics – which ought to tell you something right there – the book fairly accurately simulates the experience of sitting next to a pretentious old windbag on a flight to Australia. “

 

  • From John Carey, The Sunday Times chief books critic:
    “My redmist book is Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the acme of Bloomsburyish poppycock, a self-flattering appropriation of English literature and history, distilled from Woolf’s temporarily addled brain by the heat of her infatuation for the aristocratic Vita Sackville-West. Should be sold with a sick bag attached.

These writers would benefit from reading another article just posted to the VW Listserv, “Reviews Resonate as PR, Summary Can’t.” Written by Todd Shy, it was published in the June 22 News Observer

In it, Shy cites Woolf’s essay, “Hours in a Library,” as a model for book review writing. In her 1916 essay, Woolf describes the difficult process of writing a good review, one that sees the book, as well as what the book is seeing.

Lists such as the one printed in the June 22 Sunday Times aren’t designed to do either. Instead they seem to be the literary version of the Jerry Springer show.

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