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Archive for September, 2009

princeton bandI’m a bit late with this, but the New York Times published a music review of some Woolfians’ favorite band, Princeton, earlier this month.

The L.A.-based band got conference-goers rocking when it performed cuts from the album “Bloomsbury” at Woolf and the City in June.

If you missed the Times Sept. 11 review, “They’re Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” read it now.

You can also read more about the group’s “Bloomsbury” recordings here.

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booksDid Virginia Woolf like science fiction? Did science fiction influence her novels? Those questions never occurred to me until I read a Web site post titled “The Science Fiction Writer Who Received Fan Mail from Virginia Woolf.”

The piece reports on an article by Kim Stanley Robinson in New Scientist that discusses Woolf’s correspondence with the influential science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon.

In it, Robinson says Woolf did more than just read science fiction. She also allowed it to influence her writing. Robinson cites Orlando and the “Time Passes” section of To the Lighthouse as evidence for her claim.

She also cites correspondence from Woolf to Stapledon found in his papers at the University of Liverpool and not included in her Collected Letters. In her letters, Woolf praises Stapledon’s work, particularly the novel Star Maker, which he sent Woolf.

Of Star Maker, Woolf wrote: “sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction.”

Robinson says Stapledon’s 1937 novel influenced Woolf’s Between the Acts. She describes the novel as ending “with Stapledonian imagery,” and writes that its final pages are “a kind of science fiction.”

After reading Patrick A. McCarthy’s introduction to Star Maker on Google Books, I am intrigued enough to read some Stapledon on my own.

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9780712305938Last night I spoke about walking in Virginia Woolf’s footsteps when I traveled to England several years ago. The occasion was a meeting of the Medina County Branch of AAUW.

As I talked about the sights and sounds of London, Sussex, Kent and Cornwall that connect to Virginia’s life and work, several thoughts struck me.

Since AAUW is an organization that promotes equity for women in girls in both the workplace and in educational settings, I felt compelled to remark on Virginia’s lack of opportunity for formal education.

And since I spoke about meeting Cecil Woolf and Dr. Ruth Gruber at Woolf conferences — two people who had known or met Virginia — I got to thinking about how special it is to have seen and heard her in person.

Those experiences are impossible for us today. But a two-disc CD set from the British Library allows us to experience Virginia and other members of the Bloomsbury group in another way.

The Spoken Word: The Bloomsbury Group” came out this month. Producers searched  the BBC archives to present 24 recordings of the group’s major figures talking in their own words. Many of them are rare and previously unreleased.

According to the London Review Bookshop‘s Web site, “Highlights include Virginia Woolf talking about the importance of language, Leonard Woolf’s who’s who of the Bloomsburys, Duncan Grant discussing the infamous ‘Dreadnought’ hoax and Elizabeth Bowen describing legendary Bloomsbury parties.” You can get the full list here.

Woolf’s voice, along with those of other great writers of the 20th century, can also be heard on a three-disc set of CDs produced by the British Library called “The Spoken Word: British Writers.” Read more.

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Room of Her Own tote & CDEver hear of A Room of Her Own, the foundation inspired by Virginia Woolf and dedicated to providing resources for encouraging women’s writing?

Since its beginning, the foundation has spent  $603,204 on behalf of creative women. It has done this through $50,000 Gift of Freedom awards, scholarships, retreats, conferences, public readings, a book club and a customized Web-based resource center.

Deadlines for several prizes for women writers sponsored by A Room of Her Own are coming up. They include:

  • To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize
    Award: $1,000 for best, unpublished poetry manuscript by a woman, and publication by Red Hen Press.
    Page limit: 48 to 96 pages
    Fee: $20 per entry
    Postmark Deadline: Sept. 30.
    Read more.
  • Orlando Prizes
    Award: $1,000 and online publication for the best unpublished work by a woman in four genres –Sudden Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction (CLOSED) and Short Fiction (CLOSED).
    Online Application Deadline for Poetry and Sudden Fiction: Extended to midnight Oct. 3.
    Fee:
    $15 per entry (payable via Paypal)
    Read more.

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Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood’s terrifying picture of the future run amok, starts with an epigraph from To the Lighthouse: “Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air?”

Woolf appears in two seemingly inconsequential instances of name-dropping that nevertheless help establish and substantiate Jimmy/Snowman’s literary background. Recalling great human achievements, all of which were relegated to the distant past, he recites a list to help commit them to memory: “The Divine Comedy. Greek statuary. Aqueducts. Paradise Lost. Mozart’s music. Shakespeare, complete works. The Brontes. Tolstoy. The Pearl Mosque. Chartres Cathedral. Bach. Rembrandt. Verdi. Joyce. Penicillin. Keats. Turner. Heart transplants. Polio vaccine. Berlioz. Baudelaire. Bartok. Yeats. Woolf” (79).

Recalling his university days at The Martha Graham Academy, “named after some gory old dance goddess of the twentieth century” (186), he explains that there was no longer a need for film-making and video arts, as anyone could splice together or digitally alter whatever they wanted. “Jimmy himself had put together a naked Pride and Prejudice and a naked To the Lighthouse, just for laughs” (187).

Also notable is a passage that evokes the interludes that begin each section of The Waves: “The sun is above the horizon, lifting steadily as if on a pulley; flattish clouds, pink and purple on top and golden underneath, stand still in the sky around it. The waves are waving, up down up down” (147).

In an essay written not long before Oryx and Crake, Atwood describes rereading To the Lighthouse in her early sixties, appreciating it in ways that she couldn’t when she first read it at the age of 19. She remarks on the patterns, the artistry, the resonance, “the way time passes over everything like a cloud, and solid objects flicker and dissolve” (Writing with Intent, 241-242). Little wonder that it left an impression that showed up in her next and perhaps most ambitious novel.

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OBAMACOVER_thumbWhenever I read a biography of anyone, but for our purposes — Woolf — I have a little movie in my head of the events that are taking place. I don’t often, however, picture a comic book. A recent article in The Guardian says I might finally get that chance.

For the most recent installments of its “Female Force” series of graphic novel biographies, Bluewater Productions will profile an unlikely pair of female authors: Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling (in separate books, thank goodness). The bios will chronicle each author’s life and unlikely rise to fame.

Previously, “Female Force” has only profiled female political figures, including Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

Bluewater  is planning to publish biographies of two other prominent female writers for the series, and here’s where it gets interesting. Up for consideration are Tony Morrison, Ayn Rand, Margaret Atwood, Anne Rice, and Virginia Woolf.

Since the Meyer biography is narrated by a vampire, “in a very fun, respectful and unique way,” I’m curious and a little worried to see what they would do with the life of Virginia Woolf. Still, though, wouldn’t it be interesting?

Thanks to @booksin140 for Tweeting the link!

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A Paradise Built in HellAnyone who was charmed and challenged by Rebecca Solnit’s keynote speech at Woolf and the City will want to read the New York Times review of her latest book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster.

In the book, the award-winning author takes the reader through five major North American disasters, from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

There is a lot of commentary about the book available online, including this piece in The Guardian. Discussions with the cultural historian are available as well. They include:

You can also listen to Solnit reading from her new book, courtesy of Vanity Fair.

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