As Paula observed, I’m always on the lookout for references to Woolf in contemporary fiction and so honed right in on Benjamin Roesch’s story, “Bloomsbury Heads West,” from a list of 49 sightings in one of the December Woolf sightings.
Of course it wasn’t enough for me to enjoy this provocative story; I wanted to know more. I wanted to know about the author’s interest in Woolf and why he wrote this story as well as to express my admiration. I contacted Benjamin Roesch through his blog and posed my questions; he was kind enough to respond as follows:
“Thanks so much for reaching out and I’m honored that you enjoyed the story and that it was mentioned on the Virginia Woolf blog. My interest in Virginia Woolf goes back to my mother, who was a Bloomsbury fanatic for a time and become particularly intrigued not only Woolf, but especially with Dora Carrington.
Then, in college, I encountered Mrs. Dalloway, which I adored, and later read letters and journals and developed my own fascination with Virginia Woolf, who I saw as a both triumphant and tragic figure. I can also remember seeing and loving ‘The Hours,’ which broadened my sense of her. I can also credit a colleague of mine who is a Woolf fanatic.
“The idea to have a rural farm wife turn into the great Victorian just came to me one day and seemed like it might make a wild premise for a story that, if executed right, might work. Initially, I saw it as a humorous conceit–the contrast between the American farmer and the proper Victorian–but in revision the story took on a life of its own and began showing me other things it wanted to say. I had a blast working on it.”
It’s always fascinating to see what draws people to Woolf, and for me, what prompts writers to use her in their fiction, whether by a single obscure allusion or, in this case, a story that draws from her life.