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Archive for February, 2012

Does Edith of Downton Abbey fame dress like Virginia Woolf? Did Vanessa Bell really purchase a Picasso for £4? Is Woolf on stage in Massachusetts and in Canada? Scan the past week’s Woolf sightings below to find out.

  1. Reflections on collections at the library, The Star Democrat
    And wasn’t he always quoting Virginia Woolf at us? So where is Mrs. Dalloway, and where, pray tell, To the Lighthouse? So, like a ghost whispering from the wings, I send out this lonely message to all those that come after me (cue the sound of dragging
  2. World War I Belongs to Literature Now, Big Think
    Virginia Woolf suggested that “human character” itself changed in the turbulent years preceding it; Philip Larkin wrote famously that it snuffed the “innocence” of the Edwardian era “without a word”; Paul Fussell, in The Great War and Modern Memory,
  3. How Picasso helped British art turn modern, The Guardian
    In 1911 Vanessa Bell wrote to her sister Virginia Stephen (later Woolf): “We’re in a huge state of excitement having just bought a Picasso for £4.” The picture, Jars and Lemon (1907), deeply impressed artists Duncan Grant and Wyndham Lewis when they
  4. The Arts of Russian and Soviet Modernists, Morning Star Online
    Founded in 1924 by eminent intellectuals, including EM Forster, Julian Huxley, Maynard Keynes and Virginia Woolf, the society stalwartly maintained continuous cultural exchanges with the USSR until its breakup in 1991, so accumulating an extensive
  5. Group rep Salutes If We Are Women, Broadway World
    Author Virginia Woolf, along with Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov and other famous writers are alluded to various times within the script. Women are women, so there are a great many ideas tossed about, in vivid Woolf style, about sexually aggressive
  6. Poet of the Week: Jane Hirshfield, Santa Barbara Independent
    But it doesn’t take long to hear her grounding in the world between Beowulf and Virginia Woolf, either. “I think the English sonnet, as written by Shakespeare, Milton, and Donne, is every bit as compressed and lyrical as a haiku in offering us a
  7. Jack Dorsey, founder of Square and inventor of Twitter, Fast Company
    We’re now chatting about Mrs. Dalloway, the classic by Virginia Woolf, a book so groundbreaking that it reset the development of the American novel. As Dorsey grew in his role as CEO, he decided to hone his storytelling skills, to fine-tune the
  8. Writers’ Valentines to Their Mentors, Huffington Post (blog)
    As the pile grew larger and richer (to name aa handful: Michael Cunningham on Virginia Woolf, Joyce Carol Oates on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lily Tuck on Gordon Lish, Dinaw Mengestu on running an after-school program in Harlem, Carolyn See on
  9. Review: ‘William and Judith’ makes for stunning theater, Tulsa World
    Shakespeare had no sister; however, the novelist Virginia Woolf, in her essay “A Room of One’s Own,” about the unique challenges and obstacles women writers must overcome to pursue their art, imagined one for him, calling her Judith,
  10. Victorian literature scholar Donegan to speak on “Women’s Survival Narratives”, Buffalo News (blog)
    Using Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” as an inflection point, Donegan reconfigures “the creation of domestic space in terms of negotiating safety, planning escape, and making room to write.” She concludes that “nineteenth-century British women
  11. Two Good Books: Elizabeth Hand’s Available Dark and Edward St. Aubyn’s At Last, TIME
    St. Aubyn is often compared to Evelyn Waugh, for obvious reasons, but the writers I kept thinking of were Virginia Woolf and, oddly enough, the graphic novelist Alison Bechdel: like them, St. Aubyn is utterly fearless when faced with the task of
  12. Bloomsbury Bistro’s Cari Jo Cavalcante keeps besting the competition, Pitch Weekly
    It clicked because of the whole tie-in with Virginia Woolf. Everything else just fell into place,” Cavalcante says. There are still a few items left from the original menu: the chicken-ham roulade sandwich (chicken breast rolled in ham and topped with
  13. Searching for Shahrzad, Iranian
    Perhaps Virginia Woolf could provide a lesson here. Her interest in biographical writing stems from her work on “the lives of the obscure,” which oft en translates to the lives of women and her reflection on the balance that should exist between fact
  14. ‘Ordinary Mind, Ordinary Day’ adapts Virginia Woolf for stage, Brandeis University
    The Brandeis Theater Company takes on dark subject matter as its four-day run of “Ordinary Mind, Ordinary Day,” a stage adaptation of four of Virginia Woolf’s short stories, begins Thursday night. Written by theater professor Adrianne Krstansky and
  15. Capital, By John Lanchester, The Independent
    Virginia Woolf did not much approve of the intrusion of estate agency into fiction. “House property,” she sniffily wrote in the talk that became her 1924 essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown”, “was the common ground from which the Edwardians found it easy
  16. The Bloomsbury Group, The Saint
    The Bloomsbury Group was named after Virginia Woolf’s collaborartion of writers, and intellectuals.(Photo special to The Saint) The Bloomsbury group, one of NGCSU’s newest student clubs, is based on sharing and discussing not only literature,
  17. PIMCO’S Gross Ponders Life, Death and Recent Fed Action, AdvisorOne
    By John Sullivan, AdvisorOne In a highly personal and at times emotional February Investment Outlook, PIMCO Chief Bill Gross examines life, death, personal loss and Virginia Woolf. Peppered with a significant number of literary and cultural references
  18. BOOKS PLUS: Exercise freedom to read at Tri-City libraries, The Tri-City News
    Book club members are currently reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. This novel follows the title character on a June day as she makes last-minute arrangements for a party at her home that evening. The novel is written as a full transcript of what
  19. From Thomas Gainsborough to Tracey Emin: The Family in British Art at , Culture24
    By Ben Miller | 16 February 2012 From Vanessa Bell’s portrayal of a dozing Virginia Woolf and Sarah Jones’s stuffy dining rooms to boisterous garden scenes from Stanley Spencer and fake photos of the royal family stage-managed by Alison Jackson,
  20. Happiness is a shed of one’s own, Telegraph.co.uk
    Writers from Roald Dahl to Charles Dickens have flourished in theirs and I’m sure that Virginia Woolf’s exaltation for all women writers to own a room of their own would have extended to a shed. My son Jacques, a carpenter, naturally built his own.
  21. Testing From Information Evolution-Text, NewsReleaseWire.com (press release)
    Exhibits included papers belonging to Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and one of three Gutenberg bibles owned by the Morgan. There was also a little room full of cylinder seals. According to the descriptive … Read more.
  22. The Morgan Library Explores A History Of Animals In Art, Literature And Music , Huffington Post
    It features work by John James Audubon, William Blake, Albrecht Durer, TS Eliot, David Hockney, Ted Hughes, George Orwell, Sergei Prokofiev, Peter Paul Rubens, EB White, and Virginia Woolf, among many others. It will show at The Morgan Library from
  23. REVIEW: The Year Of Magical Wanking | Richard Wherrett Studio, Sydney, Crikey (blog)
    It even has a homegrown association, insofar as Watkins obsession with The Hours, Nicole and Virginia Woolf. From the most humble environs of his grandpa’s council flat, Watkins emerges to inhabit a stately theatrical mansion, with many mysterious
  24. Who’s annoyed with ‘Ordinary’ Virginia Woolf?, The Brandeis Hoot
    To be fair, I have read about two pages of Virginia Woolf’s work, specifically two pages of “Mrs. Dalloway.” From those two pages, I gathered that party planning was a big deal way back when. This was the only knowledge I had about
  25. What is my daily writing routine? I make a great big cappuccino and smoke a , Financial Times
    Later Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse sensitised me to the world in a rather thrilling way. When did you know you were going to be a writer? Both my parents were writers – I resisted it until my early twenties but I couldn’t in the end.
  26. Can’t get enough of books in India, Christian Science Monitor
    Though she plans to work in information technology, she says it is the writings of English author Virginia Woolf and works like “Into the Wild,” by Jon Krakauer, that captivate her. Though right now in India books sell mostly by word of mouth,
  27. Wild heart of Wessex, WA today
    Life at Max Gate, however, was far from colourless; visitors included Robert Louis Stevenson, George Bernard Shaw, TE Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. It was here that Hardy penned his great novels – The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886),
  28. Car show at QuikTrip Center, Tulsa Vintage Show at Expo Square, Tulsa World
    “William and Judith” is a what-if story by playwright Cody Daigle that uses Virginia Woolf’s hypothetical theory – in her essay “A Room of One’s Own” – that Shakespeare had an equally creative sister named Judith. Daigle explores issues of betrayal and
  29. Make lit new: Are retold tales a new fad or the latest incarnation of a rich , National Post
    Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf 6. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens 7. The Odyssey, by Homer 8. King Lear, by William Shakespeare 9. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen 10. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott 11. The Ambassadors, by Henry James
  30. ‘Oranges’ gets new twin, London Free Press
    And she was, she added, the only real heir to the talent of Virginia Woolf. Be that as it may, Winterson’s output, although impressive, may not have kept pace with her own notions of literary success and subsequent fiction, with perhaps the exception
  31. Death anniv of Kunt Hamsun, Iran Book News Agency
    His techniques were found in material by James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Following the Second Boer War, he adopted increasingly conservative views. He also came to be known as a prominent advocate of Germany and German culture,
  32. A room of her own: Repurposed spaces become creative havens for the woman of , Detroit Free Press
    More than 80 years ago, writer Virginia Woolf penned the essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” about how women, especially those who want to practice a form of creativity, need a place to do it. In 2012, given the explosion of the handmade and creative arts
  33. This afternoon at BAM, City Opera and Rufus Wainwright need a hit; will they , Capital New York
    It’s like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway with a wealthy woman trying to exercise the demons of the past. These fears have haunted her all night long and the Régine wakes up early to wonder as to what happened six years before when she sang in public in
  34. Stepchildren of liberalisation, India Today
    She studies at a thirdrate government college, struggling with Virginia Woolf and William Congreve, and tries very hard to acquire “competence in English”, her passport to a better life. Boo’s own journey from being the foreigner, who’s conspicuously
  35. Terminally talented, Times LIVE
    When she couldn’t bear the sadness that consumed her, English writer Virginia Woolf, before putting stones in the pockets of her jacket and drowning herself, wrote: “I feel certain that I’m going mad again; I feel we can’t go through another of those
  36. Downton Abbey Watch: Life Is a Game, TIME
    Edith, dressed in her best Virginia Woolf outfit, tries and fails to take another man with a broken wing into her convalescent home of one. Here’s hoping they send Edith to America in Mary’s place. If anyone can use a cowboy, it’s that girl.
  37. Does Fear Help Us Appreciate Abstract Art?, Big Think (blog)
    As Virginia Woolf wrote in her essay “The Supernatural in Fiction,” “It is pleasant to be afraid when we are conscious that we are in no kind of danger.” Just as we scream on rollercoasters despite knowing that we’re not going to plummet to our doom,
  38. The Big Smoke’s Canadian Premiere, blogTO (blog)
    Canadian Premiere of an award-winning one-woman show inspired by the lives and work of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. In a courageous physical performance with a completely original text and score sung a cappella, Amy Nostbakken tells

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Last week, a patron of the New York Public Library posed a question: What brand of typewriter did Virginia Woolf use?

This vintage Underwood portable from 1928 is priced at $575.

The query was sent on to the VWoolf Listserv, and answers rocketed through cyberspace.

The next day, this well-researched answer showed up on the ASK NYPL blog: “Virginia Woolf’s Typewriter.” In it, reference librarian Matthew Boylan references a quote from Woolf’s Oct. 28, 1928, letter to her nephew Julian Bell.

This spelling is the spelling of a Portable Underwood — not mine!

Thanks to Anne Fernald for sharing the NYPL link on Facebook, which is where I found it.

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My two-week stint doing research at the NYPL Berg Collection is over, and letters and rare books took up the last two days of my Short-Term Research Fellowship on the topic of the Bloomsbury pacifists.

The letters were written by Vanessa Bell and Lytton Strachey to a variety of correspondents, including Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Duncan Grant and Nick Bagenal. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read them in their original form, taking time to decipher the usually elegant handwriting of the letter writers and savoring the idea of a world where friends and colleagues posted missives to each other on a regular, if not daily, basis.

It was special to be able to touch and handle papers nearly 100 years old that belonged to writers and artists I have read so much about and admire so greatly.

It was also invaluable to have access to such rare books as Clive Bell’s Civilization (1928), Julian Bell: Essays, Poems and Letters (1938) and David Garnett’s A Rabbit in the Air: Notes from a Diary Kept While Learning to Handle an Aeroplane (1932).

So while I knew that my research would come to an end, I felt sad when it did. I even felt a little lost when I turned the last page of Garnett’s book, realized I had no more documents or books in my queue and knew that I would soon be on my way back to my regular everyday life in Ohio.

I will miss the grandeur of the NYPL’s Schwartzman building, the luxurious silence of the Berg reading room, the helpful friendliness of librarians Anne Garner and Rebecca Filner, the expertise of Curator Isaac Gewirtz and the technical expertise of a regular volunteer and Yeats scholar named Neal who eagerly came to my aid when my laptop refused to reboot after loading some troublesome and unwanted Microsoft updates.

I hope all of those mentioned above will consider this an official public thank you for helping me have such a valuable experience.

Here are links to past posts about my research at the Berg and the Morgan Library & Museum:

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Those who know me know that I am fascinated by the idea of how weather affects human behavior and human history.

Yesterday, while I was reading David Garnett’s 1941 book War in the Air: September 1939 to May 1941 at the Morgan Library & Museum, references to weather’s affects on the outcome of World War II kept popping out at me.  We all know the important role weather played in the scheduling of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy, but weather played a vital role in the war at many other times as well.

The period of the so-called Phoney War, the first eight months of Britain’s involvement in WWII, was one of them. From September 1939 to April 1940, the general public in Britain and France expected their governments to launch an all-out air attack on Germany, but that didn’t happen. It turns out that neither the Germans nor the Allies was prepared for such a move.

Ultimately, both sides saw the Phoney War as advantageous, according to Garnett. And for the Brits, weather played a part in that advantage. Since the prevailing winds of Western Europe come in from the Atlantic, Britain’s Royal Air Force was almost always in a better position to know weather conditions — and plan around them — than the German Luftwaffe, which had to send aircraft out on weather reconnaissance missions, costing them time and money.

Garnett also explains that the winter of 1939-1940 was particularly hard. Bomber crews suffered frostbite, and planes were lost because of icing. However, the weather had more severe consequences for Germany than for either England or France. Freezing weather halted traffic on the Danube, caused the overworked German railways to break down and caused a coal shortage as well. The cold winter weather made the estuaries of Germany’s rivers and shallow sea around the Friesian islands fill with floating ice. This then made it impossible for sea planes to take off or land on the water without risk of damaging their floats.

It also prevented the Germans from laying more magnetic mines designed to blow up British vessels made of steel as they traveled above them. In November of 1939, Hitler had predicted that these mines would be his “secret weapon” and would be responsible for Britain’s quick defeat. The bitter cold of that winter prevented that from happening.

The cold probably delayed the invasion of the Low Countries and the attack on the Western Front by one or two months as well, thus making it impossible for German forces to invade England in the summer of 1940 as planned.

November 1940 was full of clear days and cloudless skies in the south of England, tempting the German Air Force to begin a new form of annoying daylight raids. During these raids, weather conditions were also right for the high-speed, high-flying German aircraft to leave a trail of white vapor behind them. That allowed the people of Kent and East Sussex to watch the planes’ progress as they headed south across the English Channel.

A number of factors combined to make Germany’s May 1940 invasion of France a success. Chief among them was the weather. A spell of dry and perfect weather lasted from the beginning until the end of the attack. As Garnett wrote:

A week of rainy or foggy days in the middle of May might easily have saved France (100).

Read more about the rest of my time at the Berg for my NYPL Short-Term Research Fellowship on the Bloomsbury pacifsts:

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Having worked my way through Vanessa Bell’s letters to Maynard Keynes yesterday, I spent today with two of the Morgan’s rare books on the topic of the Bloomsbury pacifists.

The Morgan Library & Museum actually has five pertinent rare books on the topic in its catalogue, and originally I thought I would get through all of them today. But once I got a look at the content of the first, We Did Not Fight: 1914-1918 Experiences of War Resisters, a collection of essays edited by Julian Bell and published in 1935, I knew I would have to schedule another work day at the Morgan.

The volume includes an introduction by Julian Bell in which he answers a question that had puzzled me: Why would Julian, an advocate of pacifism, end up volunteering for the Spanish Civil War? I found the answer to that at the end of his introduction when he says that his generation will succeed in ending war–and will use force to do so, if force is necessary (xix). It’s true that Julian was an ambulance driver, not a soldier, in the Spanish Civil War. But some pacifists, absolutists, would argue that any work that supports war should be rejected.

We Did Not Fight contains other essays that illuminate the circumstances surrounding conscientious objectors during World War I. Some recount the political and social climate at the beginning of the war. Others detail the particular hardships of working class COs. And still others describe the support and comraderie provided by the No-Conscription Fellowship, organized by the Quakers and Independent Labour Party supporters, which met from 1914 through 1919.

The final essay, “The Tribunals” by Adrian Stephen, brother of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, details the ways the tribunals functioned. After the passage of the first Military Services Act in January 1916 instituted conscription of unmarried men age 19-40, local tribunals were set up to administer it. Their role was to make life and death decisions about who would be exempted from military service.

The second book I looked at was a pamphlet published by The Peace Pledge Union. Titled WarMongers, it was written by Clive Bell and published in September of 1938. My time had run so short by the time I got to it, that I resorted to taking photos of most of its pages so I could read it later. Thankfully, that is a practice the Morgan allows.

Read more about my time at the Berg for my NYPL Short-Term Research Fellowship:

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In a newsletter from Powell’s, the fabulous book emporium in Portland, I read about a first novel by one of their own former staffers, Alexis Smith.

According to the publisher’s notes: “Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory, and place, recalling the work of writers such as Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf.”

I picked it up at my local library, a slim and inviting paperback with a collage-like cerulean cover. I found it charming, and the narrator, Isabel, a sympathetic character—bookish and introspective, observant, partial to thrift stores. I wasn’t expecting an actual reference to Woolf, but her ghost appeared near the end when Isabel and a group of friends are telling personal stories, their host assigning topics. Someone is asked to tell a story about regret:

“So she tells a story about visiting England when she was in college. She had a chance to visit the river in which a beloved writer drowned. She had a mousy friend with a family cottage nearby. But she wanted desperately to be fashionable. So instead she went toLondon to see a boy who later humiliated her…” (165).

This was my first Woolf sighting in fiction this year, my 24th since completing my 2010 monograph, Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction, with 37 references. I don’t go looking for them, but they keep appearing; Woolf continues to hold a unique place in the hearts and minds of writers and readers: muse, model and mentor, and yes, icon.

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Last week, NYPL Berg Collection librarian Rebecca Filner gave me the hot tip that I could find unpublished letters written by Vanessa Bell to Maynard Keynes at the Morgan Library & Museum. Today I went there to read them.

The routine at the Morgan is different than that at the Berg. At the Morgan, one is required to lock one’s personal items in a small locker, wash one’s hands, then read a full page of instructions about handling the rare materials before any are handed over. Then the materials come to you one slim folder at a time, after being checked and logged by the librarian. When you are ready for another, you let her know, and she picks up the current folder and brings a new one. As a reader, you never carry the materials.

At the Berg, one is brought as many as five folders at once and just expected to be careful. There is no hand washing procedure, and the librarian locks your purse in a bookcase after one has checked other items in the NYPL cloakroom. Sometimes I returned the materials to the librarian’s desk; other times she picked them up from me.

Today at the Morgan, I focused on letters written during World War I. About 17 of them connected to the Bloomsbury pacifists, the topic of my Short-Term Research Fellowship. But other tidbits included in these letters caught my eye as well. Here are a few of them:

  • Vanessa gave her children haircuts and shaped the hair of one of her servants into what sounded like a stylish bob (May 1916).
  • Vanessa complained that a vist from Ottoline Morrel was so taxing she couldn’t spend more than one weekend a year with her (August 1916).
  •  Both Vanessa and Clive asked Keynes to look over their investments and make suggestions for ways they could maximize their income (February 1918).
  • Keynes invested in David “Bunny” Garnett’s bee keeping enterprise (February 1918).
  • Wood was so scarce during the latter part of the war that Vanessa asked Keynes to save packing cases from a recent wine purchase for her to use as rabbit hutches (February 1918).
  • Vanessa couldn’t imagine anything more hellish than Keynes’s upcoming three-day trip to America (October 1918).

The bit that popped out at me the most, though, was the contrast between Vanessa’s letters to her sister Virginia written shortly before the birth of her daughter Angelica on Christmas Day 1918 and those written to Keynes. The letters to Virginia were filled with a panicky rush of last-minute requests and instructions regarding the upcoming birth and the care of Vanessa’s two older children. Her letters to Keynes are measured and sedate, calculated to reassure him that all is well.

To Keynes, she writes that Duncan Grant (Angelica’s father, although Vanessa’s husband Clive Bell played that role for many years) is quite anxious to be useful around the house. She mentions that he has cut up wood for the fire and done other necessary chores, while agreeing to stay on until after the baby is born.

Vanessa also boasts that Grant is spoiling her. She says she spends the mornings in bed, is only allowed downstairs for lunch, then is kept quiet in the drawing room for the rest of the day. Best of all, she notes, Grant never lets on that this domestic pampering routine is the least bit boring.

I found it interesting the way Vanessa changed the tone and content of her letters, based upon her audience.

Read more about my time at the Berg for my NYPL Short-Term Research Fellowship:

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