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Archive for January, 2017

Paris Press and Meekins Library invite you to an evening of readings, discussion, and writing about theonbeingill transformations of illness and caregiving.

What: Writing and Reading thru Illness and Caregiving
When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Meekins Library, 2 Williams St. Williamsburg, MA

Join Karen Kukil, Nanny Vonnegut, Amelia Stevens, Jan Freeman, and Marya Zilberberg in a reading and discussion about the transformations that we experience in illness and caregiving.

This program springs from Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill with Notes from Sick Rooms by Julia Stephen, Woolf’s mother. A group writing activity will follow the reading and discussion. Books will be available to purchase.

For more information, contact Meekins Library 413-268-7472, Paris Press 413-628-0051, info@parispress.org, or meekins@cwmars.org.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Schocken Family Foundation.

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img_1932Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Jan. 25, 2016. It was so popular, we think it bears republishing today.

Today is Virginia Woolf’s birthday. She was born in Kensington, London, 135 years ago today, on Jan. 25, 1882, at 12:15 p.m.

Below are entries from her published diaries dated on her birthday or the day after. Some refer specifically to the gifts she received, the things she did and the people she saw on her birthday. The last one, written on Jan. 26, 1941, the year of her death, does not.

1897

Passionate Apprentice

Monday 25 January

My birthday. No presents at breakfast and none til Mr Gibbs came, bearing a great parcel under his arms, which turned out to be a gorgeous Queen Elizabeth — by Dr Creighton. I went out for a walk round the pond after breakfast with father, it being Nessas drawing day. Went out with Stella to Hatchards about some book for Jack, and then to Regent St. for flowers and fruit for him; then to Wimpole St. to see how he had slept, and then to Miss Hill in Marylebone Rd. Jo [Fisher] was there discussing the plans for Stellas new cottages with Miss Hill. All three learnedly argued over them for half an hour, I sitting on a stool by the fire and surveying Miss Hills legs — Nessa went back to her drawing after lunch, and Stella and I went to Story’s to buy me an arm chair, which is to be Ss present to me — We got a very nice one, and I came straight home, while Stella went on to Wimpole St. Gerald gave me £1, and Adrian a holder for my stylograph —Father is going to give me Lockharts Life of Scott — Cousin Mia gave me a diary and another pocket book. Thoby writes to say that he has ordered films for me. Got Carlyles Reminiscences, which I have read before. Reading four books at once — The Newcomes, Caryle, Old Curiosity Shop, and Queen Elizabeth — (21-22)

1905

25 January

Another lazy morning — read however the greater part of my review book, so that will be written tomorrow with luck — & then? — I must turn about for something fresh to do. My birthday, by the way — the 25th but, as usual, it was somehow rather forgotten which one begins to expect at my age —! Violet to lunch, & she did bring a present — a huge china inkpot which holds almost a jar full of ink, & is rather too large to be practicable. I must cultivate a bold hand & a quill pen — Georges motor after lunch, in which we did various long distance jobs — then home, read my review book, & dinner at 7.30 as we went with Gerald to Peter Pan, Barries play — imaginative & witty like all of his, but just too sentimental — However it was a great treat (227-228).

1915

VW Diary I

Monday 25 January

My birthday—& let me count up all the things I had. L. had sworn he would give me nothing, & like a good wife, I believed him. But he crept into my bed, with a little parcel, which was a beautiful green purse. And he brought up breakfast, with a paper which announced a naval victory (we have sunk a German battle ship) & a square brown parcel, with The Abbot in it—a lovely first edition— So I had a very merry & pleasing morning—which indeed was only surpassed by the afternoon. I was then taken up to town, free of charge, & given a treat, first at a Picture Palace, & then at Buszards. I don’t think I’ve had a birthday treat for 10 years; & it felt like one too—being a fine frosty day, everything brisk & cheerful, as it should be, but never is. The Picture Palace was a little disappointing—as we never got to the War pictures, after waiting 1 hour & a half. But to make up, we exactly caught a non-stop train, & I have been very happy reading father on Pope, which is very witty & bright—without a single dead sentence in it. In fact I dont know when I have enjoyed a birthday so much—not since I was a child anyhow. Sitting at tea we decided three things: in the first place to take Hogarth, if we can get it; in the second, to buy a Printing press; in the third to buy a Bull dog, probably called John. I am very much excited at the idea of all three—particularly the press. I was also given a packet of sweets to bring home (28).

1918

Friday 25 January

My Birthday. L. slid a fine cow’s horn knife into my hand this morning. Nelly has knitted me a pair of red socks which tie round the ankle, & thus just suit my state in the morning. Another event kept me recumbent. Barbara came, & together we “dissed” 4 pages, & L. printed off the second 4 at the printers—altogether a fine days work. At this rate Katherine’s story will be done in 5 weeks. We rather think of doing a little book of woodcuts, either after this book or at the same time, on our small press. Our dinner tonight was a sacrifice to duty on a fine scale; never were we more ready for an evening alone; books to read; a sense of a great deal of talk already discharged this week; but rather before 7.30 came Clara [Woolf] & the Whithams, whom we had asked with a view to killing each other off without more waste than was inevitable. Whitham’s elaborately literary get up is a fair index of his mind. He is what the self-taught working man thinks genius should be; & yet so unassuming & homely that its more amusing than repulsive. His passion for writing is the passion of the amateur—or rather of the person who’s got it up from a text book. Seeing Cannan’s new novel he said “Ah, Cannan, yes—he’s very weak in construction isn’t he?” And so with all the rest. He told me his books had a way of “screaming”, & with great enthusiasm, after asking the fate of my fiction which is a point of honour in professional circles, he ran over all the novels he’s got ready or half ready, or only in want of “phrasing”—which process he applies at the end. He begins with a synopsis, which takes him 3 months: but I didn’t listen to the whole story. They withdraw soon to Devonshire, where directly the war ends (but even the war hasn’t prevented him from adding a new book to the list) he is going to work hard. Writing all the morning, reading & walking the rest of the day (113).

1921

VW Diary II

Tuesday 25 January

Here have I waited 25 days before beginning the new year; & the 25 is, not unfortunately my 25th, but my 39th birthday; & we’ve had tea, & calculated the costs of printing Tchekov; now L. is folding the sheets of his book, & Ralph has gone, & I having taken this out of the press proceed to steal a few minutes to baptise it. I must help L. & can’t think of a solemn beginning. I’m at a crisis in Jacob: want to finish in 20,000 words, written straight off in a frenzy. And I must pull myself together to bring it off. . . Spring has miraculously renewed herself. Pink almond blossoms are in bud. Callow birds crow. In short, he’s out of love & in love, & contemplated eloping with a Spaniard in a motor car. “But after all, I said to myself as I walked back, I like to think of my book & my armchair. It’s terrible, terrible. I can’t give up my old friends after all” (86).

1930

Diary Vol. 3

Sunday 26 January

I am 48: we have been at Rodmell—a wet, windy day again; but on my birthday we walked among the downs, like the folded wings of grey birds; & saw first one fox, very long with his brush stretched; then a second; which had been barking, for the sun was hot over us; it leapt lightly over a fence & entered the furze—a very rare sight. How many foxes are there in England? At night I read Lord Chaplin’s life. I cannot yet write naturally in my new room, because the table is not the right height, & I must stoop to warm my hands. Everything must be absolutely what I am used to (285).

1931

Monday 26 January

Heaven be praised, I can truthfully say on this first day of being 49 that I have shaken off the obsession of Opening the Door, & have returned to Waves: & have this instant seen the entire book whole, & how I can finish it–say in under 3 weeks (7).

1941

VW Diary Vol. 5

Sunday 26 January

A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

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The official count for the Women’s March on Washington is not yet in, although it’s been estimated at about half a million. Virginia Woolf was in the D.C. crowd, carried along on a wave of feminists and feminism that spread out to fill surrounding city streets.

This wasn’t the only Woolf sighting at the Washington, D.C. event, which was just one of 600 marches in 57 countries. Blogging Woolf contributor Alice Lowe was among the 30,00 to 40,000 who attended the San Diego, Calif., march, which she described as “an incredible turnout” for that city. Other Woolfians — Mad Detloff, Kristin Czarnecki, Anne Fernald, Ashley Foster, Jean Mills, Diana Swanson and Maggie Humm — either attended the D.C. march or sister marches in such cities as New York, Chicago and London.

Here’s a screenshot of Maggie’s Facebook post, which references Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as she reports on the London march.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-2-01-13-pm

Back in D.C., a young woman held the sign below, which mentioned Woolf among other notable feminists — from Rosa Parks to Beyonce — as it spelled out “Power.” She included Woolf, she said, because “she is so cool.”

Version 3

Meanwhile, on the day the march began, Channel Draw used this image featuring Woolf to promote the event.

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And here’s what the march looked like from above. Woolf, of course, is too tiny to be seen. But her presence is huge.

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Today’s Women’s March on Washington has become a global event. As of now, more than 600 marches will take place in 57 countries around the world, including London, England.

Would Virginia Woolf march? Perhaps not. But based on her written reactions to London’s July 1919 “Peace Day” to celebrate the end of World War I, I’m certain she would have been paying close attention. She would then have used her thinking and her writing to share what she saw, heard and read.

In Three Guineas (1937), she decried the sort of nationalism we now see being promoted in so many countries  and in so many ways — from the Brexit vote in England to the Trump win in the U.S. And she would have issued warnings about the rise in fascism that could result.

With that in mind, I have dressed my little Virginia Woolf doll in a Pussy Hat and am taking her on the march. She will be accompanied by Wonder Woman, her next door neighbor on my top bookshelf.

Virginia Woolf riding a wave of Pussy Hats to the Women's March.

Virginia Woolf riding a wave of Pussy Hats to the Women’s March.

Wonder Woman and Virginia Woolf wear their Pussy Hats as they take to the streets.

Wonder Woman and Virginia Woolf wear their Pussy Hats as they take to the streets.

Wonder Woman, Woolf, and some of the words with which she fought.

Wonder Woman, Woolf, and some of the words with which she fought.

 

References:
Virginia Woolf Diary I, P. 291-294
Virginia Woolf Letters II, P. 292
Levenback, Karen. Virginia Woolf and the Great War, P. 27-32.

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London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first major monographic exhibition of work by Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), Feb. 8 – June 4, 2017.

Here’s a video preview of the exhibition, which includes paintings, textile and book jacket design, and archival material that “will put Bell in her proper place at last,” according to co-curator Sarah Milroy.

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Woolf Works, the first revival of Wayne McGregor’s critically acclaimed ballet triptych to music inspired by the works of Virginia Woolf, is playing at London’s Royal Opera House from Jan. 21 to Feb. 14.

With music by Max Richter and starring Alessandra Ferri and Mara Galeazzi, the ballet focuses on thee Woolf novels, Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves. For each, Richter found a unique musical language, with each individual piece connecting with the others for a unifying whole.

The Mrs. Dalloway section opens with the unique 1937 BBC recording of Woolf’s own voice reading her essay “On Craftmanship.” Her radio appearance was part of a BBC series called “Words Fail Me.”

Woolf Works was first presented in London in May 2015 to rave reviews.

What a brilliant, creative human being Virginia Woolf was. It’s been extraordinary once again to have the chance to be engaged in the matters that troubled her, the questions she wrestled with and the visionary quality of the answers she discovered. – Max Richter on how he composed the score for Woolf Works

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Ali Smith gave a lecture—“Getting Virginia Woolf’s Goat”—at London’s National Portrait Gallery inpublic-library 2014. That also was the year her remarkable novel, How to Be Both, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and acclaimed by a reviewer: “One might reasonably argue that Ali Smith is among Virginia Woolf’s most gifted inheritors.”

Seeing Woolfian influences in the work of the contemporary post-modernist is no surprise, then; nor are Woolf references in Smith’s recent story collection, Public Library. In “The ex-wife,” the narrator is writing to her former partner after a break-up, accusing her of infidelity, or at least inattention, because of her involvement with Katherine Mansfield, the ex-wife in question.

That’s about all I can say about this marvelously convoluted story. While explicating her litany of objections, the narrator brings up Mansfield’s “friend and rival Virginia Woolf” who was, at the time, writing a book “about a plane that all the people in London look up and see…,” adding, “I have a sense that Virginia Woolf always thought your ex-wife a bit flighty.”

Then there’s “The definite article,” a story about Regents Park that begins: “I stepped out of the city and into the park. It was as simple as that.” The narrator’s visions invoke flora and fauna, Shakespeare and Dickens, the Brownings and the Shelleys, Elizabeth Bowen and Sylvia Plath, to name just a handful, “and Virginia Woolf herself, “howling or furious or sad, doesn’t matter which, walking and walking by the flower-beds till it cheers her up, leaves her happily making up phrases.”

Ali Smith makes up some pretty good phrases herself.

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