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Archive for the ‘Alice Lowe’ Category

After having an essay published last year in Spry Literary Journal, I was invited to contribute to abcsSpry’s ABC series. Writing for Beginners and Fiction Writing would be followed by the ABCs of Creative Nonfiction, and I could write on the letter of my choice.

I quickly claimed the letter “M” with its myriad manifestations–memoir, memory, motivation, and metaphor, to name just a few. And what about mentors and muses? I’d written a chapter, “A Muse of One’s Own,” for the 2014 book Writing after Retirement(yes, of course I spotlight Virginia Woolf!)–so I adapted it for this project.

Editor’s Note: You can finish reading this post on Alice’s blog: ABCs of Creative Nonfiction | Alice Lowe blogs … about writing & reading & Virginia Woolf

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Here’s Blogging Woolf contributor Alice Lowe’s essay on the work world for women in the not too distant past. She’s the author of two monographs published by Cecil Woolf Publishers:

Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe

  • Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: “I am made and remade continually” – Bloomsbury Heritage Monograph #72, Cecil Woolf Publishers
  • Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction – Bloomsbury Heritage Monograph #58, Cecil Woolf Publishers, 2010

[This essay was originally published in Crab Creek Review, Vol. 2016, #1] But can she type? Back in the early 1970s, when my latent feminist consciousness was starting to awaken, I bought a poster, a 16 by 24-inc…

Source: But can she type?

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I love punctuation; I’m a nut about it. I read it as carefully as I do words, measuring  flow to the lighthouseand rhythm, looking for meaning between the dots and dashes.

So a recent blog post got my attention—the author wanted to see if novels could be distinguished by their punctuation. A kindred spirit, he believes punctuation is a fundamental part of writing.

Adam J. Calhoun compares Faulkner’s Absolom, Absolom! with Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. The differences are visible and as striking as one would expect. Blood Meridian consists mostly of short, crisp sentences—seen as several consecutive periods with no intervening marks, breaks of an occasional comma, a dash here and there, more periods. The punctuation in Absalom, Absalom! looks the way Faulkner reads: he uses everything he can get his hands on, with lots of commas and far fewer periods. The author of this study calls it “statements within statements within statements.”

He adds other novels to his discussion. Surely, I thought, he’ll include Woolf! But no, he mentions Ulysses, Pride & Prejudice, A Farewell to Arms, and a few others. I couldn’t leave it there. A few years ago I wrote an essay about punctuation and drew from To the Lighthouse to demonstrate Woolf’s creative use of punctuation; I had some data to add to the picture.

To his visual comparisons of Faulkner’s and McCarthy’s textless text, I add a brief example from To the Lighthouse:

”   ,   ,   ,   ”   .   ”   ,   ”   .    ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   .   ,   ,

,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   .   .   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   —   ,   ,

,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   .   ”   ,   ”  ,   ,   ”   .   ”   ,   ,   ,   ,   .

;   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ,   ( )   ,   .   .   .   ;   ;   ,   ,   ,   ,   ;   ;

This is just the first few paragraphs (I did several pages) but you get the idea. Woolf’s sentences skip and dance and weave with runs of commas; there are eleven of them in a 100-word sentence on the first page. You rarely see two periods (simple sentences) in a row. She peppers her prose (more evident in a more extensive sampling) with semicolons, dashes, parentheses, exclamation marks and ellipses.

Blood Meridian averages 15 words per sentence, Absalom 40, Lighthouse (in my sampling) 34, Farewell to Arms 10. Ursula LeGuin says of Hemingway: “He had many guns, several spouses, and a beard. He wrote short sentences.”

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VW in ManhattanI’m skeptical of so-called biofiction, novels that fictionalize real people, put words into their mouths, recreate scenes from their lives, sometimes inaccurately—its fiction, so literary license runs rampant. They leave readers, at least this reader, wondering what’s true and what’s been exaggerated or made up.

With novels about Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsberries, there’s also that tendency among Woolfians to be protective of “our” Virginia. We read them because we have to know what’s out there in case we’re called upon to defend her.

When Virginia Woolf in Manhattan came out last year, my interest was tweaked. Clearly it wasn’t going to be the same old rehashed and reimagined life and times. I put it on my list but hadn’t gotten to it in June when I went to the Woolf conference in Pennsylvania.

Maggie Gee reads a passage from "Virginia Woolf in Manhattan" at the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries at Bloomsburg University.

Maggie Gee reads a passage from “Virginia Woolf in Manhattan” at the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries, held in June at Bloomsburg University.

Maggie Gee, the author, was there and read a key scene from early in the novel. I was fascinated by her protagonist, Angela Lamb, a novelist and sometimes scholar who goes to New York to do research in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection for a paper she will be presenting at a Woolf conference in Turkey. She’s in the throes of the place’s aura when she senses a presence behind her. It’s Virginia Woolf, in the flesh, and just as shocked and confused to be there as Angela is to see her.

In 1990, when I was discovering Woolf and traipsing the streets of Bloomsbury for the first time, I had a story idea. I’m in a tea shop in Gordon Square, standing in line at the counter. I hear a cultured female voice behind me. It’s Virginia Woolf, and she’s talking as if she knows me. We have tea together and … that’s as far as I got. I never wrote the story, never will, but I’ve recalled it from time to time. I suppose many of us have imagined a similar scene, but Maggie Gee has acted on it with glee.

I bought and read the book as soon as I got home. It took me a while to relax my inhibitions and drop into it. You have to suspend disbelief—this is pure fun, lively and loony. “What a lark,” Virginia might say were she to read it. There’s no halo around this Virginia—we see her as a flesh and blood person, back from the dead and dropped into a strange time and place. Gee relates Woolf’s disorientation believably. Angela takes charge of her, and their relationship is a prickly one. Woolf is at times demanding, difficult and bitchy. And funny and charming. So is Angela. They do Manhattan and then they go to Istanbul where adventures abound, some pretty far-fetched.

Virginia Woolf in Manhattan has been out for more than a year (and in paperback since this summer), and it’s received its share of press. The Telegraph called it “A writer’s sparkling fictional love letter to her literary heroine,” and The Independent ran an interesting interview with Maggie Gee. The Guardian raked it over the coals, and the U.S. press pretty much ignored it.

So this isn’t a review, just a reminder that there are a lot of laughs (and a few smirks, groans and eyerolls) to be had from Virginia Woolf in Manhattan. Summer’s over, but a good “beach read” is always in order.

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Bloomsbury Heritage SeriesEach year at the Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, Cecil Woolf Publishers of London introduces several new monographs in their Bloomsbury Heritage Series and distributes a new catalogue of their publications.

The series of monographs is published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s nephew, Cecil Woolf, under the general editorship of Cecil’s wife, the acclaimed biographerJean Moorcroft Wilson. Following in the tradition of the Hogarth Essays, these booklets range in length from eight to 80 pages and embrace the ‘Life, Works and Times of members of the Bloomsbury Group.’

Here are the six new titles that will debut at the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

  1. Natural Connections: Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield by Bonnie Kime Scott
  2. `Eternally in yr Debt’: the Personal and Professional Relationship Between Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Robins by Hilary Newman
  3. Saxon Sydney-Turner: The Ghost of Bloomsbury by Todd Avery
  4. Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am Made and Remade Continually’ by Alice Lowe
  5. Mistress of the Brush and Madonna of Bloomsbury, the Art of Vanessa Bell: a Biographical Sketch and Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Writings on Vanessa Bell by Suellen Cox

    Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

    Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

  6. Septimus Smith, Modernist and War Poet: A Closer Reading by Vara S. Neverow

You can also download the Cecil Woolf Publishers: 2015 Bloomsbury Heritage Catalogue and Order Form and view the complete list of the monographs available in the series.

Cecil is the featured speaker at the conference’s Saturday evening  banquet, where he will share stories of his experiences with Virginia and Leonard.

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101.Colum-McCan-Trans-AtlanticColum McCann’s latest novel, TransAtlantic, is a fascinating account of the lives of four generations of fictional Irish women woven into recorded history, from Frederick Douglass’ visit to Dublin in 1845 to gain support for the abolitionist cause to Senator George Mitchell’s mediation of Irish peace talks in 1998 on behalf of the Clinton Administration.

Woolf makes an unexpected appearance well into the novel in the story of Emily and Lottie Ehrlich, mother and daughter, journalist/poet and photographer, on a transatlantic journey from their home in Newfoundland to Great Britain in 1929.

They had packed as little as possible in their wooden trunk in the hope that they would be able to move easily from place to place. A few changes of clothes, some weather gear, two copies of the same Virginia Woolf novel [Jacob’s Room], notebooks, photographic film, some medicine for Emily’s arthritis.

The days were lengthy. The hours drifted. The sea stretched a round majestic gray. In the distance the horizon curved. Mother and daughter sat on the deck and looked backwards as the evening sun flared red.

They read the Woolf novel in tandem, matched each other almost page for page. “The voice had an extraordinary sadness. Pure from all body, pure from all passion, going out into the world, solitary, unanswered, breaking against rocks—so it sounded.” What Emily liked most of all was the appearance of ease that Woolf brought. The words slid so easily into one another. There was a sense of a full life being translated. It was, in Woolf’s hands, a display of humility.

She envied the young Woolf. The command and promise the Englishwoman showed. Her profusion of voices. The ability to live in several different bodies.

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My friend and neighbor, San Diego and Santa Fe artist Kirby Kendrick, created her blog to inform and educate her readers about art and artists–the big picture. She posts about art history, art’s role in society, and the interplay of all the creative arts, including music and literature.

Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry (1912)

Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry (1912)

Knowing about my Woolfmania and about Virginia Woolf’s connections to the arts, Kirby asked me to write a couple of guest posts about Woolf and her milieu. The first one, “Virginia Woolf: Who’s Afraid of Art?,” is linked here.

While you’re there, you may want to look over Kirby’s site–check out KA-POW!, her graffiti-inspired installation–and subscribe to her bi-weekly blog posts. You never know what you might find–she’s written about ballet and basketball, the art of the telephone, understanding cubism, and more.

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