Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Five radical women writers living in a square in a London neighborhood. The square is Mecklenburgh. The neighborhood is Bloomsbury. And one of the women writers is Virginia Woolf.

The book that tells the story of the five independent women writers who lived in Mecklenburgh Square at various times between the two world wars is Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars, just published by Faber & Faber.

Besides Woolf, the women Wade discusses include detective novelist Dorothy Sayers, modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (known as HD), the maverick classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, and the economic historian Eileen Power.

The publisher’s website describes the book this way:

Francesca Wade’s spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.

And one reviewer called Woolf “The presiding genius of this original and erudite book,” describing her “essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ [as] provided the rallying cry, whether consciously or not, for five remarkable women, all drawn at some point in their careers to Bloomsbury’s Mecklenburgh Square.”

Glowing reviews

I plan to obtain a copy of Square Haunting and review it here. After all, Mecklenburgh Square has a special meaning for me, as it is one of the Woolf sites I visited in 2016 when Cecil Woolf, Virginia and Leonard’s nephew who passed away last June, led me on a six-mile walking tour of Bloomsbury. It was a most memorable day.

For now, though, here are a few quotes from the glowing reviews of Wade’s first book that have already been published online.

Wade’s book rises above the publishing cliches to tell a deeper story about women’s autonomy in the early 20th century, about their work and education, politics and activism. What emerges is an eloquent, pellucid, sometimes poignant study of five female intellectuals, each of whom disdained convention to fulfil their potential as thinkers and writers. – Review by Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Guardian

It is a pleasure to fall into step with the eloquent, elegant Wade as she stamps the streets of literary London. I would give a copy to every young woman graduating from university and wondering who and how to be … There is much to inspire. – The Times Literary Supplement

Wade is adept at evoking the gritty texture of the times, taking us seamlessly from the interior lives of her subjects into the world they inhabited and back again. – Ariane Bankes, Spectator

The site of the building in Mecklenburgh Square in which Virginia Woolf lived. Cecil and I paused here during our 2016 tour of Bloomsbury.

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Read Full Post »

Cecil Woolf pauses in front of Persephone Books, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, in June 2016.

Tucked away on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, Persephone Books has been my favorite London bookstore since I first visited it — twice — during my 2016 trip.

That’s not just because it is located on the same street where Jacob Flanders of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room had his very own room. It is also because the shop reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-20th century (mostly) women writers. It is, in short, a treasure.

A stack of gray dust covers

Every time I visit, I cannot resist purchasing as many as I can carry of Persephone’s 135 books. From Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music to Barbara Euphan Todd’s Miss Ranskill Comes Home, each is unique. And none has disappointed.

A stack of Persephone Books, each with its gray dust cover and colorful endpaper with matching bookmark, is eternally in my TBR pile, including the three I bought this year: They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple; Tory Heaven or Thunder on the Right, another by Laski; and Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith.

This year, though, I decided to spare myself. Having enough to carry, I had Persephone ship my books to my home in the U.S. They arrived within a week of my return, accompanied by a gracious hand-written note of thanks.

Still urgent today

And now Persephone, founded by Nicola Beauman, has printed a new edition of Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own (1929). It is wrapped in Persephone’s classic soft gray dust cover, with the 1930 Vanessa Bell textile design “Stripe” as its endpaper and matching bookmark.

A Room of One’s Own, with its central premise that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction, is a volume whose message has urgency and currency today, says Clara Jones, who wrote the preface.

The poetry and pragmatism of Woolf’s central claim about the room and the money have taken on renewed urgency today. The ubiquity of debt for a generation of young people who pay large university tuition fees, are charged prohibitive rents and paid low wages, combined with the fact that all but the luckiest (or best connected) with literary ambitions will begin their apprenticeship by working for free, make Woolf’s trinity of space, privacy and financial security as worth striving for as ever. – Clara Jones, Preface to Persephone edition of A Room of One’s Own

It is 90 years since Woolf wrote her iconic piece. You can read more about the Persephone edition (cost £13) on the Persephone website and in the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald.

About the founder and her store

Beauman herself is a legend in the world of book publishing — and in the world of Woolf. Along with Clara Farmer of the Hogarth and Chatto and Windus, she appeared on a panel at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in Reading, England. Aptly enough, the conference theme was Woolf and the World of Books, with Beauman and Farmer’s panel titled “Publishers, Publishing & Bookselling.”

Beauman began Persephone 20 years ago as a mail-order publishing business with a list of 12 books. She now has 30,000 subscribers to her free magazine The Persephone Biannually. And when the shop celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, a crowd of fans stopped in throughout the day and evening.

Here’s what Beauman had to say about the books she publishes in an April 14 New York Times story acknowledging her store’s 20 years in business:

The connection between them is that they were forgotten and they’re very well-written. I’m very keen on story and on page-turners. When I get to the end of a book I like to put it down and feel absolutely wrenched by what I’ve read, to be in a different world.
I can attest to the power of the books Persephone publishes. Upon finishing each of my Persephone Books, I find it difficult to make my way back into my own everyday world. I am that affected by what I have read.

Get a close look at Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as the inside and outside of Persephone, with this YouTube video, the 2018 pilot episode of “Fran’s Book Shop.”

Inside Persephone Books with founder Nicola Beauman at work at her desk, July 2017.

A table full of “Fifty Books We Wish We Had Published” at Persephone Books in July 2017

A wall full of books in the traditional gray dust covers at Persephone Books in 2017

Persephone Books isn’t shy about making political statements. This banner hung in the shop in 2018.

A Woolf sighting at Persephone Books in June 2018

The window display at Persephone Books changes. This was the view in July.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Mrs Dalloway in slipcase. Courtesy of SP Books

The full-length draft of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway was waiting for me when I returned in July from the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens. Lucky me.

As I eagerly opened the heavy package, I thought I knew what to expect from this handwritten manuscript of what would become Virginia Woolf’s famous 1925 novel. After all, its publication had been highly publicized by the mainstream press and widely shared on social media.

What I didn’t expect was its beautiful detail, its literal weightiness, and the fact that Woolf’s draft would be so very different from the final product we know, love, study, and write about today.

June 3, 2019, tweet from @BookBrunch

A lusciously weighty volume

Published by SP Books, the volume is luscious and large. Measuring 13″ x 9.5″ it is hand-bound, with linen-textured covers of dark green and a slipcase to match. The lettering on the cover and slipcase, including Woolf’s distinctive signature, is a rich metallic gold. Each volume is hand-numbered from one to 1,000. All of these beautiful features indicate the importance of this limited edition classic book, as well as the author we love.

The manuscript reproduces the three handwritten stitched notebooks, much of them written in Woolf’s trademark purple ink, in which she drafted “The Hours.” Written between June 27, 1923, and October 1924, these notebooks would eventually become her classic novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Virginia Woolf’s Signature. Courtesy of SP Books

Holding genius in one’s own hands

One usually must visit a library, a museum, or some other official place to study Woolf’s writing process in detail. When we visited the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge as part of our Literature Cambridge course, we saw the first draft manuscript for Woolf’s classic feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929). Each of us had a few precious minutes with the manuscript, noting Woolf’s edits and marginal notes and taking photos.

Bookmark. Courtesy of SP Books

Now, however, thanks to SP Press, any of us who can rustle up about £190 or $220, can own our very own Woolf manuscript, giving us the opportunity to study it in detail at our leisure.

The Woolf draft, along with others in the series, provide, “A return to ‘slow reading’ in a digital age” and “offer an intimate insight into the writer’s mind and thought-processes, showing their crossings-out, notes and revisions,” according to SP Press.

Female-centric and revolutionary

I admit that I haven’t had time to read the manuscript from cover to cover. Woolf herself had trouble reading her own handwriting at times, so imagine how difficult it is for the unaccustomed common reader to parse her penmanship.

First page of notebook 2 (purple ink). Courtesy of SP Books

But it’s easy to see from the opening pages that the draft Woolf produced is totally different in focus, tone, and structure from the novel she eventually created. While Mrs. Dalloway focuses on Clarissa, introducing her with the famous line, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” (MD 1),”The Hours” initially focuses on Peter Walsh and includes this opening line:

In Westminster, where temples, meeting houses, conventicles, & steeples of all kinds are congregated together, there is at all hours & halfhours, a round of bells, correcting each other, asseverating that time has come a little earlier, or stayed a little later, here or here. – “The Hours”

So a quote from Michael Cunningham‘s introduction to the SP Books facsimile of “The Hours” certainly rings true: “Had Woolf completed a novel called “The Hours,” it would not have been the Mrs. Dalloway that has become a cornerstone of 20th-century literature.”

The back story

The facsimile edition includes an essay from Woolf scholar Helen Wussow that provides the genesis of the character of Mrs. Dalloway, as well as that of the manuscript itself.

According to Wussow, Leonard Woolf wrote to Vita Sackville-West after Virginia’s death to tell her that her friend and lover had left a manuscript to her. Leonard’s job was to choose which Vita would receive. He decided upon Mrs. Dalloway, sending Vita the entire manuscript on June 21, 1941. The British Library eventually purchased it from her.

Wussow also details the whereabouts of the typescript (not yet found) and page proofs for the novel, as well as Woolf’s working methods.

More on SP Press

Other SP Press limited edition copies of handwritten manuscripts include classics such as The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Follow them on Twitter @saintsperes.

Title – 1 – 1923. Courtesy of SP Books

1st opening, on the 1st page of notebook 1. Courtesy of SP Books

Read Full Post »

Review by Tatiana Krasavchenko, Leading Researcher, Institute of Social Sciences Information, Russian Academy of Sciences

Virginia Woolfs Portraits of Russian Writers by Darya Protopopova
Hardcover: 244 pages
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 1 edition (April 1, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1527527530
ISBN-13: 978-1527527539

From learning to read Chekhov in original, to being haunted by Sophia Tolstoy’s attempted suicide – Virginia Woolf’s engagement with Russian literature was as dramatic as it was essential to the modernists in their search for cultural alternatives urgently needed to revitalize traditional forms in British literature and art.

The first part of this new study of Virginia Woolf’s international context follows the daughter of the conservative Victorian Lesley Stephen as she befriends anti-tsarist émigrés, dresses up like a Russian ballerina, and publishes pamphlets on the Soviet Union.

The main part of the book explores her views on the four Russian writers she most admired: Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev. Woolf’s essays are set side by side with other writings on Russian literature that were familiar to her, including works by Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, Vita Sackville-West, and Edward Garnett.

However, the book does not simply lay out facts about Woolf’s Russian literary encounters. It uses Woolf’s preoccupation with Russian literature as a key to understanding one of the key processes in European culture – the creation of the cultural Other.

Response to Russian art

The book explores Woolf’s interpretations of Russian literature as part of a wider response to Russian art in British culture of the time. It portrays Woolf’s literary and biographical encounters with the Slavonic ‘Other’ in their full socio-cultural significance. The book carefully documents how Woolf used her essays on Russian writers as a platform for expressing her views on fiction, translation, biography, and, most importantly, on what constitutes new realism in literature.

The major difference between this book and the existing studies of Woolf’s response to Russian literature (see, for example, Rebecca Beasley, Russomania: Russian Culture and the Creation of British Modernism, 1881-1922, Oxford University Press, 2017, and Claire Davison, Translation as Collaboration: Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and S.S. Koteliansky, Edinburgh University Press, 2014) is its attempt to place her writings about Russian novelists within a historical context. Woolf was anxious to go beyond seeing Russian literature from the national point of view. She became intensely interested in biographies of Russian writers which showed her how diverse their philosophical and moral positions were, and suggested how impossible it was to unite them under one label of ‘Russianness’. In order to examine Woolf’s dialogue with her contemporaries regarding the national element in literature, this book sets her reviews and essays on the Russians side by side with other modernists’ writings.

The book invites a wider readership with its discussion of the Russian ballet designs familiar to Woolf, paintings by Boris Anrep and Natalia Goncharova, also known to Woolf through her friendship with Anrep, as well as via Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions, and, finally, photographs of Woolf and her Russian friends.

Explores links to Fry and Eliot

Since Roberta Rubenstein’s study Virginia Woolf and the Russian Point of View (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), scholars have made significant discoveries about the importance of continental art and literature to British modernists. Protopopova’s book continues this line of research, linking Woolf’s essays on the Russians to Roger Fry’s interest in Russian Post-Impressionists and T.S. Eliot’s love for Stravinsky and the Ballet Russes.

The book exhibits the full extent of intimacy with which Woolf knew the then newly translated Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and Turgenev, as a result of her earnest attempts to read the Russians in original. Quoting from the Russian sources, Protopopova illustrated the precision of Woolf’s remarks on Russian literature, thus allowing her readers to continue their own dialogue with Woolf or, perhaps, challenge Woolf’s vision of Russian authors – the vision she at times adapted to fit her idea of new literary forms.

The book is aimed primarily at academic audiences: modernist scholars, art critics, historians of British cultural exchanges, scholars of Russian literature, and specialists in inter-civilizational studies. It will also appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students of English and Russian literature, as well as a wider circle of admirers of Virginia Woolf and Russian literature.

Read Full Post »

The Katherine Mansfield Society has surplus paperback copies of its 2018 yearbook, Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, published by Edinburgh University Press. Its cover features the well-known Vanessa Bell painting “The Other Room,” which dates to the late 1930s.

Members of  the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain can purchase a copy for £20, the same rate offered to Mansfield Society members. The price includes worldwide postage.

The volume includes essays by world-renowned Woolf scholars, as well as a new play based on “Slater’s Pins,” along with Ali Smith’s memorable National Portrait Gallery talk on Woolf and Mansfield.

Also included in the Mansfield-Woolf volume are:

  • “Introduction: Thinking Sideways through One’s Sisters” by Christine Froula
  • “Dangerous Reading in Mansfield’s Stories and Woolf’s ‘The Fisherman and His Wife’” by Brian Richardson
  • “A Conversation Set to Flowers: Beyond the Origins of Kew Gardens” by Karina Jakubowicz
  • “Seated between ‘Geniuses’: Conrad Aiken’s Imaginative and Critical Responses to Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf” by Sydney Janet Kaplan

Interested members can visit the Katherine Mansfield Society shop, scroll down until they see the volume on Mansfield and Woolf, which is the second item from the top, and click on the ‘member’ rate.

VWSGB members may also purchase other volumes in the shop at the member rate.

Read Full Post »

Dr. Trudi Tate of the University of Cambridge has shared a review of Jane de Gay’s new book, Virginia Woolf and Christian Culture (2018). Jane is professor of English literature at Leeds Trinity University.

Read the review on the Literature Cambridge website.

Woolf and Christian Culture (2018). Read it here.

Read Full Post »

Last year, a Google Doodle marked the occasion of Virginia Woolf’s birthday. This year, it’s a book offer.

Today, Jan. 25 only, in celebration of Virginia Woolf’s 137th birthday, you can purchase the ebook version of Virginia Woolf in Richmond for £4.99.

Meanwhile, read Woolf’s own diary entries written on her birthday or the day after from the years 1897 to 1941. 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.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: