Well no, but they do hang out together in a novel, along with Sylvia Plath, Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, W.B. Yeats, and others. It’s Lexicon by Max Barry. “A cerebral thriller,” according to one blurb; “dark and twisted and sweet and humane all at once,” says another.
It starts with two guys grabbing a man named Wil in an airport bathroom and putting a needle in his eye to extract memories and lethal words. And they have to hurry or Wolf will get him first.
On page 46—at last!—one of the guys, Tom, explains that they’re called poets because they’re good with words. They’re quick and smart and persuasive, and when their raw potential is detected, they’re recruited from all over and sent to a special school to learn how to manipulate minds with secret words. Only the best will graduate and be given their names. Wolf is a poet, Wolf who turns out to be Woolf. “Virginia Woolf is trying to kill me?” asks Wil. “Among others. But Woolf is the one to worry about,” replies Tom, who turns out to be Eliot.
It takes a long time to separate the good guys from the bad, and then you got it wrong, or maybe not, and you’re still not sure. Did Woolf kill everyone in an Australian town? Which side is Tom on? Why is Charlotte driving a transport truck straight at them? Where does Wil fit in–he’s not Shakespeare, not a poet. And why am I reading this bizarre novel?
If I wondered to what lengths I’d go to chase down Woolf sightings in contemporary fiction, now I know. If I wondered to what lengths I’d go to make it up to Paula for not posting as often as I should on Blogging Woolf, now I know. The violence was off-putting, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep reading; then I was hooked. People being murdered at close range on one page, thought-provoking gems about the power of language on another. And Woolf.
That’s what I never figured out—why Woolf? All the rest are actual poets or at least, like Bronte and Atwood, have written poetry as well as prose. Max Barry has a Q&A feature on his website, and I asked him about this, but I haven’t gotten a response—I’ll let you know if I do.
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