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Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

Virginia Woolf’s entreaties in A Room of One’s Own were directed to women, urging them to write. To write all kinds of books, to write whatever they wish. She said: “When I ask you to write more books I am urging you to do what will be for your good and for the good of the world at large.”

The authors of two recent essay collections are living Woolf’s legacy. Jericho Parms and Durga Chew-Bose acknowledge the footprints that precede them, and their successful debuts are a gift to today’s readers.

I was struck repeatedly in Jericho Parms’s collection, Lost Wax, by word constructions and rhythms that brought Woolf to mind, especially in her contemplations of memory and the self. It was no surprise to read in an interview: “I first fell in love with the essay and the unending possibility of the form from reading the works of Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, James Baldwin, and Virginia Woolf.” She mentions Moments of Being as a major influence, and it’s evident in reflections about her own life.

The final essay in Lost Wax is “Immortal Wound,” in which Parms ponders a dead luna moth and relates it to human mortality, to the recognition that one can expire “in a moment unobserved, as if it never came to pass.” Woolf had witnessed her moth’s death, and Parms says, “I envied Woolf her day moth zigzagging against a windowpane.”

The title of Durga Chew-Bose’s book of essays, Too Much and Not the Mood, comes from Woolf’s diary entry of April 11, 1931. Woolf is bogged down in making corrections to a number of her articles. She’s working with a faulty pen, for starters, “And not much to say, or rather too much & not the mood.”

The prose in these essays evokes Woolf’s interiority and love of language. I underlined phrase after phrase, passage after passage, as Chew-Bose, like a moth herself, lights here and there, pausing on family and friendship, on James Baldwin and Nina Simone and the young Al Pacino, on her name and her voice and her skin color.

The opening essay, “Heart Museum,” is a 90-page abstract meditation, in which she likens writing to body language, to “a woman narrowing her eyes to express incredulity,” to “an elbow propped on the edge of a table when you’re wrapping up an argument,” to “a closed pistachio shell.” In which she describes her version of happiness as “curling up inside the bends of parentheses,” and in which the odds and ends on a friend’s dressing table represent “a parish of miscellany,” “a village of items.”

The essay is alive and well, and women’s writing in all genres is more wide-ranging and abundant than even Virginia Woolf might have imagined.

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In her essay “On Cookbooks: Collections and Recollection,” Alice Lowe travels through BloomsburyCookbook_title_26523the decades, from her first casseroles to Julia and Jacques, from Betty Crocker to Virginia Woolf.

In it, she shares her love for Woolf and her thoughts on Woolf and food.

Here’s a teaser: “My time in England launched and nurtured my interest in Virginia Woolf; my retirement has enabled my studies and published work on her life and writing. Books by and about Woolf have increased as cookbooks decline. The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art weds literature and artwork by Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell, and others of the legendary Bloomsbury circle, with anecdotes and stories, recipes and repasts both real and fictional. I haven’t allocated it to a shelf yet—is it a Woolf book or a cookbook?”

Visit Alice’s blog to read the rest.

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A new short video about Virginia Woolf was recently published on YouTube by TED-Ed. Titled “Why should you read Virginia Woolf?”  it is narrated by Iseult Gillesipe from the University of Wisconson-Madison.

The video details Woolf’s early life and highlights several of her novels. Check it out on YouTube or view it below.

 

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I’m not a literary snob—well, maybe a bit—but I’ve never had any interest in John Grisham’s blockbuster novels. I’d heard they’re page-turners, well written even though formulaic, good distractions if that’s what you’re after.

Then a friend told me that his new novel, Camino Island, wasn’t his typical corporate/legal skullduggery, that it was summer fun—a beach read—about the theft of Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscripts from the Princeton Library. The story focuses on a novelist and a bookseller in a Florida island community. Sounded promising, and the deal-maker was a Virginia Woolf reference.

Grant, a bookstore owner and collector of rare books, is showing some of his favorite acquisitions to Mercer, whom he’s trying to seduce and who is a plant, hired by Princeton’s insurer to spy on Grant for any possible connection to the stolen manuscripts. He extracts his most valuable book from safekeeping, a signed first edition of Catcher in the Rye (prized because Salinger seldom signed his books). Mercer mentions that she taught it once but that it’s not a favorite. She prefers female writers. He then brings out the rarest book he has by a woman, A Room of One’s Own.

 Mercer: “I love this book. I read it in high school and it inspired me to become a writer, or at least give it a shot.” She recites the key line: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” They discuss Woolf—“so brave,” “a tortured soul”—and writers’ sufferings and destructive behaviors.

Mercer has been struggling to write a second novel, several years after the success of her first. Now, with free time and the windfall she’s getting from the insurance company, the narrator observes: “With a room of her own and some money in her pocket, perhaps she could settle in and write some fiction.”

The beginning grabbed me—the heist—but it was disappointing after that, with a bit of punch at the end. I tried to enjoy it, but I found Mercer a not very interesting and not very convincing protagonist. It was a quick read, and I did stick with it until the end to find out what happened to the manuscripts. But, like Mercer, I prefer to read women authors.

Still, there was Woolf—existing in the lofty presence of Fitzgerald and Salinger, Hemingway and Faulkner, holding her own with all that testosterone.

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Amongst a box filled with stretched canvas and paintings on wood, we re-discovered these fantastic landscapes of the local area. Both painted by Vanessa Bell, the first is of the old Coach Road looking towards Firle Tower on the right. The leaves on the trees appear to be blowing in the wind, the farmland and coach road painted lightly in pinks and purples to represent the human touch on the landscape…

Source: Local Landscapes of Firle | The Charleston Attic

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Woolfians who can travel to Cornwall in September may be interested in these two events with Sarah Latham Phillips, author of Virginia Woolf as a ‘Cubist’ Writer, available from Cecil Woolf Publishers.

Cornwall

St. Ives September Festival, Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell

When: Friday 15 September 2017, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Porthmeor Studio, Back Road West, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1NG

What: Two artistic sisters: Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell, who spent part of their childhood in St Ives. Sarah will discuss its influence on their art and writing and their own relationship and ambitions.

Cost: Tickets £5.50
Reservations: at http://www.crbo.co.uk/events.php?evGrp=195

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

Godrevy Lighthouse, St. Ives, Cornwall

When: Monday 18 September 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Where: Red Store, Riverside, Lerryn, Nr Lostwithiel, Cornwall,
PL22 OPZ

What: Study day on To the Lighthouse
Cost: Tickets are £25 for the day and include coffee, tea and biscuits. Bring your
own lunch.
Reservations: Please contact Sarah at phillipsfamily1234@yahoo.co.uk for further details.

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It’s National Dog Day. And of course there are ties-in to Virginia Woolf.

Number one: She had dogs. Number two: She wrote a book about a dog — Flush (1933), told from the perspective of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel.

As children, Virginia and the other Stephen siblings had a gray shaggy terrier named Shag, which was sent by train to Talland House, their summer home in St. Ives, Cornwall to help catch rats.

A new puppy, Jerry, was later added to the family mix. Still later, a sheep-dog pup without a tail named Gurth, after a character in Ivanhoe. Woolf grew attached to Gurth, even though he was her sister Vanessa’s dog, and remained attached to him, even after she and her siblings moved to 46 Gordon Square.

After Vanessa married Clive Bell and moved nearby, Virginia and brother Adiran felt the need to have their own dog. So they visited Battersea Lost Dogs Home and adopted a Boxer named Hans, who Virginia taught to put out matches after she used them to light her cigarettes, a trick she taught all her dogs after Hans.

At the onset of World War I and after Virginia married Leonard Woolf (1912), the couple offered to keep a friend’s Clumber Spaniel named Tinker when he left to serve in the war. Tinker, though, escaped from their garden and was lost. He was not found, despite the Woolfs’ fervent efforts to locate.

In 1919, they added a mixed breed terrier named Grizzle to their home in Rodmell, Monk’s House, and the canine accompanied Virginia on her walks over the Sussex downs.

Perhaps the most famous of Virginia Woolf’s dogs is Pinka, the purebred black Cocker Spaniel from a litter born to Pippin, Vita Sackville-West’s Cocker Spaniel. Pinka was a gift to the Woolfs from Vita.

For an entire chapter on the Woolfs and their dogs, take a look at Shaggy Muses by Maureen Adams.

You’ll call this sentimental—perhaps—but then a dog somehow represents the private side of life, the play side. – Virginia Woolf

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Vanessa Bell, Horatio Brown, Julia Duckworth Stephen, Thoby Stephen, Virginia Woolf, George Duckworth, Adrian Stephen, Gerald Duckworth and the family dog Shag in 1892.

Pinka

Virginia Woolf and Pinka

Flush

The cover of Virginia Woolf’s 1933 novel “Flush: A Biography,” which included original drawings by Vanessa Bell.

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