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Archive for the ‘Woolf audio’ Category

The virtual public square featuring conversations about Virginia Woolf is a reality. Anne Fernald, writer in residence at The New York Public Library’s Wertheim Study last year, just posted this news on Facebook: The talk she gave at the NYPL in October is now available online as a free podcast.

Anne Fernald

“On Traffic Lights and Full Stops: Editing Mrs. Dalloway” focuses on her work preparing a textual edition of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) for Cambridge University Press. The 68-minute piece includes discussion of manuscript material housed in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library.

Fernald is an associate professor of English at Fordham University where she also directs the first-year writing and composition program and is the author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader (Palgrave 2006). She blogs at Fernham.

Other talks in the three-day Woolf lecture “festival” at the NYPL are available as free podcasts as well. They include:

Listen to more podcasts by or about Virginia Woolf.

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Last year, when I was writing “Virginia Woolf in the Cyber City: Connecting in the Virtual Public Square,” I read Melba Cuddy-Keane’s book, Virginia Woolf, the Intellectual, and the Public Sphere (2004). In it, she discusses Woolf’s idea that most books should turn to dust after about six months unless they are deemed worthy of a second printing.

Shortly thereafter I read a New Yorker piece about the same subject, except that author Julia Felsenthal reframed the argument as a possible justification for e-books. Such books would be, she argues, “a cost-effective, eco-friendly, and disposable alternative to cloth-bound volumes.”

Felsenthal, too, quoted Cuddy-Keane. She also described a 1927 radio discussion between Leonard and Virginia Woolf concerning the question “Are Too Many Books Written and Published?” The scripted discussion, Virginia’s first of three on the BBC, was broadcast on 15 July 1927. In it, Leonard argues in favor of hand-made books, criticizes the mass appetite for popular fiction and laments the death of quality.

Virginia Woolf, publishing and democracy

Free Woolf e-texts

Virginia took a more democratic approach to book publishing. In her diary entry of 2 October 1932, she wishes for “a system that did not shut out.” If one must have a system, Woolf believes that system should be inclusive of all individuals and all ideas (Cuddy-Keane 57).

Cuddy-Keane also describes Woolf’s visit to the Lewes library in October 1940, which Woolf notes in her diary by saying she “was glad to see [her book] Common Reader all spotted with readers at the Free Library” (108). Woolf wanted readers to use her books and engage with her writing. The idea that her book of essays was dotted with spots pleased her, as they indicated that people felt comfortable with the physical book—and perhaps with her ideas as well.

In Radio Modernism: Literature, Ethics, and the BBC, 1922-1938 (2006), Todd Avery points out that Virginia counters Leonard’s argument that publishing has become “shoddy” by maintaining that such shoddiness was a necessary result of increased literacy, which actually resulted in a more egalitarian world (53).

Avery discusses the way Virginia Woolf’s participation in mass media broadcasts made it possible for her to cross the boundary between high and mass culture. For Woolf, mass media created common ground, just as public libraries did. Both are places of freedom where readers and thinkers of all classes and all interests could find the resources they needed to expand their thinking, then engage in active intelligent literary discourse.

Democratic readership delivered in paperback and wireless versions

Woolf thought books should be as cheap and as easy to purchase as a pack of cigarettes, according to Avery (54). Ten years later, in 1935, Penguin had the same idea — and began selling quality paperbacks at sixpence apiece, the price of a pack of smokes.

Two years ago, in response to the recession and the company’s 75th anniversary, Penguin launched its “Popular Penguins” classic titles series in Australia, New Zealand and India. Priced at AU$9.95 per hard copy, the series includes Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929) and To the Lighthouse (1927).

Cigarette prices in NYC

I think Woolf’s philosophy of democratic inclusiveness can be applied to the world of e-books today. The $9.99 standard price for a digital best-seller on Amazon.com is nearly identical to the price of a Popular Penguin, and both are less than the $11 price of a pack of cigarettes in New York City, for example.

In some cases — in some of the best cases — e-books are free. From Amazon, iTunesBarnes and Noble and other sources, Woolf classics such as The Voyage Out, Night and Day and Jacob’s Room can be downloaded at no cost. Other volumes of Woolf’s work are priced low — from 99 cents for Monday or Tuesday to $9.99 for A Writer’s Diary.

You don’t necessarily need a dedicated electronic reading device to read digital books either. You can download free apps to read e-books on your laptop, desktop, and/or smart phone. These include iBooks, the Kindle app, the NOOK app and others.

News for gadget geeks and book lovers

Virginia Woolf screensaver on the Kindle

I have a Kindle, which I love, so I am tuned in to e-book and e-reader discussion. So is the New York Times, which reported this week that e-readers were under many Christmas trees this season. The Times postulated that “possibly hundreds of thousands of people are expected to download books on the e-readers that they receive as Christmas gifts.”

The popularity of e-books has grown this year. They now make up 9 to 10 percent of trade-book sales, and publishers are predicting that digital sales may be 50 to 100 percent higher in 2011.

However, please don’t despair if you are not a person who loves the look of sleek high-tech gadgets. The Times also reported that some companies are specializing in making high-tech goods look retro-charming. A manual typewriter is reconfigured for use as a U.S.B. keyboard. A landline handset is connected wirelessly to a cell phone using bluetooth technology. A slim new MacBook is zipped inside a case that looks like a vintage leather-bound book.

And do be encouraged by the fact that many high quality books are available digitally. The Cuddy-Keane book I mentioned above is available electronically in at least four languages. What’s more, an e-book will never be out of stock.

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Like many of you, I have shelves full of books at home that I have not yet read. Some have been in my possession for decades, some for years or months.

Now I am starting to stockpile DVDs and CDs as well. I am embarassed to say that among the latter is the recent release from the BBC of “The Spoken Word: The Bloomsbury Group.”

This two-disc set, which features voices of Bloomsbury that have long remained unheard, has been sitting on my shelf for months. And I have yet to peel off the cellophane.

But after reading the details on the Mantex Web site, I expect I will soon pop one in my CD player.

According to Roy Johnson, here are some of the treats that await those who own the set, which comes with a 16-page explanatory booklet:

  • Leonard Woolf with a Who’s Who of the Bloomsbury Group
  • Duncan Grant talking about the infamous Dreadnought Hoax
  • Frances Partridge speaking about the group’s broad influence
  • David Cecil detailing Virginia’s appearance and Quentin Bell describing her fashions
  • Angelica Garnett on various attitudes towards members of the Group
  • Vita Sackville-West talking about the inspiration behind Virginia Woolf’s Orlando
  • Benedict Nicholson remembering Virginia Woolf’s visits to Sissinghurst
  • Elizabeth Bowen recalling Bloomsbury parties and Virginia’s antics
  • Ralph Partridge reminiscing about time spent with Leonard and Virginia Woolf
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    9780712305938Last night I spoke about walking in Virginia Woolf’s footsteps when I traveled to England several years ago. The occasion was a meeting of the Medina County Branch of AAUW.

    As I talked about the sights and sounds of London, Sussex, Kent and Cornwall that connect to Virginia’s life and work, several thoughts struck me.

    Since AAUW is an organization that promotes equity for women in girls in both the workplace and in educational settings, I felt compelled to remark on Virginia’s lack of opportunity for formal education.

    And since I spoke about meeting Cecil Woolf and Dr. Ruth Gruber at Woolf conferences — two people who had known or met Virginia — I got to thinking about how special it is to have seen and heard her in person.

    Those experiences are impossible for us today. But a two-disc CD set from the British Library allows us to experience Virginia and other members of the Bloomsbury group in another way.

    The Spoken Word: The Bloomsbury Group” came out this month. Producers searched  the BBC archives to present 24 recordings of the group’s major figures talking in their own words. Many of them are rare and previously unreleased.

    According to the London Review Bookshop‘s Web site, “Highlights include Virginia Woolf talking about the importance of language, Leonard Woolf’s who’s who of the Bloomsburys, Duncan Grant discussing the infamous ‘Dreadnought’ hoax and Elizabeth Bowen describing legendary Bloomsbury parties.” You can get the full list here.

    Woolf’s voice, along with those of other great writers of the 20th century, can also be heard on a three-disc set of CDs produced by the British Library called “The Spoken Word: British Writers.” Read more.

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    rca-dogLooking for some free audio by or about Virginia Woolf and her circle? Here are some links you can try:

    For more links to broadcast media coverage of Woolf, visit the Woolf Sightings page

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