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Archive for the ‘Woolf sightings’ Category

The Things They CarriedWho’d have figured? Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” is a classic, the title story in a collection of linked pieces that I’ve long heard is a “must read” for writers. So it caught my attention when I noticed it at the library recently, and I plucked it off the shelf. Finally, I thought.

Virginia Woolf wasn’t on my mind when I opened the book—for obvious reasons, I’d say—but there she was, on the first page:

First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha…. More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her, but the letters were mostly chatty, elusive on the matter of love. She was a virgin, he was almost sure. She was an English major at Mount Sebastian, and she wrote beautifully about her professors and roommates and midterm exams, about her respect for Chaucer and her great affection for Virginia Woolf.

The surprising Woolf sighting made me think about Septimus Smith and his wartime experiences, the horrors that haunted him for the rest of his brief life. Different war, same horrors—it never ends. I read a few more stories—they’re compelling and well written—but soon I’d had enough and returned the book to the library.

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Did Virginia Woolf identify as a feminist? That was one of the questions I raised in a paper I presented at the 24th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, which will be included in the Selected Papers from the conference, published in May 2015.

So imagine my satisfaction when during a visit to my local library, I spotted Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929) smack in the middle of a section of feminist standards, sandwiched between Steinem and Ensler.

No surprise there. Room is a feminist classic mentioned daily in writing both personal and public. It also appears regularly on lists of books everyone must read and lists of books that have changed the world. It’s mentioned in stories about life-changing books. And it has inspired a women-centered foundation and provided the name for bookstores.

But I doubt Woolf had any inkling that would be the case 73 years after her death.

AROOO on bookshelf

Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” is the skinny white-spined volume tenth from the left.

 

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Today is Halloween, the perfect time to take a look at an infographic created by Essay Mama that depicts famous authors in costume. You’ll see Susan Sontag dressed as an adorable Teddy Bear and Colette as a cat, her favorite animal.

You’ll also see Virginia Woolf costumed as an Abyssinian prince for the famous Dreadnought Hoax. Below is a screenshot of the Woolf bit.

Woolf in costume

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A Facebook friend of mine is very good at spotting Virginia Woolf online. And when she does, she posts the links to my wall. Here are a couple of amusing Woolf sightings she posted just this week:

As a bonus, my friend Lisa also posted this quote a few weeks ago:

Woolf quote

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Here are several Woolf sightings worth a read. And the second one is generating some heat on theVWoolf Listserv.

1. Maggie Gee explains how she came to write Virginia Woolf in Manhattan in The Guardian, Sept. 19, Virginia Woolf in Manhattan2014.

2. “Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and a Case of Anxiety of Influence” in the New Yorker, Sept. 19, 2014.

This essay is generating lively discussion on the VWoolf Listserv, with writers questioning author John Colapinto’s assertion that Woolf’s lighthouse imagery in To the Lighthouse was borrowed from Wharton.  As Linda Camarasana put it, “Makes me want to tell him to read ‘Reminiscences’ and ‘A Sketch of the Past.’ Surely he should at least acknowledge Woolf’s youth, trips to St. Ives, the haunting sounds of the waves, Julia’s death, and Stella’s death as the most obvious influences on To the Lighthouse.”

Another dispute is prompted by this line of Colapinto’s: “Though I can find no record of Woolf having read The Age of Innocence, it seems unlikely that she would have failed to read Wharton’s most famous and celebrated book, if for no other reason than she would have been curious about the first novel by a woman to win the Pulitzer.”

According to Stuart N. Clarke, Woolf acknowledged  receipt of a copy of The Age of Innocence in an uncollected letter to publishers Messrs Appleton & Co. on 18 Nov 1920. The letter was published in the January 2011 edition of the Virginia Woolf Bulletin. In that issue’s accompanying note, Stephen Barkway discusses Woolf’s published comments on Wharton  and Wharton’s irritation.

3. Review of Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, a fictional biography of E.M. Forster in the Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2014, that includes “lightly fictionalized” accounts of meetings with Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

4. London photos: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway book bench on the Flickfilosopher blog, Sept. 18, 2014. For more, see Close-up views of the Mrs. Dalloway bench and This summer, take a seat on the Mrs. Dalloway bench

5. Professor’s new book explores theories of place in the Bowdoin Orient, Sept. 12, 2014. The People, Place, and Space Reader, a new anthology dedicated to scholars writing about the ways in which people inhabit the space around them, includes an excerpt from A Room of One’s Own.

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My notion is to think of the human beings first and let the abstract ideas take care of themselves. – Virginia Woolf

Woolf quote in Tube

Woolf poster in “Thought for the Commute” campaign. Source: http://bit.ly/1pbBNAS

Woolf is among four British humanists whose quotes will be featured on posters displayed in 100 London Underground stations, beginning this week. The national campaign, “Thought for the Commute,” is being launched by the British Humanist Society.

The campaign will be replicated in cities across the UK. It answers BBC Radio Four’s “Thought for the Day,” which allows only religious contributors.

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A few recent Woolf sightings:

  • A history project in San Francisco’s gay district that honors Virginia Woolf. The last bronze plaque of the 20 in the Rainbow Honor Walk will memorialize Woolf as a deceased person in the LGBT community who left a lasting legacy. Author Armistead Maupin will dedicate her plaque, which will be located near the Twin Peaks bar at the corner of Castro and 17th streets.
  • An open letter to Woolf: To the Late Virginia Woolf by Erin Lin published Aug. 29, 2014. Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.56.58 AM
  • Book recommendations from a Berkeley-based bookstore with a Woolf-related name, Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts. The shop offers Mrs. Dalloway’s Better Than a Book Club Selections and the Welcome to Clarissa’s Bookshelf young adult blog.
  • Dr. Claire Nicholson’s exploration of  Woolf’s often ambivalent relationship with clothes and fashion as part of the National Portrait gallery’s exhibit on Virginia Woolf. The Luncthtime Lecture, Virginia Woolf: A Woman of Fashion?, is free and will be held Sept. 4 at 1:15 p.m. at the NPG.
  • Insurrections of the Mind, coming Sept. 16 from Harper Perennial, collects 70 essays from the influential The New Republic magazine that includes one from Woolf.
  • A review of the documentary Secrets from the Asylum that mentions Laura Stephen, Woolf’s half-sister.
  • Orlando was sold out in Akron, Ohio.
  • Woolf broke a grammar rule regarding accusative predicates.
  • This list of “Six Best Books” includes Maggie Gee’s Virginia Woolf in Manhattan.
  • What do we see when we read? A take on Lily Briscoe’s painting in To the Lighthouse — and how we see Woolf’s words and Lily’s painting.

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