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Archive for the ‘Woolf sightings’ Category

In fiction and in verse, Virginia Woolf continues to be recognized, referenced, and revered. How is it that the mention of her name or a subtle allusion to her work conjures instant identification and understanding, not just by writers or scholars, but by readers of all kinds. Here are two recent sightings.

Weather sighting

In Jenny Offill’s latest novel, Weather, she conveys her ideas and story in fragments that merge into a cohesive whole. Here’s her narrator, Lizzie, a university librarian:

“I do have one bookish superstition about my birthday. I like to see what Virginia Woolf said about an age in her diaries before I reach it. Usually it’s inspiring.”

She then quotes from Volume 3 of Woolf’s Diary about life being “if anything, quicker, keener at 44 than 24….”

Zooming in on poetry

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to participate in a Zoom workshop with poet and essayist Natasha Sajé, after which I bought Vivarium, her poetic abecedary teeming with word play.

An entry for the letter “B” is the witty and wise “Beauty Secrets, Revealed by the Queen in Snow White.” The advice includes “Pace yourself for 35-55” and “Brace yourself for 55-85,” and this:

“Embrace a stash and a place, Virginia wrote, 80 years ago.”

Happy reading to all who are hunkered down in this time of sheltering at home.

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The Virginia Woolf cookie cutter may give me a reason to bake. Yes, you read that right. There IS a Virginia Woolf cookie cutter.

The Virginia Woolf cookie cutter with the finished product, as it appears on the Etsy site.

I first heard about it thanks to a Facebook post last week from Kristin Czarnecki, president of the International Virginia Woolf Society.

Included in the post was a photo of the finished product that her friend Holly Barbaccia had baked. The post and photo generated 56 likes and 10 comments. Woolf and cookies are popular, it seems.

Women writers in cookie form

Of course I had to have one for myself. A quick Google search turned up an article on Book Riot about “Fun Bookish Cookie Cutters,” which led to the Etsy link for the cutter — on sale for $5.20 — featuring my favorite writer.

I quickly ordered mine, then wished I had stuck around on the site to order a few more, as there are cookie cutters in the shape of Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Frida Kahlo, and others.

Tips from the Etsy site for using the 4.1-inch plastic cutter include these:

  • Use chilled (not frozen) dough.
  • Use flour or nonstick spray to reduce sticking with highly detailed cutters.
  • If your dough is too moist it will stick to the cutter– add some flour to your dough.
  • Still sticking? Pop your dough in the freezer for a couple minutes. If it is too warm, it will stick.
  • Dough spreads when it bakes. Unless you use a recipe for cookies that won’t spread (Google it, there are some great ones) your cookies will look like blob versions of whatever cutter you use. Note to readers: I did that and found this one, which had a five-star rating. It recommends freezing the cookies — after they are cut out and before they are baked — for 10 minutes, then baking them immediately. Freezing chills the butter, and will prevent the cookies from spreading flat in the oven, the recipe promises.

Photo posted on Kristin Czarnecki’s Facebook page of two of the Virginia Woolf cookies baked and decorated by Holly Barbaccia.

 

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Sally Rooney is being touted as the premier millennial writer these days; her new novel, Conversations-with-Friends_-Sally-RooneyNormal People, is garnering rave reviews. I’m still on the library queue for that one, but I just finished Conversations with Friends and was impressed with its intelligence and insights.

I was especially delighted when I came across an early passage in which the protagonist, Frances, is at a party where people are trying to pigeonhole her culturally and politically. I’m lost in the Irish references until someone asks, “Which county do you support in the All Ireland?”

Her reply: “As a woman I have no county.”

Woolf would have loved the sly homage as she would have loved Rooney’s word play and cool take–much like her own–on women and men, life and love. Bridging the gap in time is a mental image of Frances at Mrs. Dalloway’s party.

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The White Book by Han Kang is a sequence of loosely linked personal meditations on life and death and the natural world through the lens of the color white.

In a piece called “Wave,” I was struck by passages such as these:

“In the distance, the surface of the water bulges upward. The winter sea mounts its approach, surging closer in. The wave reaches its greatest possible height and shatters in a spray of white. The shattered water slides back over the sandy shore.”

“Each wave becomes dazzlingly white at the moment of its shattering. Farther out, the tranquil body of water flashes like the scales of innumerable fish. The glittering of multitudes is there. The shifting, stirring, tossing of multitudes. Nothing is eternal.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on The Waves, where in the opening passage, at daybreak:

“As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously.”

 

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As we reflect on the anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, it’s heartening to imbibe the vision in this poem by Billy Collins, see her paddling her canoe for all eternity.

Constellations

Yes, that’s Orion over there,
the three studs of the belt
clearly lined up just off the horizon.

And if you turn around you can see
Gemini, very visible tonight,
the twins looking off into space as usual.

That cluster a little higher in the sky
is Cassiopeia sitting in her astral chair
if I’m not mistaken.

And directly overhead,
isn’t that Virginia Woolf
slipping along the River Ouse

In her inflatable canoe?
See the wide-brimmed hat and there,
the outline of the paddle, raised and dripping stars?

River Ouse

 

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