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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Lowe’

Florence GordonI just read Brian Morton’s latest novel, Florence Gordon, and loved his protagonist, a 75-year-old New York curmudgeon and intellectual, an activist and celebrated feminist author. A Woolf sighting was almost a foregone conclusion.

Florence’s granddaughter, Emily, visits from Seattle and takes a summer literature class at Barnard: “It’s gonna be great. Jane Austen. George Eliot. Virginia Woolf. What could be bad about that?”

Emily assists Florence with research for her memoir and becomes fascinated with her grandmother’s accomplishments. “A few weeks ago she’d read an article that Florence had written about Virginia Woolf. Woolf had said that the task of a woman writer was to kill off the ‘Angel in the House’: the part of oneself that was trained to put the needs of others, in every situation, before one’s own.” Emily later has occasion to reflect on this in a difficult situation of her own and in a personal challenge to her grandmother: “If a woman needs help but she doesn’t ask for it, isn’t she just playing the part of the Angel in the House?”

Morton has invoked Woolf in earlier novels. She appears to have a prominent place in his literary pantheon, as touchstones for his characters. In Starting Out in the Evening, grad student Heather Wolfe (!) wants to write her thesis on fictional author Leonard Schiller. Her advisor ranks Schiller as seventh-rate. “In Bonner’s scale of literary merit, Shakespeare and Tolstoy were first-rate; Dostoevsky and George Eliot and Proust were second-rate; Melville was third-rate; Henry James fourth-rate; Virginia Woolf fifth-rate. To be called seventh-rate was high praise.”

Heather is disappointed to find Schiller’s later work stale and is prepared to dismiss it to his age until she considers: “Certain writers managed to stay fresh, even in old age. Yeats and George Eliot she felt got better, stronger. “D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf may not have gotten better, but they continued to experiment restlessly as long as they lived.”

Virginia Woolf in old age? The implications are frightening, but I guess 59 is old to a 24-year-old grad student…..

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Killing the Angel

Inaugural issue of Killing the Angel

My hat goes off to Jessica Rosevear, editor and publisher of the literary journal Killing the Angel, on the release of the third annual issue. Jessica started KTA two years ago during what continues to be a tough time for print lit journals—many are folding while others are going online, so Jessica not only bucked the tide but is continuing to swim upstream.

The content of the journal is a mix of fiction, personal essays and poems, not about Virginia Woolf but in her spirit. KTA states its goal as: “to celebrate writing that evokes response, be it joy, contemplation, sadness, inspiration, or otherwise.” Each issue explains the term “killing the angel” and offers its homage to Woolf.

The journal is available in just two physical locations, Womrath’s, a Tenafly New Jersey bookstore, and Shakespeare and Company in Paris—should you happen to be near either—or it can be ordered online.

And I guess this is where I add a disclaimer: my own essay about family and food, “Catch of the Day,” is included in this issue.

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The cover article of this week’s (Oct. 5) New York Times Book Review is a glowing assessment, a “run, don’t walk”jThe Assassination of Margaret Thatcher rave of Hilary Mantel’s new story collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Speaking of Mantel’s deserved reputation in English literature, the reviewer, Terry Castle, declaims that:

“Mantel has assumed an esteemed place in what might be called a great tradition of modern British female storytelling, an ardor-filled, bluestocking lineage extending from Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield in the early part of the 20th century through Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Taylor, Iris Murdoch, Edna O’Brien, Barbara Pym, Penelope Fitzgerald, Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Doris Lessing, Beryl Bainbridge and many others in subsequent decades, all the way to such gifted living practitioners (again, to name only a few) as A.S. Byatt, Ruth Rendell, Maureen Duffy, Ali Smith, Jane Gardam, Emma Donoghue, Jeanette Winterson and Zadie Smith.”

I cite the entire list because it strikes me that what Castle is presenting here, in her homage to Hilary Mantel, is a sampling of Virginia Woolf’s vast legacy. These women and many more have fulfilled Woolf’s wishes for women and literature when, in A Room of One’s Own, she admonished them (us, that is) “to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast.”

Mantel’s fantastic title story is reproduced in its entirety in the Sept. 28 Review. I love its keenly observed descriptions and quirky but believable characters; I suspect that Virginia Woolf would have enjoyed it too.

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Writing after retirementBlogging Woolf contributor Alice Lowe has written a chapter for Writing After Retirement: Tips from Successful Writers, an anthology of short essays on topics that cover the writing basics about getting started, along with tips for specific areas of interest, publishing and marketing, and more.

Alice’s chapter, “A Muse of One’s Own: Finding Inspiration for your Writing Life,” is, of course, focused on Virginia Woolf. It’s Chapter Three in the volume.

View the table of contents on the publisher’s website. Buy it there or on Amazon.

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Men Explain Things to Me front coverWoolfians who attended the 2009 conference in New York, Woolf in the City, were treated to a keynote address by Rebecca Solnit. In person as in her prose, Rebecca paints beautiful word pictures and reflect thoughtfully on their significance.

Her talk wasn’t included in the selected papers from that conference, but now she has published it as “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable” in her newest book, Men Explain Things to Me. The essay’s title in this volume is taken from Woolf’s 1915 diary entry: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” In noting the relevance of Woolf’s work today, Solnit says: “Here we are, after all, revisiting the words of a woman who died three quarters of a century ago and yet is still alive in some sense in so many imaginations, part of the conversation, an influence with agency.”

The title essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” may go down in history as a feminist classic along with Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife” in the 1972 inaugural issue of Ms. Magazine. And, no surprise, Solnit evokes Woolf in her jibe at male (some, not all, she allows) know-it-allness: “A Freudian would claim to know what they have and I lack, but intelligence is not situated in the crotch—even if you can write one of Virginia Woolf’s long mellifluous musical sentences about the subtle subjugation of women in the snow with your willie.”

Virginia Woolf is clearly a strong influence and appears in almost all of Solnit’s work. In her last book of personal essays, The Faraway Nearby, she is motivated to dig deeper into reflections about her mother by Woolf’s example and words in Moments of Being: “It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole.” Rebecca Solnit puts her stories and arguments into words in a way that does credit to Woolf.

 

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Alice Lowe:

Alice Lowe “observes perpetually,” and she does it in loving memory of Virginia Woolf. Truly. See Pg. 26.

Originally posted on Alice Lowe blogs ... about writing & reading & Virginia Woolf:

“Observe perpetually,” Virginia Woolf said, by which I’m sure she meant, “keep your ears open too.” When I overheard this one-sided conversation, I was stunned–is this person really saying these things? Then, quickly, I picked up my pencil and started jotting it all down. I guess that makes me a writer! I didn’t add to her remarks, just tidied & organized it as a whole and thought some publisher of vignettes, like Vine Leaves, would like it. They did & published “In Loving Memory” in their July issue, here (on page 26).

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Fictitious Dishes“When there are fifteen people sitting down to dinner, one cannot keep things waiting for ever.” So starts a passage from To the Lighthouse that accompanies a photograph of a bowl of boeuf en daube—the solid brown chunks of meat accented by shiny black olives and bright orange carrot slices—accompanied by a dish of Brussels sprouts and a glass of claret, served on a green cloth scattered with seashells.

This is just one of the 50 extracts from novels included in Fictitious Dishes by Dinah Fried (“fried,” really—would I make it up?). The opulence of the elegant tea spread for Rebecca and the cocktail party fare—caviar, smoked salmon and more—to represent The Great Gatsby are balanced by a simple and sumptuous basket of strawberries for Emma and, of course, Proust’s tea and madeleine.

I can’t resist the juxtaposition of food and literature, food in literature, and especially Woolf and food. It was the topic of my paper at the 20th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: “’A Certain Hold on Haddock and Sausage': Dining Well in Virginia Woolf’s Life and Work,” which was published in the selected papers from that conference.

This collection was a delightful find. There’s a website too, but the book is a visual feast. Do what I did—buy it for a gift but read it first!

 

 

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