Posts Tagged ‘Alice Lowe’

When new fiction disappoints me, as it often does, I go back to old favorites. My summer reading has consisted of rereading a few books I’ve threatened to give a second or third go. A couple of them surprised me with mentions of Virginia Woolf that I’d forgotten.

I started with Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, which I wrote about here with great Rules of Civilityenthusiasm a few years ago. It’s still one of my all-time favorite contemporary novels, and I appreciated, once again, his references to Woolf as a contemporary icon for his 1930s characters.

Mary Wesley is one of those late-blooming authors I return to for “it’s never too late” inspiration. Her first novel was published in 1983 when she was 70, and she followed with nine more over the next 14 years; two were adapted for BBC television movies. They’re witty and wise, sometimes just plain silly—perfect summer reading.

I started with her first novel, my favorite, Jumping the Queue, in which Matilda, tired of life, and Hugh, a hunted “Matricide,” are planning separate suicides in Devon waters when they accidentally meet. If you thought Gone Girl was special with its Woolf jumping the queuesuicide reference, Mary Wesley was there first.

Hugh: “I was going to fill my pockets with stones and go into the river like Virginia Woolf.”

Matilda: “I’d forgotten about Virginia Woolf and the stones. I must remember.”

I saw the film “Learning to Drive,” thrilled to see a personal essay adapted to film, even if it bore only slight resemblance to its source. I decided to reread Katha Pollitt’s real story, the title piece in her excellent 2007 collection, and the rest of the essays in it too. In “Memoir of a Shy Pornographer” (the lengths writers will go to in order to make a living from words!) she’s just out of college and takes a job as a freelance copy editor and proofreader of porn novels. She talks about the tedium of reading drawn-out sex scenes:

The Beeline writers had hit upon the very techniques pioneered by the giants of high modernism: stream of consciousness, internal monologue, indirect discourse, dream sequences, disruptions of time, and far too many adjectives. Sometimes, when I saw a single sentence throbbing and thrusting down a whole page and maybe the next one too, I would cheat a bit and just kind of sweep over it with my eyes. I did the same thing with The Sound and the Fury and The Waves.

 And so it goes….

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Alice Lowe, a freelance writer and an independent Woolf scholar, will present a two-week Woolf workshop at San Diego State University titled “Don’t Be Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Lowe, a contributor to Blogging Woolf, has had two monographs published by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London: Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am made and remade continually’ in 2015 and Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction in 2010. She has also published papers and reviews in Woolf Society publications and selected papers from Woolf conferences.

In addition, more than 40 of her personal essays have appeared in print and online literary journals over the past five years. She is an SDSU alumna.

For more information, call 619-594-5152 or visit neverstoplearning.net/osher

lowe flyer

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On a long travel day home from the Woolf conference in Pennsylvania and a side-trip to Maine, I was fortunate to be able to passgornick the time with Vivian Gornick’s new memoir, The Odd Woman and the City, a gift from my friend in Maine.

I was taken by surprise when, about halfway through the book, Gornick diverts from her mostly personal musing with a lengthy passage that starts: “She was born Mary Britton Miller in New London, Connecticut, in 1883….” She goes on to state that Mary Miller lived in New York and wrote stories and poetry that went unnoticed. Then in 1946, at the age of 63, she published a novel, Do I Wake or Sleep, under the pen name Isabel Bolton. It was followed in 1949 and 1952 by The Christmas Tree and Many Mansions.

Her work was lauded by Diana Trilling in The Nation and Edmund Wilson in The New Yorker, who likened her modernist prose to Virginia Woolf’s. She nevertheless slipped into obscurity until the nineties, when the three novels were re-published as a trilogy, New York Mosaic. Yet she remains unknown today. She published two volumes of poetry, a memoir, and another novel before she died in 1975.

Gornick focuses on her own theme, the self and the city. In Do I Wake or Sleep, Millicent in New York — much like Clarissa Dalloway in London — observes: “What a strange, what a fantastic city … there was something here that one experienced nowhere else on earth.”

I was fascinated even before I learned about the comparison to Woolf. I found New York Mosaic at the public library and launched into it. Do I Wake or Sleep is Millicent’s interior voice over a 24-hour period — sound familiar?  The prose is stunning. Here’s a sentence from the first page:

There was, she thought, a magic, an enchantment — these myriad rainbow lights, now soft and low, now deeper, stronger — all the stops and chords and colors played like organ voluntaries, over the moon, the clouds, the grass.

I’m still reading, completely hooked. I’ve ordered the trilogy — I have to have it, a library copy just won’t do — along with her memoir. I’m off and running on what looks to be a fairly extensive research project and have had interest expressed in a profile I plan to write. Too bad I didn’t find her before the conference on Woolf’s Female Contemporaries!

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Paula Maggio:

Alice Lowe, contributor to Blogging Woolf, on her latest monograph in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series, “Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am made and remade continually’”

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

It’s a monograph: “a specialist work of writing on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, usually by a single author.” But indulge me–it has an ISBN, an International Standard Book Number, so let’s call it a book–a small book, but a book (we won’t trivialize it with “booklet” or “bookette”). Thank you!

That said, I’m happy to announce that Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am made and remade continually’ has just been released by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. This is my second inclusion in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series, which includes more than 70 publications about the lives and work of Virginia Woolf and others in the Bloomsbury group.

Cecil Woolf is the nephew of Leonard Woolf and the last living link to Virginia Woolf; he proudly points to Virginia’s mentions of him in her diary as “the boy with the sloping nose.” Cecil’s wife, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, is the general editor of the series…

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Bloomsbury Heritage SeriesEach year at the Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, Cecil Woolf Publishers of London introduces several new monographs in their Bloomsbury Heritage Series and distributes a new catalogue of their publications.

The series of monographs is published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s nephew, Cecil Woolf, under the general editorship of Cecil’s wife, the acclaimed biographerJean Moorcroft Wilson. Following in the tradition of the Hogarth Essays, these booklets range in length from eight to 80 pages and embrace the ‘Life, Works and Times of members of the Bloomsbury Group.’

Here are the six new titles that will debut at the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

  1. Natural Connections: Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield by Bonnie Kime Scott
  2. `Eternally in yr Debt’: the Personal and Professional Relationship Between Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Robins by Hilary Newman
  3. Saxon Sydney-Turner: The Ghost of Bloomsbury by Todd Avery
  4. Virginia Woolf as Memoirist: ‘I am Made and Remade Continually’ by Alice Lowe
  5. Mistress of the Brush and Madonna of Bloomsbury, the Art of Vanessa Bell: a Biographical Sketch and Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Writings on Vanessa Bell by Suellen Cox

    Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

    Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

  6. Septimus Smith, Modernist and War Poet: A Closer Reading by Vara S. Neverow

You can also download the Cecil Woolf Publishers: 2015 Bloomsbury Heritage Catalogue and Order Form and view the complete list of the monographs available in the series.

Cecil is the featured speaker at the conference’s Saturday evening  banquet, where he will share stories of his experiences with Virginia and Leonard.

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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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