What I should have said to that crowd was that our interrogation of Woolf’s reproductive status was a soporific and pointless detour from the magnificent questions her work poses. (I think at some point I said, “Fuck this shit,” which carried the same general message and moved everyone on from the discussion.) After all, many people have children; only one made To the Lighthouse and The Waves, and we were discussing Woolf because of the books, not the babies.
Posts Tagged: virginia woolf
It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole; this wholeness means that it has lost its power to hurt me; it gives me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together.
Though I did not know it then, Adeline was not just a work of fiction, or an act of literary ventriloquism. It was my suicide note. Had I succeeded in taking my life, this would have been clear.
At Lit Hub, Norah Vincent writes about the intensity of creating her Virginia Woolf novel Adeline, the link between creativity and mental illness, and how this led her to attempt taking her own life....more
Emma Woolf (yes, a relation) writes about the personal life of Virginia Woolf:
There has been much speculation about the sexual dimension of the Woolfs’ relationship: was the marriage ever consummated, was she frigid, was she a lesbian? In 1967 her half-brother Gerald Brenan added fuel to the fire, writing: “Leonard told me that when on their honeymoon he had tried to make love to her, she had got into such a violent state of excitement that he had to stop, knowing as he did that, these states were a prelude to her attacks of madness .
The past is always a story, impossible to remember without molding it into a narrative that privileges some details over others and colors memory with tone. Reflecting on a recent trend toward biographical fiction, Joanna Scutts warns us about the dangers of time travel:
When imagination pours into the gaps in the biographical record, overcoming the frustrations of burned letters and lost diaries by making things up, it replaces history with a plausible lie, which tells us far more about our own time than it does about the past.
For the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks writes about why we should read new books, when there’s so many “classics…available at knockdown prices”:
As a reviewer of books she would often pan, Virginia Woolf thought one of the pleasures of reading contemporary novels was that they forced you to exercise your judgment.
In an excerpt from her book The Shelf, Phyllis Rose illustrates the systematic dismissal of women writers through the imagined figure of Prospero’s Daughter: wealthy and educated yet burdened by the demands of a family life whose quotidian challenges, having monopolized her time, become central concerns in her work....more
Terrifying though the unknown may seem, there are benefits to plunging into the murky waters of uncertainty. In an essay featured in the New Yorker, Rebecca Solnit writes, “It’s the job of writers and explorers to see more, to travel light when it comes to preconception, to go into the dark with their eyes open.”
There is so much we don’t know, and to write truthfully about a life…is to engage repeatedly with those patches of darkness…those places of unknowing.
Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova highlights the only known recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice.
In the recording, Woolf reads from an essay on craft (which Popova conveniently reprints in the post): “How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth?”
We hope it doesn’t sound disrespectful to point out that her voice sounds a lot like the Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey, and it’s delightfully mesmerizing....more
In a letter of May 21, 1924, an English literary critic invited T.S. Eliot to speak to the club on “any subject connected with the Elizabethan drama.”
As late as November 6, Eliot told Richard Aldington that the lecture was “still in very rough shape.” Shortly afterward he wrote to Virginia Woolf that, despite all of his labors, it proved “unworthy of subsequent publication.”
To see what’s been missing in popular culture is to see how comprehensive and refined the brainwashing has become….the number/diversity of women on-screen, the depth/complexity of their stories, the scope/span of their humanity—is one antidote to objectification.
Lately, over crumb-laden dinner tables and cups of coffee and on windy hillsides I ask friends, family, and peripheral acquaintances whether or not they write in a journal....more
An amorphous aura resonates around authors we discover on our own. Before we hear of their fame and talent, before everyone recommends their book as a “must read” we find their book, lost, broken, beat up in a pile of forgotten paperbacks at some random flea market....more
Hesperus Press collected four long-neglected critical essays for their new collection, Virginia Woolf’s On Fiction. Her criticism, like her fiction, is an utter delight....more
Helen Dunmore wrote the beautiful new introduction to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, published online by Granta, in conjunction with their latest, feminism-themed issue, The F-Word. The beginning of summer and the new intro are both reasons to revisit this classic....more
In September 2008, David Foster Wallace stepped out onto his patio and did what most of us occasionally imagine doing, but hopefully never go through with....more
These are Anton Chekhov’s last words, and the Guardian has a slideshow of some sometimes funny, sometimes chilling last words of quite a few literary figures.
(And while we’re talking about slideshows, I’d actually recommend the Jacket Copy write-up instead of the Guardian’s, because slideshows drive me freakin’ bonkers....more
“For some days, of course, we hoped against hope that she had wandered crazily away and might be discovered in a barn or a village shop. But by now all hope is abandoned.”
An archive, made public for the first time, casts a revealing light on Virginia Woolf’s death, and includes a letter that “shows Clive Bell coming to terms with sister-in-law’s suicide.”...more