Archive for August, 2009

women writers at workI love to read writers talking about their lives, their work, their influences.

A 1989 Paris Review collection, Women Writers at Work, includes interviews from the 1960s to the mid-1980s with Isak Dineson, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Nadine Gordimer, Joan Didion, and others. Not surprisingly, Virginia Woolf pops up a few times.

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) cites three “almost perfect novels:” A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes, A Passage to India by E.M. Forster and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. “Every one of them begins with an apparently insoluble problem, and every one of them works out of confusion into order. The material is all used so that you are going toward a goal. And that goal is the clearing up of disorder and confusion and wrong, to a logical and human end.”

Eudora Welty (1909-2001) says of Woolf: “She was the one who opened the door. When I read To the Lighthouse, I felt, Heavens, what is this? I was so excited by the experience I couldn’t sleep or eat. I’ve read it many times since, though more often these days I go back to her diary. Any day you open it to will be tragic, and yet all the marvelous things she says about her work, about working, leave you filled with joy that’s stronger than your misery for her.”

Several interviews discuss the troublesome label of “woman writer.” The always acerbic Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) names Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Bowen as what she calls “a certain kind of woman writer who’s a capital W, capital W.” These signify “sensibility,” whereas she advocates for “sense,” represented by Katherine Anne Porter, George Eliot and possibly Eudora Welty.

Katherine Anne Porter, by the way, calls McCarthy “one of the wittiest and most acute and in some ways the worst-tempered woman in American letters.”

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thoughts on peace in air raidThoughts on Peace in an Air RaidVirginia Woolf’s WW II essay in which she discusses using her writing to work for peace, will be released by Penguin in the UK on Aug. 27.

Is is a part of Penguin’s Great Ideas series. The price of the 128-page volume is £4.99.

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Georgetown College

Georgetown College

After this year’s conference focused on Woolf and the City, it seems only fitting that the 20th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf should focus on “Virginia Woolf and the Natural World.”

It will be held June 3 to 6, 2010, at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, which, organizers say, is “located on 104 acres of beautiful Kentucky bluegrass.” Georgetown is located 10 miles north of Lexington off I-75.

All proposals for papers, panels, workshops or readings will be considered, but organizers are especially interested in those relating to the conference theme. Topics might include:

  • flowers
  • rythms of nature
  • Cornwal or St. Ives
  • country homes and estates
  • sailing
  • nature as restorative
  • nature as punitive
  • Woolf and ecology
  • Woolf and the environment
  • gardens and gardeners
  • seascapes
  • farmers and farming
  • hunting
  • parks and zoos
  • landscapes
  • vacations
  • hiking
  • prehistory
  • city versus nature
  • animals — animality, animal imagery, domestic animals, animal pet names
  • teaching Woolf and nature

A more complete call for papers will be available soon.

For more information, contact conference organizer Kristin Czarnecki at kristin_czarnecki@georgetowncollege.edu.

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bloomsbury bistroThe Bloomsbury Bistro is in Kansas. Prarie Village, Kansas, no less.

And, it turns out, this eating place named after Virginia Woolf and her friends is a wonderful place to write a novel.

Why? Apparently, it is a great spot for eavesdropping on conversations that beg to be copied down and included in a book.

Read more about it and nine other Kansas locations described as prime spots for novel writing.

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white gardenThe White Garden: A Novel of Virginia Woolf by Stephanie Barron, author of a mystery series based on Jane Austen, examines Woolf’s death from the vantage point of present-day England.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, the story begins when American Jo Bellamy sets out to study the White Garden at the Sissinghurst estate of Vita Sackville-West. Bellamy is working for Long Island clients who want to recreate it and also wants to figure out why her grandfather, who worked at the garden as a youth, killed himself.

The story line includes a journal that may be Woolf’s work and a wild tour of Woolf’s stomping grounds to track down answers to questions and missing journal pages.

“While leaning on convenient stereotypes—the headstrong but clueless American; the femme fatale (with eyes like “liquid pools”); stuffy Brits—Barron invests the text with a quick pace and an absorbing plot, making this a dynamic thriller with a well-tempered literary fixation,” Publisher’s Weekly relates.

The novel is expected to be out in bookstores in September.

Update: Read reviews of Barron’s novel in January magazine and the L.A. Times.

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