Archive for August 29th, 2011

One of the highly touted books this summer is Meg Wolitzer’s, The Uncoupling. It’s about the teachers and students at a New Jersey high school. The drama teacher chooses Lysistrata, as the school play, and repercussions abound for everyone as a spell overtakes the girls and women of the town and they lose all interest in sex.

Wolitzer has a knack for writing that is intelligent and thought-provoking and hilarious, a great combination. While this isn’t my favorite of her novels, it was a page-turner, and I zipped through it in a couple of eager readings. Wolitzer doesn’t beat readers over the head with feminist politics, but her women are strong and their situations often compelling. It’s no wonder that Woolf makes appearances, as she does in this one:

The main characters are Dory and Robby, both English teachers at the school. They met at an education conference, where Robby was holding forth to a group of women at the bar. He tells them, “Here is a sentence that one of my students actually wrote: ‘At the time that Virginia Woolf and James Joyce were writing, the world was very much as it is today, though to a lesser extent [emphasis his].’”

Another teacher, Bev, is ruing what seems to be the end of her sex life. She doesn’t know about the Lysistrata curse, no one does, but she figures she’s not alone: “Surely there were other women in Stellar Plains who had given up what they’d had with their husbands. Not her friends, though; her friends were really happy. Dory and Robby were just so fantastic together; you could picture them delightedly stripping for each other and having sex, and then reciting to each other from, oh God, Mrs. Dalloway.”

I’m not intentionally looking for Woolf references in the contemporary fiction I read, but they keep appearing, jumping out at me. I dutifully log them—how can I not?—and so far I have 20 new ones since publication of my monograph on the subject, Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction. Mrs. Dalloway as pillow talk? This one’s a priceless addition.

Read more posts by Alice Lowe about Woolf references in contemporary fiction:

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