Archive for September, 2012

I finally came to the top of the queue at the San Diego Public Library for Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Are You My Mother? Review after review has mentioned her frequent references to Woolf, which was what piqued my interest, and indeed Woolf  is a constant companion, serving as one of Bechdel’s navigators throughout her story.

She starts right out with an epigraph from Woolf—“For nothing was simply one thing” (from To the Lighthouse). Bechdel is writing about her mother, and she comes back again and again to Lighthouse and its representations of Mrs. Ramsay as Woolf’s mother, recollections from Woolf’s own childhood that are transposed into the fiction, and Woolf’s avowal that she was able to put her mother to rest after writing this novel.

As a writer of memoir in the form of personal essays, I’ve been exploring the whole topic of memoir as distinct from autobiography. An autobiography is usually a somewhat straightforward history of one’s life, starting at the beginning or even before. Sometimes generations before. Autobiography doesn’t interest me a whole lot—it often feels puffed up and self-serving. It doesn’t have the objective (or not-so-objective) distance of a biography or the personal investment and reflection of memoir.

Woolf elaborated on this in “A Sketch of the Past,” her own thought-to-be-unfinished memoir, by distinguishing between what she called “I now” and “I then.” When I write memoir in a personal essay, I’m the person, now, looking back and writing this essay, and I’m the person, then, about whom I’m writing, the one having those experiences. But something in the story being told has to resonate for “I now,” or why would it pop into my mind at a prompt and why would I bother writing about it? In the course of writing, one revisits memories with new eyes, more analytically perhaps, and takes something away from them that is then reflected back in the memoir: what does this mean to me now?

Next month I will be joining a memoir read and critique group led by Tom Larson, a San Diego writer, teacher, and author of The Memoir and the Memoirist.  In his book, Larson devotes several pages to Woolf, calling “Sketch” “the gauntlet to this generation of memoir writers.”

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For this week’s Woolf sightings, the play’s the thing, four times over.

Restoration playwright Aphra Behn

First up in today’s compilation is a production that honors Aphra Behn, the first professional women playwright in the English language and one Virginia Woolf recognizes in A Room of One’s Own. Second up is Mad Women, a play on stage at the Barefaced Theatre in London Oct. 6-13 that features four famous women writers, including Woolf.

Third is Sailing On, which is staged in the women’s toilet at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, a play that combines the tragic ending of Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Woolf. Thanks to Kaylee Baucom, English professor at the College of Southern Nevada, for this link to a video about this play on the BBC website. Fourth is Eileen Atkins’s Vanessa and Virginia, on stage at the Pentameters Theatre in England Sept. 21-22 and 28-29.

  1. Review: Or, | Echo Theatre | Bath House Cultural Center – DallasTheaterJones Performing Arts News
    Dallas — In her famous essay/lecture A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf outlined why it was necessary that she, and any woman who strives to earn a living as a writer, needs that very thing: a room of one’s own. And in her championing of women 
  2. Barefaced Theatre presents three new plays by Berri George: Mad Women London Theatre Guide – Online
     utopian feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, plagued by depression, whose story The Yellow Wallpaper highlighted the horrors of confinement for women termed ‘mad’; and Virginia Woolf, the modernist genius whose own demons would eventually consume
  3. Play performed in toilets of Nottingham’s Theatre Royal opensThis is Nottingham
    Virginia Woolf and Hamlet’s Ophelia got there first. The early-20th-century literary giant and the doomed Shakespearean figure – one of whom drowned herself in fiction, the other drowned herself in life – are depicted in a play being performed as part 
  4. THEATRE: Vita And Virginia at PentametersCamden New Journal newspapers website
     charts the 20-year relationship between The Hon Vita Sackville-West (Lady Nicolson) of Knole and Mrs Woolf of Bloomsbury, using their letters and diaries and was originally performed by herself and Vanessa Redgrave as Virginia and Vita respectively.
  5. Review: Zadie Smith’s ‘NW’ a powerful exploration of lives adriftLos Angeles Times
    Smith makes such an intention explicit from the outset, opening “NW” with an extended stream-of-consciousness section, “Visitation,” which hints at the influence of Virginia Woolf or James Joyce. The story of Leah, a thirtysomething community activist 
  6. Dr. Joe Harrop: A lean and hungry lookRed Bluff Daily News
    Virginia Woolf In an attempt to downplay the new sport of fact checking, Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by factcheckers.” I ‘m going to give Newhouse the benefit of the doubt, because I am sure 
  7. Verge readers: Who’s afraid of reading Woolf?Poughkeepsie Journal
    As far as “teen reading” goes, “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf is not the most likely candidate. However, the novel, “The Hours,” by Michael Cunningham, is a rather intense but good replacement to ease into the complex reading of Woolf. The books are 
  8. Guess Which ‘Sex & the City’ Star Will Play Poet Emily Dickinson in a New MovieZimbio
    (From Jackson Pollock to VIrginia Woolf, Hollywood loves a good biopic, especially if its subject is a tortured artist, so this doesn’t come as a shock.) According to THR, British filmmaker Terence Davies wrote and will direct the Dickinson film 
  9. Death of WritersThe News (blog)
    Virginia Woolf, British Author (1882 – 1941) — Was depressed, filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walked into the River Ouse where her body was discovered several days later. Tennessee Williams, American Playwright (1911 – 1983 
  10. Luna Stage Announces Hiring of Interim Managing DirectorBroadway World
    Though she has taken her leave as Managing Director, Ms. Hennessy will not be leaving the company altogether; she has come full circle and will appear as an actress once again in the role ofVirginia Woolf in Luna Stage’s 2012-2013 Season opener, Vita ..
  11. Female sexuality Personal matters, The Economist (blog)
    References are made to writers and critics such as Susan Sontag, Virginia Woolf and Michel Foucault, but also to Kate Bush, a British singer, and The Smiths, a 1980s band. These differing cultural influences are interwoven with the narrative of Ms …
  12. Twelve Questions with Emily PerkinsNew Zealand Herald
    Novelist Emily Perkins keeps company with Virginia Woolf in her latest book, The Forrests, according to reviews. Perkins is to promote NZ literature at the Frankfurt Book Fair with other Kiwi writers next month. Novelist Emily Perkins. Photo / Richard
  13. Library Presents 50 Years of the Mortimer Rare Book RoomThe Sophian
    The title of the exhibition is a word play on the 1929 Virginia Woolf essay, A Room of One’s Own. In the famous essay, a nameless woman reflects on women’s historical lack of agency compared to men, their educational access and history as writers. The 
  14. New York Fashion Week spring-summer 2013: AltuzarraLos Angeles Times
    The inspiration: The 1992 film “Orlando,” (which starred Tilda Swinton), based on the book byVirginia Woolf about an English courtier who wakes up one day transformed into a woman. The story, like the collection, traveled through time and place, from 
  15. Photo: Yannis Vlamos/GoRunway.comStyle Magazine
    Sally Potter’s magical 1992 movie adaptation of the Virginia Woolf classic Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton in the title role as the ageless Elizabethan courtier who changes sex and romps across the world and through the centuries, led Joseph Altuzarra ..

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Since 2003, the AROHO Retreat has gathered women writers to exchange ideas and develop their craft in New Mexico’s high desert.  Nestled in the red rocks of Ghost Ranch that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe, AROHO Retreat participants enjoy plenty of time to write, reflect, and establish alliances with other professional women writers.

The next retreat will be held at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico, Aug. 12-18, 2013. For details, visit A Room of Her Own.

“To let oneself be carried on passively is unthinkable.” –Virginia Woolf


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The first of 20 Woolf sightings this week involves a BIC pen created for a woman. Yes, you read that right: a lady pen of our own. And the BIC For Her package features the color purple, Virginia’s favorite ink color. The pen, though, is sold in a variety of ladylike pastel colors.
  1. BIC For Her: Sexist Biros Cause Review Storm On Amazon (PICTURES/POLL)Huffington Post UK
    When Virginia Woolf asked for a room of her own, she was of course mistaken. What she needed was a feminine pen, or biro, to help focus her girly mind. Thankfully, pen manufacturers BIC understand the difficulties women face attempting to write ‘her 
  2. ‘NW’ by Zadie Smith: A brilliant novel — for the dedicated reader,Washington Post
    Smith has said her composition of “NW” was influenced by Virginia Woolf, whose ghost you can sense in this fluid mingling of internal thoughts and dialogue, snatches of description and sudden shifts in point of view. Jennifer Egan’s protean “A Visit 
  3. NW by Zadie Smith: reviewTelegraph.co.uk
    I have to admit, the initial Virginia Woolf-style stream of consciousness gave me the discombobulated feeling that I was about to float away to the lighthouse: “Four gardens along, in the estate, a grim girl on the third floor screams Anglo-Saxon at 
  4. Inventive ‘NW’ takes readers in a darker direction, USA TODAY
    If she conjured E.M. Forster with On Beauty, NW channels Virginia Woolf. The modernist influence is deliberate, as Smith unravels — in a rhythmic stream-of-consciousness style — the intertwined stories of a group of contemporary Londoners in their 
  5. Are Amazon reader reviews killing off the critic?The Guardian (blog)
    Virginia Woolf worried that the reader was none the wiser because “the clash of completely contradictory opinions cancel each other out”. According to Elizabeth Hardwick in 1959, “sweet, bland commendations fall everywhere upon the scene; a universal, 
  6. Luna Stage Announces VITA AND VIRGINIA, Opening 10/5Broadway World
    Luna Stage opens its 20th anniversary season with the New Jersey premiere of Vita and Virginia, an intimate two-character play by Eileen Atkins, adapted from correspondence between friends, lovers and confidants, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
  7. Cuando los programadores aprenden a compartir a la fuerzaThe Wall Street Journal Americas
    Virginia Woolf sostenía que una escritora necesita un cuarto propio. En Silicon Valley, algunas empresas están cuestionando si los programadores de software necesitan tener sus propios cubículos. Su método se conoce como “programación en pareja”, 
  8. Book reviews: too nice and maybe also too fake?Christian Science Monitor
    Virginia Woolf once said “the clash of completely contradictory opinions cancel each other out.” Perhaps most damning was Elizabeth Hardwick, who, in 1959, had this to say about book reviews: “sweet, bland commendations fall everywhere upon the scene; 
  9. THEATRE: Local Listings > August 30Camden New Journal newspapers website
    The 20-year love affair between author Virginia Woolf and the aristocrat Vita Sackville-West. • ROSEMARY BRANCH THEATRE, 2 Shepperton Road, N1 3DT, 020 7704 6665. Regent’s Canal, 7.30pm. £10 (£8 concs). Sept 5-6. A folk opera on the history of the ..
  10. Northern treatSun.Star
    An English writer, Virginia Woolf, said so. She could have meant anything could be done well if only the stomach is served well too. In line with that is a somewhat similar thought: one cannot better celebrate its 23rd anniversary, if one has not any 
  11. Future Nobel laureate in literature Patrick White working as a jackeroo in , The Australian
    White seems to be taking on Virginia Woolf’s challenge to the modern novel to capture life as something that is not neat but instead “a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end”. (It’s 
  12. Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell by Katherine Angel – reviewThe Guardian
    “It is fatal,” Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own, “to be a man or woman pure and simple.” This phrase, repeated several times, might be thought of as the guiding sentiment of Unmastered, Katherine Angel’s provocative and profoundly personal ..
  13. A Stream of ConsciousnessNational Football Post (blog)
    Virginia Woolf searched for the meaning of life in this rambling, stream of consciousness kind of way. I didn’t like reading her because of it. But now I think maybe there’s something to that. “The great revelation perhaps never did come,” said Woolf 
  14. Weidenfeld & Nicolson To Publish The New Statesman CenturyBooktrade.info
    Contributors include George Orwell, WB Yeats, HG Wells, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Christopher Hitchens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Dawkins and Hugh Grant. No British periodical or weekly magazine has a richer and more distinguished 
  15. W&N to publish 100 years of New StatesmanThe Bookseller
    The book will feature a selection of writings that have appeared over the years, with picks from many of the magazine’s staff and contributors, including George Orwell, W B Yeats, H G Wells and Virginia Woolf. There will also be selections from 
  16. Interview: Mustansar Hussain TararDAWN.com
    Nowadays, I am reading Iceland’s only Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness’ Independent People,Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War of the End of the World. Also, Ibn Warraq’s Virgins, What Virgins? If I like a particular author 
  17. Britain’s Wastelands and Wonderlands at the British Library, Newsweek

    Street Haunting exhibits at the British Museum include Virginia Woolf.

    The city calls to its literary inhabitants, prompting them to roam its streets for inspiration, as Virginia Woolf does in her essay “Street Haunting,” and to transform it into the fantastical London Below of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, full of Black …

  18. Art review: ‘where is the power’ at Fort Worth Contemporary ArtsFort Worth Star Telegram
    She remembers the date clearly, as she was reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Power. It was Woolf’s insistence on personal inquiry that prompted Thornton’s journey, which led to this exhibition at Fort Worth 
  19. Exhibition links Tapawera artistsThe Nelson Mail
    Other pieces of text include the writing of Jules Verne and Virginia Woolf, the lyrics of a country and western song and a quote from a bemused 8-year-old boy: “Is that art or should I sit on it?” That observation came from the son of a friend of David 
  20. A Q&A With Maya AngelouHuffington Post (blog)
    I’m a great admirer of Langston Hughes’ poetry and that of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Virginia Woolf. When I was trying to form my own voice, my own melody, I would read aloud, and I found it did me so much good. A lesser known fact about you is that 

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