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Archive for the ‘Reading the Skies in Virginia Woolf’ Category

Alexandra Harris. Her name is on my lips for good reason.

Romantic Moderns, which just won the Guardian First Book Award, arrived on my doorstep last week. I am itching to read it, but things keep getting in the way. Things like grading fall semester essays. The holidays. Prepping for spring semester. And the overwhelming desire to read something light that won’t strain my incredibly tired brain.

And now I read that Harris has been signed by Thames and Hudson to produce two more books. The first, a short biography of Woolf titled Brief Lives: Virginia Woolf, will be published in spring 2011. Yeah for that.

The second, titled The Weather Glass, will discuss the British preoccupation with weather. That made me gasp right out loud. And I am not exaggerating.

Reading of her plan to write about the British interest in weather made me realize that Verita Sriratana and I are not the only ones  interested in reading the skies — as they relate to Woolf and other writers.

For her doctoral thesis, Verita is writing about weather in The Years. In Reading the Skies, I discuss Woolf’s use of weather in Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando. And Harris plans to begin her study with Beowulf and work her way up — hopefully to Woolf. 

Meanwhile, here’s another fun weather read — especially at this time of year in places where snow is likely. It’s called The Wrong Kind of Snow: The Complete Daily Companion to the British Weather.

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I am enjoying a snow evening. Not a snow day, just a snow evening.

My university cancelled evening classes because of the snow, which means I don’t have to teach tonight. So instead of standing in front of a classroom, I am sitting at home on a sofa.

The unexpected free time feels especially fine. Outdoors I can hear my neighbor running his snow blower. In the kitchen, the tea kettle sounds ready to boil. The only jarring note is the TV, but it is the news hour, and my husband does have it tuned to PBS.

Meanwhile, with Jim Lehrer in the background, I pull together Woolf notes:

  • From Anne Fernald of Fernham, comes a tweet advising us to read “Always A Rambling Post on Common Readers, Classes and the Noise of Poetry,” which extols the virtues of Woolf, “a poet who wrote novels.”
  • S. Shulman shared a story about a Princeton exhibit in the Firestone Library’s Main Gallery called “The Author’s Portrait.” The exhibit runs through July 5 and includes a 1928 portrait of Woolf.
  • She also sent a link to a Londonist story, “Which is the Best London Novel?” Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is tied for the number three spot on the list. And Ian McEwan’s Saturday, inspired by Mrs. D, is number nine.
  • In an article in the London Times, Naomi Wolf cites Virginia Woolf in her article, Sleep is a Feminist Issue.
  • On The Walrus Blog, a post called “Ghost Stories” argues that the cult of authors may result in ” fancy editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grocery lists, or leather-bound copies of Virginia Woolf’s to-do reminders.”
  • A note from the Literary Gift Co. illustrates our fetishization of authors. The company offers “Virginia Woolf Parcel Tape” to seal your special packages. It is emblazoned with a Woolf quotation, “Life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope which surrounds us from the beginning of conciousness to the end,” from her essay  “Modern Fiction.”
  • A VWoolf Listserv conversation about Woolf’s mental state generated tips for further reading. They include:
  • And if you need a chuckle after all this serious talk, take a look at the Punch cartoon whose link was sent by Stuart N. Clarke in response to the discussion on the VWoolf Listserv regarding Woolf and weather, a topic obviously dear to my heart.

Which leads me full circle to the topic with which I began: I am enjoying a snow evening. And it is pure white bliss.

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woolf_and_the_city2My headline is a blatant come-on. I know that. But I simply can’t resist shouting out loud in cyberspace about Cecil Woolf’s appearance at the Woolf conference.

And that’s not just because he is my publisher. It’s actually because he is such a dear — and the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf to boot.

I met Cecil Woolf at the 17th Annual International Conference on Woolf, which was held in 2007 at Miami University of Ohio, within driving distance of my Northeast Ohio home.

It was my first Woolf conference, and I felt slightly intimidated — despite my advanced age — as I stood by myself at the opening reception. There I was, surrounded by the brilliant Woolf scholars whose books were my friends, even though the writers themselves were complete strangers to me.

Drew Patrick Shannon, a young Woolf scholar from the Cincinnati area, sort of took me under his wing that evening. He and his friends were funny and bright, and they seemed to know everyone. One person they knew — and pointed out to me — was Cecil Woolf.

The next day, while browsing the book tables, I lingered at the one covered with artfully decorated softcover volumes published by Cecil Woolf  Publishers. It was staffed by Cecil himself, and our conversation lasted right through the next conference session.

One conversation led to another, and by the time I drove home from Oxford, I had agreed to write a monograph for Cecil on Woolf and weather, a topic I had been researching and musing about for six years. 

Drew, who congratulated me that day but wondered aloud what idea he could pitch to Cecil, is now writing How Should One Read a Marriage? Private Writings, Public Readings, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf. It will be published in Cecil’s Bloomsbury Heritage Series later this year. 

So if you are on the fence about attending the conference, get off the fence and into the city. Even if you have to beg, borrow or steal the $45 for a one-day pass.

Besides all of the fabulous sessions on the conference schedule, believe this: You won’t want to pass up the opportunity to meet Cecil Woolf. You never know what may come of it. 

Stop by the opening reception for the conference, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 4, where I will be signing copies of my monograph, Reading the Skies in Virginia Woolf: Woolf on Weather in Her Essays, Her Diaries and Three of Her Novels. Cecil will be there too.

The signing will be held  in Fordham University’s Lowenstein Plaza Lobby, 113 W. 60th St. in New York’s Lincoln Center.

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