Archive for the ‘Woolf Icon’ Category

Today marks the 80th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, which is being noted around the globe.

Emma Woolf ruminates

Her great-niece, Emma Woolf, daughter of the late Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson, has marked this day with the following two articles:

Emma Woolf shared these photos on her Facebook page.

Yay Virginia, say the Italians

The Italian Virginia Woolf Society is holding an online event on Facebook  11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (EDT) today titled “Eviva Virginia,” which features readings of her works, along with a celebration of her life.

And the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain celebrated Woolf’s work by posting this on their Facebook page:

Facebook tribute from VWSGB 

“80 years ago today the world lost a great writer in Virginia Woolf. However, we would prefer to celebrate her life, and the fact that she gave us ten novels, a biography, two feminist treatises, three dozen short stories, enough essays and reviews to fill six chunky volumes, thousands of letters, perhaps the most detailed diary by any writer, several memoirs, three Russian translations, a comic play, a juvenile newspaper, as well as numerous photograph albums. Enough material, that is, to keep Woolfians interested to the present day and beyond.”

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Remember the Virginia Woolf desk acquired by Duke University that we wrote about last week? Additional details about the desk, which Woolf designed and her nephew Quentin Bell painted, have come to us from Caroline Zoob, author of Virginia Woolf’s Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk’s House

Zoob, who lived at Monk’s House for a decade as a tenant of the National Trust, said she had never seen the desk. So she wrote Naomi Nelson of Duke, asking if the desk Duke had acquired — one Zoob described as “slopey” — had ever been at Monk’s House.

Nelson quoted from a letter dated Jan. 5, 1981, from Bell to Colin Franklin, to whom Bell sold the desk in 1980:

The history of it as far as I can remember is this: it remained in my aunt’s possession until about 1929, having been taken first to Asheham and then to Monks House at Rodmell. There in some kind of general turnout and spring clean, Virginia decided to throw it out. I think she had for many years abandoned the habit of writing in an upright position and certainly I never saw her doing anything of the kind, so that this tall desk, usually, I think, used by office workers of the last century and requiring the writer to stand or to sit on a very high stool, was going free. I was offered it and accepted it, and it came to Charleston.

According to Nelson, Bell’s letter “goes on to describe painting the design on the top and reveals that his wife [Olivia] shortened the legs (‘long before the current revival of interest in Virginia Woolf.’)”

Lisa Baskin Unger acquired the desk from Franklin, and it became one of “the most iconic items” in her collection, which is described as one of the largest and most significant private collections on women’s history. So the Virginia Woolf desk now in Duke’s possession is apparently Woolf’s original stand-up desk with its legs shortened to suit Olivia Bell.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University recently acquired Unger’s collection and is now in the process of cataloguing it. The Baskin Collection also holds a collection of letters to Aileen Pippett, author of The Moth and the Star, the first full-length biography of Woolf. Pippett’s correspondents include Vanessa Bell.

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time magazine coverI was in San Francisco for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I thought about posting a year-end or new year’s message here but wasn’t sure what I might say that would be timely and relevant. But I didn’t have far to look.

My husband and I have our San Francisco rituals and routines–we frequent the same restaurants and take the same walks on every trip, adding new adventures as well. On our first night, as always, we stopped for a drink before dinner at Vesuvio’s in North Beach, the renowned Beat Generation haunt. Sipping my Bloody Mary, surrounded by the trappings of Kerouac and company, realized that I was sitting right under Virginia Woolf, immortalized here in a framed copy of the 1937 Time magazine cover.

City Lights, across the alley from Vesuvio’s, is one of my favorite San Francisco bookstores; the other is Book Passage at the Ferry Landing. There, on our second day, I finally acquired a copy of To the River, Olivia Laing’s beautiful tribute to the River Ouse and to Virginia Woolf. I started it right away and, having walked stretches of the Ouse, found myself right there with her.

An early To the Riverpassage about Woolf is evoked by observing some bees. She recalls Leonard’s bee-keeping at Monk’s House and an entry from Virginia’s diary about them, “the whole air full of vibration: of beauty, of the burning arrowy desire…” Laing sees Woolf “as attuned to nature as she is to artifice,” and the diaries “more shaggy, more luxuriant than the novels … a stronger sense of the writer at play, practising her craft.”

So now I have two sightings, enough for a respectable post, but things happen in threes, right?

Our third day took us to Bernal Heights, a neighborhood near the Mission District where I lived for two years as a child. There, at the charming Red Hill Books, I picked up a used copy of Amy Bloom’s latest story collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out. In the first story, “Your Borders, Your Rivers, Your Tiny Villages” (Bloom has a way with titles), there it was. Claire and William share popcorn and beer after their respective spouses have gone to bed (separately) and watch “Mrs. Dalloway.”

My list of Woolf sightings in fiction is now at 71, and I’m sure I’ll have more opportunities to add to it in 2013. Happy reading and best wishes for the new year to Woolfians everywhere.

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In a newsletter from Powell’s, the fabulous book emporium in Portland, I read about a first novel by one of their own former staffers, Alexis Smith.

According to the publisher’s notes: “Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory, and place, recalling the work of writers such as Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf.”

I picked it up at my local library, a slim and inviting paperback with a collage-like cerulean cover. I found it charming, and the narrator, Isabel, a sympathetic character—bookish and introspective, observant, partial to thrift stores. I wasn’t expecting an actual reference to Woolf, but her ghost appeared near the end when Isabel and a group of friends are telling personal stories, their host assigning topics. Someone is asked to tell a story about regret:

“So she tells a story about visiting England when she was in college. She had a chance to visit the river in which a beloved writer drowned. She had a mousy friend with a family cottage nearby. But she wanted desperately to be fashionable. So instead she went toLondon to see a boy who later humiliated her…” (165).

This was my first Woolf sighting in fiction this year, my 24th since completing my 2010 monograph, Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction, with 37 references. I don’t go looking for them, but they keep appearing; Woolf continues to hold a unique place in the hearts and minds of writers and readers: muse, model and mentor, and yes, icon.

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Each October, Equality Forum celebrates LGBT History Month by spotlighting 31 icons who have made notable contributions to society. This year, Virginia Woolf was among them.

You can view a video about her iconic status and find links to other Woolf information and resources here and print out a fact sheet about Woolf here.

Here are more links to items about Woolf as LGBT icon:

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