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Archive for the ‘Woolf sightings’ Category

Imagine my double-take when, scrolling through the LitHub Daily recently, I came across an ad for a new book, Insignificance by James Clammer.

The caption read “A plumber’s Mrs. Dalloway.”

The book is described as an interior-monologue lyric novel, a single day in the life of Joe Forbes, reluctant plumber and anguished father. The TLS calls it “A descent into the suburban uncanny and the English soul.” The Spectator links it to Woolf: “Like Mrs. Dalloway, it immerses us in the rush of a different life, the strangeness of another body.”

I may not read it, but the reviewers are taking it seriously, and it sounds compelling. Who am I to snicker?

Palace of the Drowned

A New York Times review drew me to Christine Mangan’s Palace of the Drowned, which “heaves with allusions to other books and other authors — a little Patricia Highsmith here, a little Virginia Woolf there, glimpses of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” someplace else.”

A novel about a novelist, when Frankie’s latest work is panned and she causes a scene, she goes to Italy, where she’s stalked by an admirer:

“You’re not the first author to receive a bad review,” Gilly tells her. “Dostoyevsky. Hemingway. Did you know Virginia Woolf was terribly affected by criticism? She didn’t even like to read what others wrote about her fellow authors. She said that no creative writer can swallow another contemporary.”

As the Highsmith and Jackson references imply, there’s suspense and intrigue here too, and Venice—all that’s missing are the Bellinis (the drink, not the painter or the composer).

The Plot

 I can’t resist novels about writers writing; Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is another. A twisted tale of plagiarism and intrigue, the protagonist justifies his actions: “He would hardly be the first to take some tale from a play or a book—in this case, a book that had never been written!—and create something entirely new from it. Miss Saigon from Madam Butterfly. The Hours from Mrs. Dalloway. The Lion King from Hamlet, for goodness’ sake!”

 

 

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An essay by Blogging Woolf contributor Alice Woolf published May 19 on (mac)ro(mic) discusses a dreaded topic — aging — and includes the views of Dorothy Parker and Virginia Woolf.

Alice Lowe

Woolf used to address her future self—old Virginia—in her diary; days before her death she reminded herself to “observe the oncome of age. — Lowe

Lowe has written about Woolf and aging before. In 2017 she connected Woolf with aging, writing, and her own decision to get a tattoo.

Besides writing for Blogging Woolf, Lowe blogs at aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com. Her flash prose has appeared this past year in Hobart, JMWW, Door Is a Jar, Sleet, Anti-Heroin Chic, and BurningWord. She’s had citations in Best American Essays and nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net.

 

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At a time when inaccurate information spreads like wildfire via social media, it’s refreshing to learn that a major media outlet is interested in fact checking something as seemingly minor as a literary quote, particularly one attributed to Virginia Woolf.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life” was the quote attributed to Woolf and shared more than 300 times by a Facebook group called “English literature and Linguistics.”

USA TODAY on the hunt

Then USA TODAY noticed. And reporter Rick Rouan, based in Columbus, Ohio, started checking into it. On his own, he was unable to find a record of Woolf saying or writing those words.

So he contacted a couple of folks in the Woolf community, including Blogging Woolf and Benjamin Hagen, assistant professor of English at the University of South Dakota who is heading up this year’s Woolf conference and serves as president of the International Virginia Woolf Society.

Woolfians join the search

I searched my copy of Major Authors on CD-ROM: Virginia Woolf and found no such statement in Woolf’s work. But Hagen traced it to the 2002 film “The Hours,” which is based on Michael Cunningham’s novel of the same title, inspired by Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway.

The Facebook group that posted the quote Rouan investigated has apparently removed it from its page. Fact-checking information shared online is something USA TODAY does regularly, Rouan told me.

Read more about the hunt for the quote and its origins in “Fact check: Quote attributed to Virginia Woolf was in a movie, not her primary work.”

A collection of memes found in a Google search that include the quote falsely attributed to Woolf

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In fiction and in verse, Virginia Woolf continues to be recognized, referenced, and revered. How is it that the mention of her name or a subtle allusion to her work conjures instant identification and understanding, not just by writers or scholars, but by readers of all kinds. Here are two recent sightings.

Weather sighting

In Jenny Offill’s latest novel, Weather, she conveys her ideas and story in fragments that merge into a cohesive whole. Here’s her narrator, Lizzie, a university librarian:

“I do have one bookish superstition about my birthday. I like to see what Virginia Woolf said about an age in her diaries before I reach it. Usually it’s inspiring.”

She then quotes from Volume 3 of Woolf’s Diary about life being “if anything, quicker, keener at 44 than 24….”

Zooming in on poetry

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to participate in a Zoom workshop with poet and essayist Natasha Sajé, after which I bought Vivarium, her poetic abecedary teeming with word play.

An entry for the letter “B” is the witty and wise “Beauty Secrets, Revealed by the Queen in Snow White.” The advice includes “Pace yourself for 35-55” and “Brace yourself for 55-85,” and this:

“Embrace a stash and a place, Virginia wrote, 80 years ago.”

Happy reading to all who are hunkered down in this time of sheltering at home.

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The Virginia Woolf cookie cutter may give me a reason to bake. Yes, you read that right. There IS a Virginia Woolf cookie cutter.

The Virginia Woolf cookie cutter with the finished product, as it appears on the Etsy site.

I first heard about it thanks to a Facebook post last week from Kristin Czarnecki, president of the International Virginia Woolf Society.

Included in the post was a photo of the finished product that her friend Holly Barbaccia had baked. The post and photo generated 56 likes and 10 comments. Woolf and cookies are popular, it seems.

Women writers in cookie form

Of course I had to have one for myself. A quick Google search turned up an article on Book Riot about “Fun Bookish Cookie Cutters,” which led to the Etsy link for the cutter — on sale for $5.20 — featuring my favorite writer.

I quickly ordered mine, then wished I had stuck around on the site to order a few more, as there are cookie cutters in the shape of Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Frida Kahlo, and others.

Tips from the Etsy site for using the 4.1-inch plastic cutter include these:

  • Use chilled (not frozen) dough.
  • Use flour or nonstick spray to reduce sticking with highly detailed cutters.
  • If your dough is too moist it will stick to the cutter– add some flour to your dough.
  • Still sticking? Pop your dough in the freezer for a couple minutes. If it is too warm, it will stick.
  • Dough spreads when it bakes. Unless you use a recipe for cookies that won’t spread (Google it, there are some great ones) your cookies will look like blob versions of whatever cutter you use. Note to readers: I did that and found this one, which had a five-star rating. It recommends freezing the cookies — after they are cut out and before they are baked — for 10 minutes, then baking them immediately. Freezing chills the butter, and will prevent the cookies from spreading flat in the oven, the recipe promises.

Photo posted on Kristin Czarnecki’s Facebook page of two of the Virginia Woolf cookies baked and decorated by Holly Barbaccia.

 

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