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Archive for the ‘Woolf sightings’ Category

Sally Rooney is being touted as the premier millennial writer these days; her new novel, Conversations-with-Friends_-Sally-RooneyNormal People, is garnering rave reviews. I’m still on the library queue for that one, but I just finished Conversations with Friends and was impressed with its intelligence and insights.

I was especially delighted when I came across an early passage in which the protagonist, Frances, is at a party where people are trying to pigeonhole her culturally and politically. I’m lost in the Irish references until someone asks, “Which county do you support in the All Ireland?”

Her reply: “As a woman I have no county.”

Woolf would have loved the sly homage as she would have loved Rooney’s word play and cool take–much like her own–on women and men, life and love. Bridging the gap in time is a mental image of Frances at Mrs. Dalloway’s party.

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The White Book by Han Kang is a sequence of loosely linked personal meditations on life and death and the natural world through the lens of the color white.

In a piece called “Wave,” I was struck by passages such as these:

“In the distance, the surface of the water bulges upward. The winter sea mounts its approach, surging closer in. The wave reaches its greatest possible height and shatters in a spray of white. The shattered water slides back over the sandy shore.”

“Each wave becomes dazzlingly white at the moment of its shattering. Farther out, the tranquil body of water flashes like the scales of innumerable fish. The glittering of multitudes is there. The shifting, stirring, tossing of multitudes. Nothing is eternal.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on The Waves, where in the opening passage, at daybreak:

“As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously.”

 

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As we reflect on the anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, it’s heartening to imbibe the vision in this poem by Billy Collins, see her paddling her canoe for all eternity.

Constellations

Yes, that’s Orion over there,
the three studs of the belt
clearly lined up just off the horizon.

And if you turn around you can see
Gemini, very visible tonight,
the twins looking off into space as usual.

That cluster a little higher in the sky
is Cassiopeia sitting in her astral chair
if I’m not mistaken.

And directly overhead,
isn’t that Virginia Woolf
slipping along the River Ouse

In her inflatable canoe?
See the wide-brimmed hat and there,
the outline of the paddle, raised and dripping stars?

River Ouse

 

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I often begin an essay without any thought of Virginia Woolf. I have an idea I want to explore—from personal experience, perhaps, a time or episode or person in my life, or something that’s caught my attention. I do research, both online and in the library, before I start writing, and map out my thoughts, how I want to proceed, what I want to say.

And then, out of the blue, she pops up. Threads I’m pursuing—about punctuation, baseball, and food, to name a few—evoke some connection to Woolf. I recall a passage, an incident, something from her life or work that relates to what I’m writing. Now it’s practically second nature to stop and think, what has Woolf said about this?

Two essays published last year—one about science, the other about maps and flanerie—wouldn’t have been complete without recourse to Woolf’s wit and wisdom:

More of my essays, including a trilogy about my Woolf pilgrimage, are on my blog.

 

 

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Virginia Woolf is an icon. We who love her know that. Now the BBC has recognized the fact.

The BBC is running a TV series called “Icons,” involving a public vote for one of four nominees in each of seven categories — and Woolf is a candidate in the seventh:

  1. Leaders
  2. Explorers
  3. Scientists
  4. Entertainers
  5. Activists
  6. Sports
  7. Artists & Writers
Once those seven are chosen, there will be an overall vote for the 20th century’s greatest icon.

Artists and Writers on the air

On Tuesday 29 January at 9 p.m. on BBC2, the Artists & Writers category will feature Woolf, as well as Pablo Picasso, Alfred Hitchcock and Andy Warhol. The program, presented by actress Lily Cole, can be found online after broadcast.

You can vote

Voting begins at the end of each program and the vote is open until 4 p.m. the next day. For Woolf’s category, the voting window is from 10 p.m. Tuesday, 29 January – 4 p.m. Wednesday 30 January, London time. To vote, you will need to create an account. Get more voting information.

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