Posts Tagged ‘Alison Bechdel’

Here’s the latest collection of Woolf sightings from around the Web, which I originally posted on Facebook.

  1. The Masterpiece PBS post on Virginia Woolf and Downton Abbey. However, it doesn’t include mention of the Jan. 31 episode (Season 6, Episode 5) in which Neville Chamberlain, then the minister of health, talks about the participation of his prankster brother-in-law, Horace de Vere Colethe, in the Dreadnought Hoax.
  2. Woolf witchThe weekend quiz from The Guardian includes Virginia Woolf.
  3. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is one of Alison Bechdel’s 10 favorite books.
  4. Virginia Woolf, Rupert Brooke and the tranquility of Grantchester
  5. Virginia Woolf’s Guide to Grieving in The Huffington Post
  6. In “Women on the Verge of Extraordinary Recognition,” by Nancy Jones, Virginia Woolf is asked to write a play for the WWI village fete. Read more.
  7. Virginia Woolf had articles published in Vogue in the 1920s when Dorothy Todd was editor.
  8. Donation from Woolf’s great niece to help refurbish Charleston.
  9. Virginia Woolf on Androgyny, Creativity, and a Room of One’s Own,” by Nathan Gelgud
  10. Virginia Woolf: Witch of the Waters. A comic of literary witches.

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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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“Good Ol’ Women’s Rights” cartoon

We have all seen caricatures of Virginia Woolf. One appears on a coffee mug I use when I need a swig of inspiration. But there are also a number of Virginia Woolf cartoons out in cyberspace, and here are a few I found.

And for a real treat, get ahold of a copy of the new graphic novel Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel. It features pages of drawings and text that feature Woolf’s intellectual struggle with the concepts of private writing versus public writing, the influence of her mother and her novel To the Lighthouse.

Here’s a quote about Bechdel’s book from Gloria Steinem:

Many of us are living out the unlived lives of our mothers. Alison Bechdel has written a graphic novel about this; sort of like a comic book by Virginia Woolf. You won’t believe it until you read it—and you must!

Related articles

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In addition to our regular Woolf sightings, we offer a number of references to “Woolf in Pop Culture” shared via the VWoolf Listserv.

Contributors include Keri Barber, Vara Neverow, Helen E. Southworth, Cheryl Hindrichs and Blogging Woolf’s very own Alice Lowe, who has been collecting references to Woolf in contemporary fiction for years — and has lived to write a monograph about it. Alice’s Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction is part of Cecil Woolf Publishers’ Bloomsbury Heritage Series.

  • Jane Gardam slips Woolf into her work. In her 2008 novel Faith Fox, a major character is Thomasina Fox. A confused woman refers to her as Thomasina Woolf, remarking that “She wrote The Waves, you know.” Woolf also appears as a glimpsed character in Crusoe’s Daughter and in Gardam’s stories “The Last Reunion” and “The People on Privilege Hill.”
  • Woolf shows up in Alison Bechdel‘s graphic memoir Are You My Mother? Reviews of the memoir often include this fact, as mentioned in numerous Woolf sightings.
  • Woolf makes a quick appearance in Gillian Flynn‘s new novel, Gone Girl. Here is the quote: “I will drink a giant ice-wet shaker of gin, and I will swallow sleeping pills, and when no one is looking, I’ll drop silently over the side [of the Mississippi], my pockets full of Virginia Woolf rocks. It requires discipline.”

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