Posts Tagged ‘Vanessa and Virginia’

Susan Sellers, author of the novel Vanessa and Virginia, is spreading the news via Facebook that the Moving Stories Theatrevanessa & virginia play production of the eponymous play based on her novel is sold-out for its current three-week run.

Written by Dr. Elizabeth Wright, the play is on stage at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London, through April 14.

Read more about it — and Susan Sellers:

A screen shot of Susan Sellers' Facebook post about "Vanessa and Virginia"

A screen shot of Susan Sellers’ Facebook post about “Vanessa and Virginia”

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Vanessa and Virginia, the Elizabeth Wright play based on the Susan Sellers novel, will have a three-week run at the Riverside Studios in London from vanessa virginia playMarch 26-April 13.

Moving Stories Limited, producer of the show, will host a range of workshops, talks and events to compliment the run of the show.

The play opened in September 2011 at the Woolf Conference in Aix en Provence and has toured the UK and Europe.

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In less than two weeks, a Google alert for “Virginia Woolf” netted the following links. To view more examples of Woolf spotting online that I have collected during the past few years, visit the Woolf sightings page.
  1. Virginia Woolf, the academicMedia Newswire (press release)
    These have led Professor Susan Sellers to put forward a new slant on Virginia Woolf and her intensely passionate relationship with her artist sister . . . Read “Review of Vanessa and Virginia.”
  2. On “Middlebrow”New Yorker (blog)
    For our purposes, it’s important to note two key figures in the middlebrow debate:Virginia Woolf, who denounced middlebrows for missing the intrinsic value  . . .
  3. Chapman’s Odyssey, By Paul Bailey, Independent
    Virginia Woolf, for example, is referred to primarily as “not much of a listener”. Chapman’s Odyssey is a rewarding curiosity of a book, though hard to . . .
  4. We Need a HeroThe East Hampton Star
    Then, working on her dissertation at the University of Cologne, she realized when she read Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” that, as she had surmised . . .
  5. Please Your Shelf, Our Muses, Ourselves: Why Women Like Me Run Away From Home, Huffington Post (blog)
    After all, novelist Virginia Woolf proclaimed that every woman needs a room of one’s own to do so. But Susan and I are so exhausted by the time we arrive at . . . (more…)

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Vanessa and VirginiaAuthors of novels about real people have great freedom, in the name of fiction, to carve out their territory. Virginia Woolf and her coterie seem to be frequent subjects of these bold interpretations, and Woolfians are irresistibly drawn to them, myself included.

In recent years I have added to my shelves Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury by Sigrid Nunez, But Nobody Lives in Bloomsbury by Gillian Freeman, and of course Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. The latest is Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers.

An accomplished Woolf scholar, Sellers makes few departures from the lives of the sisters. At the recent Virginia Woolf Conference in New York, she confessed that she chose the form of a first-person monologue by Vanessa as she would have been terrified to try to speak in Woolf’s voice. Yet one can appreciate her creativity and the risk involved in this undertaking as she presents a provocative perspective.

Sellers conveys a forceful immediacy with Vanessa’s present tense narrative directed at Virginia, who is “you” throughout. The four shattering family deaths are related in the first three chapters, resounding, one after the other, with startling violence. Vanessa observes that, “If this were a work of fiction, instead of an attempt to discern the truth, then Stella’s death, coming so soon after Mother’s, would seem like malicious overload on the writer’s part” (35).

Susan Sellers

Susan Sellers

Her story is one of bitterness and relentless envy from the start, as she perceives Virginia usurping Thoby, Mother, and then Clive. She resents Virginia’s relationship with Leonard and Duncan’s with Bunny—someone else is always taking her place, and she has to care for everyone while no one takes care of her. Even Virginia’s illness becomes an accusation: “There was manipulation as well as helplessness in your loss of control. By relinquishing the burden to me, you ensured I remained in Mother’s place, parenting you, indulging you” (51).

Vanessa’s language is lyrical and painterly when speaking of the colors, textures and shapes in her paintings, but there’s little joy, and her art often seems like a sedative. Drawing classes in her youth enabled her to “forget your pain and Father’s misery and Stella’s cares” (27); she paints to avoid feeling. Self-disparaging comparisons to Virginia and a lack of confidence in her work lead to her cloying subservience to Duncan, in both art and life, and seem to diminish her as an artist and professional.

While Sellers skillfully and sensitively conveys the complexity and pathos of Vanessa’s life, she makes a few unnecessary forays. A few instances of foreshadowing seem gratuitous, but this is, after all, fiction.

Overall, I found it satisfying and compelling, and I read it from cover to cover on the day I departed New York following the Woolf Conference. It gave me food for thought as I descended from conference immersion and a long flight into daily life, and now, more than a month later, I find I’m still swishing it around, enjoying the flavor.

Vanessa and Virginia, by Susan Sellers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston/New York, 2009.

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Vanessa and VirginiaSusan Sellers‘ new novel, Vanessa and Virginia, is said to provide a new angle on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her elder sister Vanessa Bell because it is told from Vanessa’s pespective.

Although Sellers has published numerous non-fiction books as well as short stories, this is her first novel. It was published in the UK by two Ravens Press last June, and it will be published in the U.S. by Houghton Harcourt in May.

Sellers, who is professor of English and related literature at the University of St Andrews, is known as the co-editor of the Cambridge University Press editions of Virginia Woolf’s works. She is also a noted scholar on Hélène Cixous.

She will be at the Woolf and the City conference at Fordham University in June.

Get more insight into Vanessa and Virginia by reading this interview with Sellers on the Two Ravens blog or this one on Vulpes Libris.

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