Posts Tagged ‘Woolf and dogs’

This Christmas day, I unwrapped a present from my landlady and, completely unexpectedly, a small purple hardback book with gold lettering and a beautiful portrait of Virginia Woolf fell onto my lap. I was delighted, and proceeded to read it cover to cover amidst wrapping paper and ended up holding back tears to prevent myself being utterly embarrassed in front of my in-laws.

virginia woolf life portraits

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Virginia Woolf (Life Portraits) by Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford poetically weaves the story of Woolf’s life with Alkayat’s considered text and Cosford’s illustrations, a fresh response to the Bloomsbury aesthetic. It opens with the following quote from Mrs Dalloway:

She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was on the outside, looking on.

This liminality, both the relation between work and life and Woolf’s psychological flux, is represented thoughtfully throughout the biography.

street haunting in life portrait

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Alkayat focuses on the personal details of life: how Vanessa Bell’s sheepdog Gurth accompanied her “street haunting”, how Leonard and Virginia Woolf spent nights during the First World War in their coal cellar sitting on boxes, and that they later named their car “the umbrella”. She also puts us on a first name basis with Virginia, Vanessa and Duncan, et al. – a choice which made me feel closer to their world.

charleston in woolf life portrait

© Nina Cosford

Cosford’s illustrations are both sensitive to the Bloomsbury style and offer a fresh perspective. Her bold lines and patterns used to illustrate the pages about Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for Virginia Woolf’s novels, for example, are edged with mark-making in the mode of Bell. Her use of colour also seems emotive, following the waves of high and low that punctuate the narrative. Her illustrations capture the paraphernalia of every-day life, from the objects atop Woolf’s writing desk – diary, hair grips, photo of Julia, sweets – to the plants in the garden at Monks House, bringing Virginia’s life closer to home.

monks house plants

© Nina Cosford

Illustration and text come together beautifully in this miniature autobiography and would provide any reader with a poetic and surprising escape into the life of Virginia Woolf.


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This just in from the VW Listserv: A restaurant in Cincinnati, the Vineyard Cafe, packages diners’ leftovers in a handy little box with a Virginia Woolf quote on the front.
The quote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” has seen other commercial uses. It appeared on white ceramic serving pieces sold a couple of years ago by Pottery Barn. Sadly, the pieces are no longer available, but I recall them creating quite a stir (no pun intended) when they first came out.
The news of the Woolf-related doggie box came from Drew Patrick Shannon, whom I met last June at the Woolf conference. It was my first such conference, and Drew became my first Woolfian friend as I stood in awe among the renowned Woolf scholars whose work I had read and re-read.

Drew is now an assistant professor of English in the Humanities Department of the College of Mount St. Joseph, where he is working on expanding his dissertation, The Deep Old Desk: The Diary of Virginia Woolf, into a book. Check out his bio on this page.

For last year’s installment on Woolf going to the dogs, click here.

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