Posts Tagged ‘Zadie Smith’

Zadie Smith’s novels and essays never fail to display her keen powers of observation, analysis, and expression. In Feel Free, her new essay collection, Virginia Woolf is a strong influence, never far from Smith’s mind, an “expert witness” to invoke as she regards her subjects and her craft. Five examples serve as evidence.

  1. The first essay that caught my attention was “Life-Writing.” It’s a wry account of failure, much like my own, to keep a diary during adolescence, “a banal account of fake crushes and imagined romance and I was soon disgusted with it and put it aside.” As a young adult she found inspiration in Woolf’s diaries and gave it another go. “I tried to copy the form and style of Woolf’s single-volume Writer’s Diary,” but that didn’t last either. She realized that “I don’t want any record of my days.” For better or worse, her email history is “probably the closest thing to an honest account of my life, at least in writing.”
  2. In “Dance Lessons for Writers” Smith finds applications to writing in the dancing of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Michael Jackson and Prince, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Beyonce. Fred Astaire’s movements, she says, “are so removed from ours that he sets a limit on our own ambitions. Nobody hopes or expects to dance like Astaire, just as nobody really expects to write like Nabakov.” She introduces the Nicholas brothers, Harold and Fayard: “Writing, like dancing, is one of the arts available to people who have nothing. ‘For ten and sixpence,’ advises Virginia Woolf, ‘one can buy paper enough to write all the plays of Shakespeare.’ The only absolutely necessary equipment in dance is your own body.”
  3. “A Bird of Few Words” considers the portraits of British-Ghanaian painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, whose subjects appear like “a group of intensely creative people in a small community.… Early New York beatniks, maybe, or some forgotten, south London chapter of the Bloomsbury Group. Poets, writers, painters, dancers, dreamers, philosophers—and lovers of same.” Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant are evoked in the modernist palette, and a further connection is made in that Yiadom-Boakye was influenced by Walter Sickert, about whom Woolf wrote a monograph, its cover illustrated by Bell.
  4. In a review of a book about Harlem, Smith compares the author, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, to Woolf in that both are “bookish and devoted, interested in everyday matters,” and like Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, Rhodes-Pitts employs a technique of authorial transparency.
  5. “Notes on NW” Smith speaks directly to Woolf’s influence. In her novel NW she sought to “create people in language,” to do justice to “the unruly, subjective qualities of language” and “the concrete ‘thingyness’ of people.” This was Woolf’s way of being a modernist: “she loved language and people simultaneously.”

Essences of Woolf permeate Smith’s work, overtly and indirectly: “I admire Beckett and respect Joyce. I love Woolf. Whenever the going gets tough I reread her journals and it helps me through.”

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This week’s collection of Woolf sightings includes a glaring oversight. In a book claiming to collect the 40 greatest parties in literature, Mrs. Dalloway’s famous party is missing. Scroll down to 4 for the details. Another notable item on this week’s list is America’s Top Model contestant’s Kim Stolz’s plan to open a restaurant named The Dalloway with a “lesbian-implied theme.” See 8. Oh, and guess what — someone is calling Virginia a snob. Again. See 9 and 10.

  1. Constellation of Genius, 1922: Modernism Year One by Kevin Jackson – reviewThe Guardian
    According to Virginia Woolf – one of the sources on whom Kevin Jackson leans heavily for his account of what he believes to be modernism’s momentous year – “in or about December, 1910, human character changed.” If we look five years either side of
  2. Books You Have Always Meant to Read: Mrs. DallowayHeraldNet (blog)
    This time around we are in for a treat when Kevin Craft from Everett Community College discusses Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf on Tuesday, October 23rd from 7-8:30 pm at the Main Library. Mrs. Dalloway is, to put it mildly, an extraordinary novel 
  3. Creativity and Mental Illness are LinkedOnlymyhealth
    English author Virginia Woolf had walked into the river Ouse with stones in her pockets, thus killing herself; and throughout history we have known how creative people have always been depressed and on the brink of self destruction. Now according to 
  4. Imaginary Party PeopleWall Street Journal
    Women writers are largely ignored—no Virginia Woolf, so no Clarissa Dalloway. Novels of the past century account for the largest share of the fun. Yet Ms. Field says she has aimed for eclecticism in terms of “genre, country, period and style.” No 
  5. U of Minn. concert to showcase Argento’s musicHouston Chronicle
    He won the Pultizer for music in 1975 for his song cycle “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf.” He won a Grammy in 2004 for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, for his song cycle “Casa Guidi.” The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at Ted Mann Concert Hall 
  6. Zadie Smith’s “NW” charts a bold new path for the novel and offers its readers Salon
    Like Big Ben overseeing every page of Virginia Woolf’s modernist classic Mrs. Dalloway, time — even the actual word — haunts NW with a needling and anxious insistence. These textual echolocations with Mrs. Dalloway patinas the novel as a literary 
  7. Walls buzzing with creativity at ARTworks basketry classHilton Head Island Packet
    In her famous essay “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “Women have sat indoors all these millions of years so that by this time, the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has indeed so overcharged the capacity of bricks and 
  8. Model Stolz ’05 Lands New Job, Restaurant, Book DealWesleyan Connection (blog)
    The Dalloway, named after Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway, is set to open later this month and will have a “lesbian-implied” theme. While at Wesleyan, Stolz was awarded honors for her thesis, “The Impact of Exit Strategies of United States 
  9. Nick Hornby blasts Booker, Woolf and snobbery at the 92nd Street YNew York Daily News (blog)
    Hornby — after bringing the house down with a lecture on Virginia Woolf and signing a mountain of books — is enjoying a well-earned cigarette. He is the acclaimed author of hit novels such as “Fever Pitch” “High Fidelity” and, most recently, “Juliet 
  10. The Under 30 Crowd Reads More Books; Bill O’Reilly Humbly Takes the The Atlantic Wire
    Today in books and publishing: People under 30 most likely to read; who keeps buying O’Reilly’s books?; Nick Hornby finds Virginia Woolf snobby; Jackie Collins recaps Revenge. Kids these days, am I right? Everyone concerned about whether or not 
  11. 10 Writers’ Mental And Physical MaladiesHuffington Post (blog)
    Most great writers experienced emotional or financial turbulence in childhood. Swift, Defoe, Byron, Keats, Coleridge, Hawthorne, Melville, Thackeray, the Brontës, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath all lost a parent in childhood. Poe, Tolstoy, and Conrad 

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The first of 20 Woolf sightings this week involves a BIC pen created for a woman. Yes, you read that right: a lady pen of our own. And the BIC For Her package features the color purple, Virginia’s favorite ink color. The pen, though, is sold in a variety of ladylike pastel colors.
  1. BIC For Her: Sexist Biros Cause Review Storm On Amazon (PICTURES/POLL)Huffington Post UK
    When Virginia Woolf asked for a room of her own, she was of course mistaken. What she needed was a feminine pen, or biro, to help focus her girly mind. Thankfully, pen manufacturers BIC understand the difficulties women face attempting to write ‘her 
  2. ‘NW’ by Zadie Smith: A brilliant novel — for the dedicated reader,Washington Post
    Smith has said her composition of “NW” was influenced by Virginia Woolf, whose ghost you can sense in this fluid mingling of internal thoughts and dialogue, snatches of description and sudden shifts in point of view. Jennifer Egan’s protean “A Visit 
  3. NW by Zadie Smith: reviewTelegraph.co.uk
    I have to admit, the initial Virginia Woolf-style stream of consciousness gave me the discombobulated feeling that I was about to float away to the lighthouse: “Four gardens along, in the estate, a grim girl on the third floor screams Anglo-Saxon at 
  4. Inventive ‘NW’ takes readers in a darker direction, USA TODAY
    If she conjured E.M. Forster with On Beauty, NW channels Virginia Woolf. The modernist influence is deliberate, as Smith unravels — in a rhythmic stream-of-consciousness style — the intertwined stories of a group of contemporary Londoners in their 
  5. Are Amazon reader reviews killing off the critic?The Guardian (blog)
    Virginia Woolf worried that the reader was none the wiser because “the clash of completely contradictory opinions cancel each other out”. According to Elizabeth Hardwick in 1959, “sweet, bland commendations fall everywhere upon the scene; a universal, 
  6. Luna Stage Announces VITA AND VIRGINIA, Opening 10/5Broadway World
    Luna Stage opens its 20th anniversary season with the New Jersey premiere of Vita and Virginia, an intimate two-character play by Eileen Atkins, adapted from correspondence between friends, lovers and confidants, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.
  7. Cuando los programadores aprenden a compartir a la fuerzaThe Wall Street Journal Americas
    Virginia Woolf sostenía que una escritora necesita un cuarto propio. En Silicon Valley, algunas empresas están cuestionando si los programadores de software necesitan tener sus propios cubículos. Su método se conoce como “programación en pareja”, 
  8. Book reviews: too nice and maybe also too fake?Christian Science Monitor
    Virginia Woolf once said “the clash of completely contradictory opinions cancel each other out.” Perhaps most damning was Elizabeth Hardwick, who, in 1959, had this to say about book reviews: “sweet, bland commendations fall everywhere upon the scene; 
  9. THEATRE: Local Listings > August 30Camden New Journal newspapers website
    The 20-year love affair between author Virginia Woolf and the aristocrat Vita Sackville-West. • ROSEMARY BRANCH THEATRE, 2 Shepperton Road, N1 3DT, 020 7704 6665. Regent’s Canal, 7.30pm. £10 (£8 concs). Sept 5-6. A folk opera on the history of the ..
  10. Northern treatSun.Star
    An English writer, Virginia Woolf, said so. She could have meant anything could be done well if only the stomach is served well too. In line with that is a somewhat similar thought: one cannot better celebrate its 23rd anniversary, if one has not any 
  11. Future Nobel laureate in literature Patrick White working as a jackeroo in , The Australian
    White seems to be taking on Virginia Woolf’s challenge to the modern novel to capture life as something that is not neat but instead “a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end”. (It’s 
  12. Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell by Katherine Angel – reviewThe Guardian
    “It is fatal,” Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own, “to be a man or woman pure and simple.” This phrase, repeated several times, might be thought of as the guiding sentiment of Unmastered, Katherine Angel’s provocative and profoundly personal ..
  13. A Stream of ConsciousnessNational Football Post (blog)
    Virginia Woolf searched for the meaning of life in this rambling, stream of consciousness kind of way. I didn’t like reading her because of it. But now I think maybe there’s something to that. “The great revelation perhaps never did come,” said Woolf 
  14. Weidenfeld & Nicolson To Publish The New Statesman CenturyBooktrade.info
    Contributors include George Orwell, WB Yeats, HG Wells, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Christopher Hitchens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Dawkins and Hugh Grant. No British periodical or weekly magazine has a richer and more distinguished 
  15. W&N to publish 100 years of New StatesmanThe Bookseller
    The book will feature a selection of writings that have appeared over the years, with picks from many of the magazine’s staff and contributors, including George Orwell, W B Yeats, H G Wells and Virginia Woolf. There will also be selections from 
  16. Interview: Mustansar Hussain TararDAWN.com
    Nowadays, I am reading Iceland’s only Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness’ Independent People,Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War of the End of the World. Also, Ibn Warraq’s Virgins, What Virgins? If I like a particular author 
  17. Britain’s Wastelands and Wonderlands at the British Library, Newsweek

    Street Haunting exhibits at the British Museum include Virginia Woolf.

    The city calls to its literary inhabitants, prompting them to roam its streets for inspiration, as Virginia Woolf does in her essay “Street Haunting,” and to transform it into the fantastical London Below of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, full of Black …

  18. Art review: ‘where is the power’ at Fort Worth Contemporary ArtsFort Worth Star Telegram
    She remembers the date clearly, as she was reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Power. It was Woolf’s insistence on personal inquiry that prompted Thornton’s journey, which led to this exhibition at Fort Worth 
  19. Exhibition links Tapawera artistsThe Nelson Mail
    Other pieces of text include the writing of Jules Verne and Virginia Woolf, the lyrics of a country and western song and a quote from a bemused 8-year-old boy: “Is that art or should I sit on it?” That observation came from the son of a friend of David 
  20. A Q&A With Maya AngelouHuffington Post (blog)
    I’m a great admirer of Langston Hughes’ poetry and that of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Virginia Woolf. When I was trying to form my own voice, my own melody, I would read aloud, and I found it did me so much good. A lesser known fact about you is that 

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School is in, and summer is on the wane. But this week’s Woolf sightings include numerous references to books that are either reminiscent of Virginia Woolf or connected to her in some way. I plan to add a few to my fall reading list, since I am already way behind on my list of summer picks. Perhaps I should call them wish lists instead.
  1. Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses, By Henrietta GarnettThe Independent
    Perhaps only the Bloomsbury group can rival them for incestuous pairings, which is why Henrietta Garnett, the daughter of David Garnett and Angelica Bell (herself the daughter of Garnett’s lover Duncan Grant and Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell 
  2. Nilanjana S Roy The writing circusBusiness Standard
    In an essay on Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf reflected how close the other author had come to losing her obscurity — Austen was so close to becoming famous, at the time of her death. “She would have stayed in London, dined out, lunched out, met famous 
  3. Night LifeNew Yorker
    Holter painstakingly crafted the album in the course of nearly three years, and her quasi-liturgical pop ballads are strikingly advanced. The music evokes Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson, while the clever lyrics cite Anne Carson, Virginia Woolf, Frank O 
  4. Her Animating SpiritWall Street Journal
    The skating princess Sasha in “The Great Frost,” adapted from Virginia Woolf’s“Orlando” for the 1977 PBS special “Simple Gifts,” is suffused with feminine mystery. Contrast that with the macho swagger and sharp moves of the violin-playing devil in PBS View the introduction to the film.
  5. Computer Programmers Learn Tough Lesson in SharingWall Street Journal
    Virginia Woolf argued that a woman writer needs a room of her own. In Silicon Valley, some companies are questioning whether software programmers even need their own cubicles. Their method is “pair programming”—where two people share one desk 
  6. ‘NW’ by Zadie Smith, New York Times
    If E. M. Forster’s “Howards End” provided an armature of sorts for “On Beauty,” the ghost of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” haunts “NW.” Not only does Ms. Smith employ a Woolf-like, stream-of-consciousness technique to trace her characters’ thoughts 
  7. Umbrella, By Will SelfThe Independent
    In recent interviews he has opined on the high Modernism of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, and his new book adopts their techniques. Recounted in a series of monologues, Umbrella has no chapters and few paragraph breaks to interrupt the narrative flow 
  8. Interview: Pat Barker, author of new book Toby’s RoomScotsman
    I was also struck by the echo of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, in her choice of title, not least because Elinor is on the fringes of the Bloomsbury set, which briefly appears in both novels, and Elinor herself is partially patterned on Dora Carrington 
  9. Letting go — Phase two of a young life beginsBismarck Tribune
    St. Augustine and Dante to Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. She’ll be too busy to be homesick, I hope, because she is about to discover that you surf through high school on your wits, but in college you actually have to earn your way to excellence and 
  10. Toby’s Room, By Pat BarkerThe Independent
    “What do we seek through millions of pages?” asked Virginia Woolf’s narrator in Jacob’s Room (1922), her elegy for her beloved brother, Thoby. “Oh, here is Jacob’s room.” A room, yes, but no Jacob. Where is he? Who was he? How did we come to lose him?
  11. Dear DiaryPatheos (blog)
    In fact, I modeled my journal on Virginia Woolf’s commonplace book: a place to keep notes on what I was reading, to record daily events and to probe my psyche, and to test out writing techniques. I’d find a metaphor for something I’d experienced, then 
  12. Is the Internet Making Us Forget?Daily Beast
    “What a lark, what a plunge,” opens Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, as Clarissa tosses open her French windows and is transported into her remembered past. “Live in the moment” is a directive we often hear these days in yoga class, but our ability to 
  13. Lisa Cohen (The Bat Segundo Show)Reluctant Habits
    Subjects Discussed: Spending years conducting book research, Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland, Garland’s connection to Virginia Woolf,Virginia Woolf’s diaries, the early history of British Vogue, the side effects of spending 
  14. 6 LGBT Labor Day vacation beach readsBoston.com (blog)
    The writing is funny, heartfelt and smart—Bechdel references everything from Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, with a little Sondheim thrown in for good measure- and the artwork is beautifully detailed. This is a 
  15. No man’s land: Today’s female authors are tackling conflict head onThe Independent
    Or the subplot about the suicidal war veteran in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway? Are these not, in their way, stories of war too? If women have been writing about experiences of war on but, more often, off the battlefield, they are doing so more than 

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