Thursday, March 24, 2011

Virginia Woolf

Even before actually getting to reading her, I've liked Virginia Woolf. It's probably because of her cool name. I mean, hello, everyone knows how I'm just predisposed to like anyone whose name is Woolf/Wolff. Other than that, she was a woman who wrote. Other than that, she was a modern writer.

Anyhow so I was just going along fine and dandy liking-Woolf-before-reading-her until my lit teacher was all like YOU GUYS, READ VIRGINIA WOOLF. READ THIS STORY. And so she read out the first paragraph of The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection:

People should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms any more than they should leave open cheque books or letters confessing some hideous crime. One could not help looking, that summer afternoon, in the long glass that hung outside in the hall. Chance had so arranged it. From the depths of the sofa in the drawing-room one could see reflected in the Italian glass not only the marble-topped table opposite, but a stretch of the garden beyond. One could see a long grass path leading between banks of tall flowers until, slicing off an angle, the gold rim cut it off.

I'd read it (the first para) a couple of times before, and hadn't got past it. But then I sat down later and read the story and it blew my mind. What's so special about it? Okay, one: style. Two: the ending. Three: The way she says what she's saying. Yes, that's style but still...the technical element aside, it's — just — a sort of ingenuity that's underneath it. Artistic judgement — yes, that's the term I was looking for. Very good artistic judgement this one had. The length I'm not a huge fan of but otherwise brilliant, yaar.

So I got A Haunted House from the library like a week back and it's "The Complete Shorter Fiction". So far I've only been able to read the first four stories: Phyllis and Rosamond, The Mysterious Case of Miss V., The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn and Memoirs of a Novelist. The first two were pretty good. You know what, Woolf sneaks up on you, kinda, and catches you off guard. It's really awesome how she does that, because when you've got a short story it's a whole different ball game. The dynamics of a short story have to be handled just right to keep the suspense and surprise intact.

I think someone else reading the same stories may not find them so amazing. But if you put it all into perspective, you see her as one of the early awesome feminist writers. Her thoughts, at those time...well, they were somewhat revolutionary. She was, basically, kick-ass and willing to fight her case. In Three Guineas (non-fiction), she explained her case, in detail, about womens' rights.

While reading these stories I came across some truly remarkable sentences. As a fan of well-constructed sentences, I was truly delighted:
  • Living in a poor neighbourhood, the obvious profession for a woman in those days was to do good; and Miss Willatt devoted herself at first with exemplary vigour.
  • 'The Soul' became her province, and she deserted the Southern plains for a strange country draped in eternal twilight, where there are qualities without bodies.
  • As a child I know the stark white figures [graves] used to frighten me: especially when I could read that they bore my name; but now that I know that they never move from their backs, and keep their hands crossed always, I pity them; and would fain do some small act that would give them pleasure. It must be something secret, and unthought of – a kiss or a stroke, such as you give a living person.

BTW her endings are really cool too [the third one is the ending of The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn]. Do read something by her and tell me how you liked it. One of you will obvs be cool enough to tell me you've read her novels (which I still haven't got to), and then I'll be like WAOW YOU ARE k3WL.

p.s. Virginia Woolf for some reason reminds me of Sylvia Plath even though they have nothing in common other than being women writers+depressed+awesome+suicidal. Sylvia Plath is another writer I love, and autostraddle just wrote an article about her so you should read it.

[Copyrighted content in this post used only for educational purposes and for the purposes of PROMOTING GOOD LITERATURE]

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