CARLYLE’S HOUSE & OTHER SKETCHES by Virginia Woolf (Hesperus Press Ltd , 2003)
It is fair to say that 1909 was not a good year for Adeline Virginia Stephen. She was struggling to complete her first novel and was increasing fearful of turning into a frustrated spinster. Later, following her marriage to Leonard Woolf, she would look back and write: “I was unhappy that summer and bitter in all my judgements”.
It was just the summer months where she hit a low ebb. Her notebook of that year, from which the seven short ‘sketches’ come, consisted of 214 pages but over 150 of these were left blank. Continue reading
THE WAVES by Virginia Woolf (First published by The Hogarth Press, 1931)
In her 1928 essay Women & Fiction, Virginia Woolf wrote that she hoped a time would come when novels would “cease to become a dumping ground for personal emotions” and in her diaries at around the same time she expressed the desire to be rid of “the appalling narrative business of the realists : getting us from lunch to dinner”.
These quotes show how Woolf had at this point become totally bored by the relatively conventional structure of popular fiction. She believed that the linear plotlines of contemporary novels were irreversibly flawed in that they bore little or no relation to how we actually conduct our daily lives.
Embracing the Modernist cause, she developed more of an interest in the darker psychology traits of her characters which led to her becoming less and less concerned with describing their actions, interactions and appearance.
This was evident in her masterpieces Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To The Lighthouse (1927) but The Waves represents her most fully realised attempt to deconstruct the novel. It has no recognisable story and the voices of six characters in search of a plot morph into each other in such a way that it’s hard to tell them apart. Continue reading
Currently enthralled by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (why has it taken me so long to read this masterpiece?) and this passage made me laugh out loud in painful recognition of the struggles of any form of creative writing – be it blogs or books:
“Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”