Aug 122014


“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd.”

—from Romeo and Juliet

    Some Stuff I Know About Virginia Woolf without using the Internet

Well, she killed herself. That’s not the most important thing about her.
But it does come to mind.

She grew up in a very close-knit British family—a Victorian era Brady Bunch. Va. came into the union with her father. [WRONG: her older half-sister Laura came into the union with the father, Leslie Stephen. Another half-sister named Stella Duckworth came into the union with the mother, Julia, who was a weirdo. Then Virginia was born into the new marriage, between Leslie and Julia Stephen. The older half-sister Laura was locked up eventually, a victim of the “madwoman in the attic” syndrome.]*

Va. had a full sister named Vanessa, who was also an artist; a painter. A lesser talent, as it turns out.

Virginia and her family were living in London during the Jack the Ripper murders. Some people suspected their crazy first cousin of being the murderer. He ended up in an asylum. The cousin. Not sure about Jack the Ripper. I really don’t know anything about Jack the Ripper without using the internet. Except that he targeted prostitutes.

The crazy first cousin was a poet, popular in his day. (Lesser talent #2)

Va. was married to a Mr. Leonard Woolf, also a writer. (Lesser talent #3)
She had what you might call “it all.” She knew fashionable people in London. Swanky address. Smartsy friends who adored her. Status. Class. Clothes. A lesbian lover named Vita Sackville-West, at least for a little while. (Lesser talent #3)

Bloomsbury, where Va. lived wrote partied and published books with her husband, and all their forward-thinking crowd, was bombed to bits by the Germans during World War II. In fact, a bomb split her townhouse in two. This didn’t help her spirits, but she was mentally ill from a young age. She was always just holding it together. So she wrote her fiction from a psychological perspective. She was not doing it for laughs.

Va. Woolf was graced with a long, thin face and mourning eyes. Nicole Kidman had a ball playing her in a movie, The Hours, which was about fashionable women committing suicide and throwing parties. Ms. Kidman wore a clown nose to uglify herself for the role. In my view, the act of tidying up and getting ready to throw a dinner party doesn’t create compelling drama. But I don’t throw a lot of parties. I’m just not that person. So I might be missing something.

Va. was friendly with T.S. Eliot, and might have even published some of his poems. He was a talent. Not lesser, not at all. I won’t say greater. She was nasty about his wife, who had imbalances of her own.

How Va. did it, and I got this from the movie, so I might be wrong, was that she put rocks in the pockets of her overcoat and threw herself in a river. Maybe the Thames.

Pronounce that. (thames)


* i’ve since been reading a book

Sep 052013


“A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies, chatter. This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone.”

—Virginia Woolf, from Mrs. Dalloway

Let’s say you have to give something up in order to get what you want. The wanting is proportional to the sacrifice. In other words, the more you want it, the more you have to give up. So first figure out what you want.

Like this: “I want a job that pays well, that makes me feel good about myself, and that allows me to be creative.”

Okay, that’s a pretty big want. Now, what kind of giving up are we looking at? Your leather Burberry pants? They were expensive, sure, but they don’t count as a sacrifice. Look at the size of your want.

Your car? Well, now we are in a catch-22 because you will need a car to get to your amazing new job. You can’t give that up.
So. Think about it. What will you give up?

English muffins.
Won’t work, the gods know that you hate English muffins.

Ice cream? You’ll stop eating ice cream?

Is that all you care about? Food?
To you, it seems like an impossible thing, giving up your favorite food. I understand.  But this is hardly the meaning of sacrifice.

What about giving up someone you love?
I know, don’t even think about it. Makes you sick.
This is why the ancient cultures slaughtered bulls and goats.
Took them to the altar and slit their throats.
We cannot talk about giving up people you love.
Whatever that means.
It doesn’t have to involve an altar, of course.

Let’s try a different want. Let’s shrink the size of the want.
“I will give up my afternoon coffee and cookie if the gods will bring me a friend who makes me laugh and truly wants what’s best for me.”

Coffee and a cookie?
You get nothing for that.
I keep telling you. Foods don’t count.

Would you throw away your cell phone?
Ha ha just kidding. That won’t get you jack. The gods hate cell phones.

A friend who is funny and really wants the best for you, all the time?
Wow. Another jumbo want. Better think smaller if all you can spare is your afternoon snack.

“I will give up my leather pants that fit me like a glove and that I have wanted my whole adult life if the gods will clean up my Facebook stream and remove all posts that make me feel excluded or inferior. As well as all posts that make me feel that life is so boring and phony, it’s not worth living.”

There’s a Facebook setting for that. You don’t need the gods. Besides, the gods say “Get off Facebook if it makes you so unhappy.”

“I will give up my entire iTunes library as well as the ability to ever purchase any more downloads if the gods will let me wake up every day with a blank mind.”

Wait a minute.
Wait wait wait!
A blank mind? What?
What the hell are you asking for anyway?

You’re not ready for this.
Game over.
Besides, you already have it. That thing that you want.




Feb 062012

(2) Personality and health: attitude to fame, vii; her own sex, 3; and influenza, 5; past, present, and future, 5, 36; impressions from Cassis, 6, 8; from an accident, 6; and Jacques Raverat’s death, 7-8; and her own image, 9, 12, 21, 37, 132; her anti-bugger revolution, 10; on clothes, 11,12,21,42, 90-1, 113, 296, 334; party consciousness, 12, 13; fidgety, 15; her reputation, 16, 21, 22; on Kate Stephen’s death, 17 & n; jangled, 18, 21; on human fellowship, 22; no lioness, 30; ‘I do not love my kind’, 33; most beautiful, 35; aristocracy v. middle class, 37, faints at Charleston, 38-9; still amphibious, 40-41; to take fences, 42; headache renewed, 44;  tumbled into bed, 46; imagines death, 48; K. Mansfield recalled, 50;  Sapphist love, 51; wish for maternal protection, 52; measles . . .


Post title and index note taken from The Diary of Virginia Woolf
Film clip is from Days of Heaven, written and directed by Terrence Malick. Paramount Pictures, 1978.


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