Monday, December 27, 2010

Young Things

We may be young things, but we're not too young; we're young enough. We're young enough to understand the beauty and pain of love. We're young enough to be sympathetic to those who need our compassion and blunt to those who can't stand heavy sentiments. We're young enough to be brutally honest or creatively cunning. We're young enough to practice true loyalty, to make family out of friends, to be brave enough to discover ourselves. We are young things and we know how to live with passion and excitement and conviction. Who is anyone to tell you to be anything other than young and adventurous? Go be a young thing with pride in all that you are and all that you create.

Go Find Yourself

The thing about going away someplace is that you change. Life happens. You meet people, you experience things. Everything is somehow completely different. The problem with that lies in coming home because you expect people to notice. You want them to just see the changes in you and understand how to function in your new life, but they're expecting everything to be exactly the same as before. The important part is to recognize you've changed and embrace it. Keep changing. There will never be one complete and absolute version of who you are so go out into the world and find yourself and then find yourself again. Change is beautiful. Change is constant. Enjoy it even if no one else understands.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Room of One’s Own (1929): A Review


This is the first edition copy of A Room of One’s Own, published by the Hogarth Press. Another lovely cover by Virginia’s sister, Vanessa Bell. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hogarth Press, it was a small printing press founded in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. One could imagine how convenient the press proved in allowing Virginia to publish small sketches and essays here and there—such as this one for instance.

A Room of One’s Own has become vastly popular since its original publication in 1929. The penguin group has recently even decided to fabricate mugs and beach towels, decorated with their own grape-colored edition of Virginia’s essay. For, although over a hundred pages, A Room of One’s Own is characteristically an essay. Here’s Virginia again, innovating literary forms, saying, ‘it can be done, it should be done.’

Yet this bold little book didn’t exactly begin as an essay. It was put together, so I read, “from two papers read to the Arts Society at Newnham and the Odtaa at Girton” (two women's colleges at Cambridge University in 1929).

“A woman,” Mrs. Woolf writes, “must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” This is her essay’s central argument. But how did Mrs. Woolf come to arrive at such a conclusion? What’s all this about women and fiction and rooms?

A Room of One’s Own scrutinizes the limited roles women have been condemned to inhabit in patriarchal societies, and the effects that these limitations have had on them and their art—namely, the art of writing. Throughout history women artists have had to contend with extraordinary amounts of opposition—indeed hostility—to pursue their art. One recalls the stories: ‘It is not your place to produce art,’ said a certain Elizabethan gentleman to his lady, upon discovering some clever attempts at the brush (all stuffed in the bureau drawer no doubt); or, ‘You presumptuous little toad”— some wretch’s scowl to a woman teeming with potential—take a look: has not her poetry some exquisite quality in it? Something delicate, musical about it? A kind of gossamer sing-song? Yet she is called a “presumptuous toad”—simply for putting pen to paper. Perhaps it is this scowling wretch himself who should be called a “presumptuous toad”—but let’s save this idea for later.

Virginia Woolf argues that the reason woman of the past—before Jane Austen, i.e.—have not produced works of genius is not because they were incapable, but because they were imprisoned. In order for an artist to produce a work of genius, the artist’s mind must be entirely free, entirely at ease. The artist must have the liberty to live and think spaciously. How, then, is one expected to create a great piece of art if one is burdened by the necessity to labor endlessly for material things.

Virginia sums this up towards the end of the essay, saying that “intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And woman have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time."

How, then, can a woman be expected to create great art when she is repeatedly told, in a very hostile manner, that she is incapable of writing the plays of Shakespeare and the poems of Milton. How can she create when she is denied an education, when her only means to support herself is another man? And then, of course, the children come along. One knows how great an obligation that could be—especially when they come in tens and twelves. (I’m speaking of the past of course.)

But what about the well-to-do woman, you ask… Virginia reminds us that, even if a woman managed to possess money and a room of her own, there was no literary or artistic tradition for her to take off from, save that of men’s of course. But that tradition is not exactly fit for the woman artist—for the shape of her art. Women’s art is—

But wait—if you are interested in these ideas, I urge you to buy a copy of the book. For I shan’t summarize all the points Mrs. Woolf makes. (The winter break is loaded with time. Read it, if you’re interested. It shows an interesting side of Virginia Woolf.)


Yes, Virginia Woolf. How could I spare you a photo?

She has many curious things to say about Austen, Eliot, and the Brontes (Charlotte and Emily) as well. She suggests, for example, that Charlotte Bronte had more genius in her than Jane Austen; yet, Charlotte's resentment at her restricting circumstances filled her with anger, and therefore did not allow her to express her genius clearly and wisely. Jane Austen’s mind, like Shakespeare’s mind, Virginia tells us, was entirely free. It did not resent or hate, and perhaps that is why we know so little about it.

Perhaps what makes A Room of One’s Own so powerful is its suggestiveness. Virginia repeatedly suggests that many great artists have existed and died, unable to express their genius. She even conjures up a picture of a Miss Judith Shakespeare, who, equal to her brother William in talents, is driven to commit suicide by her extreme frustration at her situation. A Room of One’s Own illuminates the tacit difficulties women faced in attempting to write in the past, and urges women of the day (1929) to be bold and create, and of course, to aquire money and a room of their own.

Awaiting the public's reception of A Room of One's Own, Virginia writes in her diary:

“I forecast, then, that I shall get no criticism, except of the evasive jocular kind… that the press will be kind and talk of its charm, & sprightliness; also I shall be attacked for a feminist & and hinted at for a sapphist…I shall get a good many letters from young women. I’m afraid it will not be taken seriously…It is a trifle, I shall say; so it is but I wrote it with ardor and conviction…You feel the creature arching its back and galloping on, though as usual much is watery & flimsy & pitched in too high a voice.”

As the introducer to my paperback copy, Mary Gordon, points out, her standars were mercilessly high: "A trifle? Hardly."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Dear Darren Criss,

I think you should stop making love eyes at Chris Colfer, and start making them at Nicky.


P.S. Hai.

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Nabokov!

Nabokov, browsing through his Lolita collection:

P.S. As I am exceedingly busy now, writing conference papers for school, I must delay writing reviews for the other Woolf novels I spoke of till early on next week. I will review on a much more regular basis then.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nabokov interview

Oh my goodness... Nicole, Melissa, listen to this interview.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Misery won't you comfort me in my time of need

Some Rather Whimsical Thoughts on Mrs. Woolf’s To The Lighthouse (1927)


I begin with a picture of the original 1927 edition, with cover art by Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister. They were quite the duo, weren't they?

The margins in the latest edition of To the Lighthouse are unusually wide, as if the editor thought it necessary for some reason or other. I can’t help but fancying that they serve as a sort of picture frame for Virginia’s prose—a sort of landscape—blank, spacious, where her prose can ruminate in its own reflections, where it can think freely, without the suffocating clutter of a half-inch girdle. Indeed, I wonder! that once one sets the book down, there is not a kind of profound, under-water brooding buzzing within the closed copy. It was certainly the editor’s intention, in having the margins expanded, to call attention to Virginia’s prose, and perhaps to encourage one to respond, along these margins (with a pencil, of course), to the various impressions the novel gives, and to the questions it prompts.

To the Lighthouse is continually ranked among the finest novels of the twentieth century, and is considered, by some critics, to be 'twentieth-century novel' itself; yet, however critics choose to rank this novel among the masterworks of the twentieth century, To the Lighthouse is generally regarded, by Woolfians, as her masterpiece. But let me explain, for those of you who’ve yet to read this novel.

Consider how momentary, how elusive are the things which influence our thoughts the most. Consider those silent impressions that occur to us throughout the day, that haunt us throughout the night—that curious pinch of intuition that tells one, as one rocks peacefully on the veranda, or glares into the sun, “this is all, this is all.”

For a moment, one understands. But with the flap of a door, of a wave, of a hand it is gone. There is, of course, the other issue of communication, of reaching out for another, of trying to understand another. So we find ourselves, slighted, verging on despair, as the result of a mere glance. “I irritate her,” one suspects, or “she’s somehow compensating for the death of her father.” The most telling things about human nature are these internal suppositions—yet how capricious these are! flitting this way and that, as butterflies do. And as soon as one’s at liberty to examine these bright-winged creatures, perched on their blue-green leaves, off they go! Off! —like flick of a match! But you are probably wondering what all this has to do with Virginia Woolf. When it is said that Mrs. Woolf is one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, it is said for a reason. For in her novels, Virginia manages to verbalize the various impressions, thoughts, and intuitive sparks that occur to us throughout the day ( this is “stream of consciousness” at its best). “She gives language to the silent space that separates people and the space that they transgress to reach eachother,” proclaims the blurb on the back of my paperback. The complexity and awareness of her prose could have arisen from no one but Virginia herself, whose profound confrontationality (I coin the word) with life, allows her to examine it from an almost objective perspective. So we see, in To the Lighthouse, pages upon pages of butterflies (those capricious sprites of one’s internal life!), pinned down, curiously labled, available to be examined at one’s leisure—no flitting involved. She is, for this reason, the most philosophical of lepidopterists. Ha!

To the Lighthouse has no plot, just as our lives have no plot. It is an internal voyage. Throughout the whole novel, however, there is always a kind of misty energy compelling readers towards the lighthouse—there, right off the shore, with all the wind! and the gulls! and the sea (how it roars!), splashing this way and that.


Here's a portrait of Virginia by her sister, Vanessa. Behold.


The fading of Virginia’s countenance is a modernist way of saying, “Dear, how elusive identity is!” For, couched in her banana chair, drifting casually into sleep, Virginia seems to fade out of her very own identity. Her physical features are independent from her internal existence, suggests this painting. “But what has this got to do with To the Lighthouse,” I can hear you saying... Well, very much actually. For it is this modernist compulsion to turn abstractions into tangible forms, to conceptualize the internal life that characterize much of Virginia’s work (specifically, To the Lighthouse, which is a controlled whirlwind of impressions). Virginia consciously made an effort to transcribe this kind of art (she actually refers to this particular portrait in some letter or other) in a literary form. O, those modernists!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Please excuse my cheesiness to follow.

Why is it that we can throw around the word "love" when it doesn't mean anything, but can't seem to say it at all when it means everything? I love you. There, I've said it and I mean it and it's real. Who cares who says it first? If I feel it, I should tell you and tell you frequently because life is short and unpredictable and I want you to know how much you really mean to me. Now it's out in the world and you know and it's up to you to decide what you want to do with that heavy bit of information. You shouldn't be shocked. I've known I love you for quite a while now. I'm not asking you to say it back or feel obligated to me in some ridiculous cliche manner. I just want you, however you feel about me in return, but I'm pretty sure you love me too. I've seen the way you look at me like I'm so much more than you could have deserved, like I matter too much for you to ever want to hurt me. It's absolutely terrifying to trust you with every inch of my heart, but you're one of my best friends and I love you. I'll say it a thousand times if you want. And no, it's not too soon especially after everything we've been through.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Mrs. Dalloway

This is the first in a parade of blogs I plan on writing, in which I’ll review certain novels, essays, and stories by Virginia Woolf. (As I am reading a lot of her works for a university project, I feel as if I must.) This blog is dedicated to Mrs. Dalloway (1925); however, expect to see reviews on To The Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, Flush: a biography, The Waves, Between the Acts, and A Room of One’s Own in the coming days.


Mrs. Woolf


A Tidbit on Mrs. Dalloway:

Despite its taking place in a single day, Mrs. Dalloway is an epic in its own right; for it unravels all the mysteries of time, beauty, and consciousness in the span of a single, sunny June day in 1923.

The day is hot, and all about London is a tingling, a bustling of life—shops and motor cars and omnibuses and airplanes and salmon on ice blocks and plumes on ladies’ hats, going this way and that. Virginia redefines the novel, insisting that the enormous can be found in the simple--can be seen in the goings on of everyday life—in this errand or that. Hush, she seems to say to the Victorians who preceded her; for you are missing the point!

Of Mrs. Dalloway Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, says it “contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English.” And indeed he is right. Virginia Woolf is perhaps one of the greatest stylists to ever write in the English language. Her approach is in fact very Shakespearean, in that one detects in it the ecstatic desire to use language to its very limit, to the very brim of its potential. Language, as a potential to illuminate, to create, to speak truth is, alas, a sea! And swimming in this infinite pool, flowing here and there, are the words that can teach us, save us, redeem us. (How vast the sea is!) And yet, given this glorious sea, which all writers are!, some choose merely to go water skiing or boating—these are the poor novelists… —But Virginia! She swims leagues below the surface, where there is but darkness—and to bring her findings to the surface, to the light, was her life’s devotion. And so we see, in Mrs. Dalloway, a panoply of her precious findings, moist and shriveled form the pressured depths. But, alas, there they are.

The manner in which she uses grammar is also extraordinary—but I’ll write on this another time, for, if not, this review would become absurdly lengthy.

What’s so extraordinary about this novel, and, indeed, all of Virginia’s work, is the way in which Virginia is able to put the most subtle of human connections into words. Her greatest gift is her recognition, her fleshless sensibilities, which allow her to recognize the workings of the mind in seeming trivialities—the swish of a curtain, the flick of a switch—and legitimize them through description, suggesting just how telling the smallest things are. I’m aware that I’m speaking in abstractions. –Yet it is these abstractions that she miraculously identifies in a smile or a gesture.

Where to? To Piccadilly Street. To the Dalloway home. To Peter Walsh’s mind. To Burton twenty years ago. For that is how this story is told. Virginia jumps from consciousness to consciousness in London, exploring the intricate connection between time and thought. Present blurs into past; past blurs into present. A moment we’re with Mrs. Dalloway, another with Peter Walsh, to whom she considered marrying in the past.

All of life seems to be capsulated in this single day, and Virginia shows us, through her characters’ reflections what happiness really is. It is these flowers—blue, red, lemon—that little girl with the pink dress, that little robin up in the tree, this day, this moment, her smile, his laugh. This is actually one of the largest themes in the novel: the idea that happiness is a moment itself—that life is a moment.

If you are a human being you can relate to Mrs. Dalloway. If you haven’t read any Woolf before, start with this book. There are so many exquisite moments. It’s very much like a treasure box, actually. Her images and phrasing is immaculate.

“…for the shock of Lady Bruton asking Richard to lunch without her made the moment in which she stood shiver, as a plant on the river-bed feels the shock of a passing oar and shivers: so she rocked: so she shivered.”

“..There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale-as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer's day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower-roses, carnations, irises, lilac-glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely, in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!”

Virginia also makes it a point to spot the things of adventure stories—pirates and skeletons and gold—in daily London life, making a point that life is, indeed, a kind of adventure. And to live only for one day is very dangerous (there is a quote in like this somewhere in the book).

I feel as if I haven’t said anything about this novel. But I have work to do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

On This Open Road

What's life without passing a few speed bumps? As long as we're in the same car, on the same journey, things will work out. The destination is hardly as important as the ride, and as long as we take it slow on this open road, we'll make it there alright.

some awesome vedios

Strawberry Swing music vedio

Angela in S.T.!!

Virginia Woolf's voice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! O, Virginia!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dinner at Mrs. Lawrence’s Mansion

It just so happens that for the past three years or so the president of my college—a dry, smiling woman, with a predilection for Joyce—has adopted a new tradition of hosting small dinners, for the first years, at her mansion. An enormous estate reining over the avenue of Kimball, whose key has shifted through the years through the hands of ten college presidents at least.

But where shall I begin? O, yes! with the moon. For there it was, brightening the black sky, like a lantern in a dungeon. One makes his way across the lawn, embowered by the oaks’ shady limbs, and eventually reaches the door. It stands firm and exclusive in a little cavern of cobble stones. May I take your coat, a woman asks. Coats are quite necessary in these frigid places, and so this question is asked, I suppose, more often up north. This is not Miami, to be sure! Mrs. Lawrence awaits you in the living room, the woman says…

The room was bright and spacious. On the oak-paneled walls, one may spy troll-like men, hunched above pilasters or columns, lugging wood on their backs—one’s eyes wander and meet the sight of a fairy-maiden dancing in a garden. There were many curious carvings in the paneling, and one got the feeling that the walls were alive, teeming with tales that unfolded in the dark, when the room was left alone. And as the room began to fill with the jitter of the guests, one knew that the walls, and their goblin creatures were heeding to it all. There were tapestries and books and paintings—a Steinway in the corner, and a massive alcove with nothing but a rosy-amber vase, exquisitely shaped, and set on a wooden table. How nice it must be to sit in the chair and watch the afternoon sun stream through the French windows—through the splendid vase, casting rosy-amber lights about the room.

But there was something silly about the whole thing. There were about a dozen of us, sitting around a small chest in the center of the room, topped with a platter of vegetables and a bowl of dip. You could have sworn it had all been filched from the pages of some fancy home-living magazine. And how could one not laugh, when one looked on the tomatoes and the celery and the cauliflower stalks?

A vegetable is not funny in itself, when its purpose is to feed—to provide nutritional sustenance, to give one some reason for healthy complacency. But when vegetables are set out to impress, to display--to boast of their perfection, they consequently appear absurd. And the same stalk of cauliflower that appeases the vanity of the hostess provokes another into a giggle, and stimulates a third into a philosophical reverie.

Dinner followed in the dining room, in which, the president has informed me,  numerous dinner-parties have been thrown over the past hundred years. The food is delicious; it is from the East, where the air is full of spices. All my companions feel it the perfect time to make complaints about disagreeable things that happen on campus, and though the president smiles (a hospitality class told her she must!), she is tired behind her mirthful mask. My romantic mind tells me she wants to peruse through Woolf's diaries (She's a scholar on modernism)--but she really just wants to lay down with her husband, Peter. Peter? Was that his name?

It was wonderful, I say, just before I leave. Though it was actually rather silly, if you really think about it.