« Virginia Woolf »

She does not have God. She does not know God.

I read the biographical novel, as told through the eyes of Alexandra Harris. My first biography.

God is the ever-present mortar creating sense through thought distortion. The necessary ingredient for an artist to make sense from delusion. (Feel free to quote me.)

Virginia Woolf was not grounded. She had no one to orient her life, never having recovered from her mother’s death, she was 13 year’s old.

P.16 – The young Virginia respected her father’s « free-thinking intellectual integrity that made him speak out as an atheist. »

I continue reading despite my horror at the waste of her talent. Her work parallels my own; meager formal education, she was an essayist, a reader who writes reviews. We separate ways where she becomes a feminist with a writer’s complex. She is exceptionally talented (for a woman in a man’s world). She is ahead of her time, yet unwilling to sacrifice any of her intellect for pursuit of a faith.

Still I’m reading. In some ways the comparison and the likenesses between our empassioned literary reasoning, (her’s with more of a voice, mine with more of an ear), makes her life difficult for me to ignore.

The year 1911, living as the only female occupant, the landlady, in a « respectable middle-class » time (p.47). She lived a questionably unconventional life, almost as if enticing others to wonder about her morals. This says to me that she was craving attention as removed and unconventional, rather than crazy or sick.

She suffers breakdowns in which she attempts death. She falls into despair and is hospitalized. She writes. The cycle of her life.

There are 46 illustrations accounted for in this account of a life’s history. Many are photos of Virginia. She looks mostly distracted, uninvolved, distant.

I’ve only read one book authored by Virginia Woolf (so far). In it, I get the feeling she’s written a statement, firm and direct, that her style, her talent as a writer, having been questioned one too many times, needs justification and proof. She provides it soundly.

A life inspired by Greek Tragedy.

P.57 – « It is the glimpse of clarity towards which all Woolf’s novels strive. »

Born into a home, a family, which respected art. A home-full of writers, artists, art and work. Though she has no trouble keeping her individual voice (her terrific confidence evident in her writing), she caved to illness by willful disinterest toward enforceable psycho-medical interference.

This biographer/author conceives that all of Mrs. Woolf’s novels are written towards seeking clarity… I read her work, instead, as a statement to sanity. She has lucid moments.

To be without God, is to be unreachable, and she denies God.

Her philosophy for her writing was abstract. Her words profound, and simultaneously debilitating, « …there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven » … she denies there is God (p.98). She claims victorious over all art « we are the words, we are the music, » we are all that exists.

She was despondent.

Ch.7 – A Writer’s Holiday.

With the appearance of the book « Orlando, » this biographer reiterates Mrs. Woolf’s range of talent but only mentioning it as being a « departure » from her previous works. Again, her belief being that part of Mrs. Woolf’s « appeal is her tremendous variety » (p.99), yet this chapter being dedicated to a « holiday » from the writer’s intention. Specifically, she notes that, as with « Night and Day », the tone was different from all her previous works. This seems to me an indication of irrational whimsy. Flighty speculation, which caused some of those who followed her work to wonder if this book was a « prank ».

This biographer provides specifics, references to facts known. I’ve never read a factual account of a life, a biography. This is the first, as I said. They seem jaded. Interesting, but dry. This biographical work, though well-written, would have been better if it had a more focused path. It gave this reader the impression that opinion was the purpose for the endeavor. It makes me wonder what Virginia would have thought – having a well-educated, writer, historian, documenting her life with factual opinion.

This book leaves me questioning whether the biographer is a reader, or an educated professional seeking publicity. In my opinion, a true reader, reads as the writer in an attempt not only to understand, but to know the author through their work. Perhaps the difference between a reader, a writer, and a biographer… one who seeks, one who professes, and one who decides.

« Night and Day » from the description provided by this biographer was written while she was under observation, post-attempt at suicide. She being allowed only one hour per day to write. The biographer notes that this style, form and content is a departure for Mrs. Woolf, and that the belief is that the book deals with the question of « how to live » (p.57), then she goes on to describe attributes of the book.

I would believe, more to the point, that, if this book was so very « contained » and not like the rest (« not a tragedy, but a comedy » – p.56), it may have been designed as more of a statement. Perhaps pointing to resignation since she was being watched. Not « how to live » but « is this life. » I’ve never read the book. The next V. Woolf book I will seek out will be « The Waves. »

Where this book’s author feels that Virginia Woolf’s writing « was a counter to transcience » (p.16), creating permanence for her work (« if you wrote something down, you could make it stay put » – again, p.16), I am more inclined to think her work was written medication. She was a true authoress, a writer, not a scholar… and she was partially insane.

So begins my adventure into the writings of Virginia Woolf.


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