Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Virginia Woolf

Though Woolf never met Joyce, that didn't prevent her ad hominem attacks. Of course, one of the pleasures of VW's diaries and letters is her uncensored sarcasm and humor, as this entry from Wednesday 16 August 1922.

“I should be reading Ulysses, and fabricating my case for and against. I have read 200 pages so far -- not a third; and have been amused, stimulated, charmed, interested by the first two or three chapters -- and then puzzled, bored, irritated, and disillusioned as by a quesy undergraduate scratching his pimples. And Tom, great Tom, thinks this on a par with War and Peace!  An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me: the book of a self taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, and ultimately nauseating.  When one can have the cooked flesh, why have the raw?  But I think if you are anaemic, as Tom is, there is glory in blood. Being fairly normal myself I am soon ready for the classics again.”


Today is VW's birthday, and next week is Joyce's. Both were born in 1888; both died in 1941. As the diary indicates, T.S. Eliot was their link as he was for so many others. I am working on a map of modernist writers, and all paths seem to cross at Eliot.

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