Woolf’s particular flavor of modernism is rooted in the drive to gather, hold, and deepen moments, to make the shimmering moment of perception the base upon which “reality” rests. Her sensibility honors the fleeting, fragile instances of a person’s life.
In an essay for TriQuarterly Lia Purpura writes about Virginia Woolf‘s “moments of being” and their importance for contemporary writing.
The dialogue novel is often deeply intellectual. Recalling the conversations of Socrates and Plato, it allows for freewheeling philosophical inquiry. The lack of solidified characters and settings engenders abstraction, an open space where jokes, digressions, and ideas can roam wild. Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, first published in France in 1796, tells of chummy Jacques and his humdrum master. To pass the time on their journey, Jacques regales his master with tales of love and loss. Regardless of what happens—whether it’s tragic, banal, absurd, or romantic—Jacques claims it was written up above, meaning everything is predetermined, meaning that the course of our lives was set before we ever got here, which raises questions about the deterministic nature of existence, among other things.
Seeing as the latest Dave Eggers book consists of all dialogue, it’s a good time to look back on the history of all-dialogue novels. Alexander Kalamaroff, writing for The Rumpus, identifies a few examples, among them The Waves by Virginia Woolf and numerous works in Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme.
In the category of re-reading, I discovered MRS. DALLOWAY anew, and –– if you’ll forgive the analogy –– it was like being prescribed exactly the right SSRI. Interior life! Laid out in all of its intricacy, and yet the product of a turbulent mind. As a writer, it gave me hope for my own turbulent mind.
But, like Woolf, I also sit down each day and try to tell what I “think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex.” Thanks to her and others, I can have it both ways, because, in the 21st century, the Angel need not be quite so ethereal and self-denying, and the public has a far greater tolerance — not to say appetite — for the sexually frank.
I have often thought that if I were ever a drag queen, and more specifically that if I were ever a drag queen who was a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I would play Virginia Woolf — or rather, Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf — in the Snatch Game episode when the contestants don their very best celebrity impersonation.
The Los Angeles Review of Books untucks RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The 18 years Nellie Boxall served as cook to Virginia Woolf were a far more fraught affair than the coupling of Lady Mary Grantham and Matthew Crawley ever was, full of emotional blackmail and power struggles. Boxall and Woolf had staged battle royals that left both parties smarting.
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain.
Vita Sackville-West in a letter to Virginia Woolf.
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