Woolf in Winter!


In case you missed it over at Frances's blog, we have an exciting invitation to extend for the new year. Frances, Sarah, Claire and I will be spending two months with one of my favorite writers in the world, Virginia Woolf.

I'm having a hard time expressing how excited I am to revisit Woolf with these three amazing ladies, not to mention all the other folks who have already responded to Frances's post. I have a major crush on Woolf; I have been known literally to have dreams (at night, while asleep) about wandering by her house at 46 Gordon Square and being invited in for tea. I have also taken entire vacations to England, by myself, in which I did things like retrace Clarissa Dalloway's walk through Hyde Park, and make a pilgrimage to the Stephens girls' childhood summer home in St. Ives, Cornwall (the model for the household in To the Lighthouse). SUCH A DORK! In any case, having the excuse to revel in Woolfiana with several of my favorite bloggers will be a very special way to kick off 2010.

We're planning the following reading schedule, with each of the four of us taking a turn at hosting. Around the dates mentioned, everyone reading along will post on the book, and the host will collect the entries. I've included bits of teaser text, because I can't pass up any excuse to spend time with Woolf's prose.

  • Sarah - Mrs. Dalloway (January 15)

    "Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking toward Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself."
  • Emily - To the Lighthouse (January 29)

    "So now she always saw, when she thought of Mr. Ramsay's work, a scrubbed kitchen table. It lodged now in the fork of a pear tree, for they had reached the orchard. And with a painful effort of concentration, she focused her mind, not upon the silver-bossed bark of the tree, or upon its fish-shaped leaves, but upon a phantom kitchen table, one of those scrubbed board tables, grained and knotted, whose virtue seems to have been laid bare by years of muscular integrity, which stuck there, its four legs in the air. Naturally, if one's days were passed in this seeing of angular essences, this reducing of lovely evenings, with all their flamingo clouds and blue and silver to a white deal four-legged table (and it was a mark of the finest minds so to do), naturally one could not be judged like an ordinary person."
  • Frances - Orlando (February 12)

    "But, above all, he had, he told Orlando, sensations in his spine which defied description. There was one knob about the third from the top which burnt like fire; another about the second from the bottom which was cold as ice. Sometimes he woke with a brain like lead; at others it was as if a thousand wax tapers were alight and people were throwing fireworks inside him. He could feel a rose leaf through his mattress, he said; and knew his way almost about London by the feel of the cobbles. Altogether he was a piece of machinery so finely made and so curiously put together (here he raised his hand as if unconsciously and indeed, it was of the finest shape imaginable) that it confounded him to think that he had only sold five hundred copies of his poem, but that of course was largely due to the conspiracy against him. All he could say, he concluded, banging his fist upon the table, was that the art of poetry was dead in England."
  • Claire - The Waves (February 26)

    "I shall walk on the moor. The great horses of the phantom riders will thunder behind me and stop suddenly. I shall see the swallow skim the grass. I shall throw myself on a bank by the river and watch the fish slip in and out among the reeds. The palms of my hands will be printed with pine-needles. I shall there unfold and take out whatever it is I have made here; something hard. For something has grown in me here, through the winters and summers, on staircases, in bedrooms. I do not want, as Jinny wants, to be admired. I do not want people, when I come in, to look up with admiration. I want to give, and to be given, and solitude in which to unfold my possessions."

And that's the plan. We would all love to have you join us, whether it's for all four books or just one. See you in January!


  • Good morning, dork! Lovely and inspiring post. I am all set to leave my family immediately to re-trace Mrs. Dalloway's steps. So happy to be doing this with you and Sarah and Claire! Soooo exciting! And I prefer to be referred to as a geek rather than dork. You know I will get started immediately don't you? How can I wait?

  • What a great idea! This sounds like so much fun. I'm afraid I'm already over committed but will see if I can squeeze it in. In any event, I'll look forward to the posts!

  • I'm in for all four of these shared reads, Emily, but you and the other lovely ladies hosting this must not expect much from me because...that will be four more Woolf titles than I've ever read before. I will now slink away in shame after this painful admission.

  • Frances: YAY!! Dorks and geeks unite. I think I prefer "dork" because I secretly like the name "Dorcas" and wish that it could be used for modern daughters without subjecting the poor girls to a lifetime of teasing.

    Cynthia: It will be tons of fun. If you find time to join us for a novel or two, I'll really look forward to your perspective.

    Richard: No worries at all! I think Claire is new to Woolf as well, and if I'm not mistaken Sarah's only read Mrs. Dalloway (sorry if I'm misremembering about either of those, ladies). I'm SOOO glad you're joining us!!

  • I'M IN I'M IN I'M IN. I already requested everything from the library, it should be here in a few short days so I can get this party started. I'm so excited. Thank you for organizing this! This will be my second Woolf, I might even sneak in "A Room of One's Own" for myself, too.

  • I commented on Frances' blog, but I'm in--I've read the first two, but they are certainly worth a reread! Looking forward to it.

  • Yes this is going to be my first time to experience Woolf. Not ashamed at all, just SUPER excited! Those quotes are incredibly gorgeous I cannot wait!! If she makes you a dork THAT way, then I can't imagine how good it's going to get..

  • Orlando was okay, but I loved The Waves. I've decided to hold off on Mrs. Dalloway until late December, closer to the January 15 discussion date (I've just started Roberto BolaƱo's The Savage Detectives and expect another book in the mail shortly). I love being a part of all these read-alongs!

  • This sounds great! Woolf is one of my favorite writers ever, as well, and I'm impressed at all the traveling you've done to see Woolf sites. That's great! As I said over at Frances's place, I'm reading through Woolf's books in chronological order, and am only up to Jacob's Room, so I'm not quite ready to join you all. But I'll look forward to all the Woolf posts!

  • Thanks for the lovely quotes, and I'm glad that I am joining you in this dork-dom! Should be an excellent time. :)

  • What fun! I'd join you but I am not sure what my reading time will be come January and my next class for library school starts. If it turns out to not be heavy duty, I may join up then. But even if I don't I'll enjoy reading your posts. And I btw, I think you Woolf trips are fantastic! I'd love to do the same thing myself :)

  • I am incredibly intimidated by Woolf but I'll unofficially plan on reading the first two books in January! Thanks for the motivation to face my fear!

  • Whoa, sorry to fall behind on responses there, y'all.

    Lu: YAY! I'm up to revisit A Room of One's Own as part of the Great Ideas series, but I'm not sure when I'll arrive at that installment yet, being only up to the 14th century right now. But I'll be psyched to hear your thoughts!

    Amy: Hooray, welcome to the club! I agree: all four of these books are DEFINITELY worth a re-read.

  • Claire: I am so looking forward to reading your responses. From what I know of your aesthetic and what you appreciate in literature, I think you're really going to love Woolf. Psyched!

    EL Fay: I think Orlando is probably the most "acquired taste" of the four books, although it holds a very dear place in my heart (my partner David & I bonded over it early in our relationship). And The Waves is probably the one of the four that I haven't spent as much time with, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it. So glad you're joining us again!!

  • Dorothy: Thanks! I think about my Woolfian travels whenever I read about your bookish trips to places in New England. :-) Reading Woolf chronologically sounds like an interesting exercise, since there are all those marginal cases - like, did you read Melymbrosia? I haven't read it, but I'm kind of intrigued.

    Sarah: I'm so glad you're a part of this plan! It's gonna rock.

  • Stefanie: Totally understood - see how your semester treats you, and join in if you feel so inclined. We'd love to have you!

    Rebecca: You are not alone! Lots of people find her intimidating, but I think Mrs. Dalloway is a fantastic place to start - not only is it her most famous book (so even if you hate it you can engage in conversation about it), but it really is a pinnacle of her craft. I'm glad you're confronting your fears with us! :-)

  • I'd love to join you for To the Lighthouse. I read Orlando a while ago and I'm nto sure I'm quite equipped to read Woolf on my own, need reading guidance.

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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography