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Thread: Virginia Woolf - great writer or intellectual show-off?

  1. #31
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson Richardson View Post
    He has a point about The Waves.

    Dame Ivy should keep any reader on her toes unless they give up in despair.
    Gawd, The Waves is number 16 on the list. At least there are three books before it I have not read: The Good Soldier, Clarissa and Atonement. Clarissa is about ten thousand pages long, so I would not have to read The Waves for a long time.

    Virginia Woolf wrote Modernist novels (so I understand), which was the literary equivalent of Modern Art, which I dare say the majority of people do not like or understand either. I like some Modern Art although I don't know much about it. I think Virginia Woolf was being experimental for its own sake. Did she ever try write a traditional novel?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  2. #32
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Not that I know of. But why do you have to follow a list in your reading?
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  3. #33
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    Not that I know of. But why do you have to follow a list in your reading?
    I don't. I read lots of other books too. I think the BBC's 100 best British books is actually quite an interesting list, being British myself. I just have a problem with Virginia Woolf's books being 2 and 3. I can't see what other people obviously do see in these books. They don't contain great plots, characters or dialogue. They are not entertaining, or particularly moving, or thought provoking. They are not books of ideas. They are writing experiments. Jane Austen changed the way books were written. She is often credited with inventing free indirect discourse. I think that is where the narrator reflects the state of the character's mind by dropping in words and phrases the character would think in a situation, rather than just stating baldly what the character thought. Something a bit like that anyway. That technique that was widely copied. How many stream of consciousness books are written these days? Trainspotting is the only one I remember reading. There are about as many epistolary novels.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  4. #34
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Yes, I know that you read a lot.
    I'll try to tell you what VW means to me, specially as I also didnīt like her at once.

    "I just have a problem with Virginia Woolf's books being 2 and 3. I can't see what other people obviously do see in these books. They don't contain great plots, characters or dialogue. They are not entertaining, or particularly moving, or thought provoking."
    With experimental literature you have to give up the usual conventions of plot, character, dialogue, omniscient narrator, and even of a linear story, all the aspects one likes about 18 and 19C novels. They are aspects that give one a sense of security, because this fictional world has is own rules and in a sense imitates the real world. Now, experimental fiction overturns these rules by interfering not only with the content but also with the form of the novel. It is the representation of a world where World War I and later II among other things have taken away the sense of security. VW shows how it affected particularly the rich class which she belonged too
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  5. #35
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Canīt edit the post above.
    So you donīt have profound Dostoevsky kind of dialogues, what you have now is Jackson's "butterfly mind", people thinking and talking about seemingly irrelevant every day matters. In The Lighthouse you have Mrs Ramsay thinking about her family, her friends "and tomorrow we will go to the lighthouse". All very neat, ordered and boring. But what happens tomorrow? Second part happens, all of a sudden the holiday party of Ramsays and Company is swept away and there is the war. And a very curious war account the novel gives. People from the family, including Mrs. Ramsay herself, die, but the information is given as if it didnīt matter much.The focus remains on the empty land house shaken by the tempest, deteriorating. But for Brits, if I am not mistaken, a house means much more than a home: it means security, stability, status. And, in a sense, it can be taken as representing the country itself. And after the war, some people of the party came back to the house and finally got to the lighthouse.
    And there is a beautiful parallel between Lily Briscoeīs picture and the book itself:
    "There it was — her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision." So had it seems, VW. Whether one likes it or not, this is great literature.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  6. #36
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I wonder whether anyone has to like it to be great literature. The only bit that made me laugh was when one of young ladies at the dinner party said she doubted anyone really enjoyed Shakespeare, and he is considered our greatest writer.

    I wonder what Lili Briscoe's painting was like. I remember she had a lot of trouble placing a tree in her picture in the first part of the book. Since it's a landscape, why didn't she just paint it where she saw it? If she didn't like the view then she should have moved her easel.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  7. #37
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "I wonder what Lili Briscoe's painting was like. I remember she had a lot of trouble placing a tree in her picture in the first part of the book. Since it's a landscape, why didn't she just paint it where she saw it? If she didn't like the view then she should have moved her easel."

    Lili Briscoeīs art is for me very representative of VW,s art. Both are trying to represent a reality that has become very difficult to represent because it doesnīt fit in the old picture any more. So it was necessary to create a new form to represent it. There is a lot of symbolism here. I guess that moving her easel wouldnīt have helped, she would go on disliking the view.
    The problem is trying to read VW literally as if she was Jane Austen.
    "You can always find something better than death."
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  8. #38
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Gawd, The Waves is number 16 on the list.

    Did she ever try write a traditional novel?
    The Voyage Out and The Years I believe. I haven't read them.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  9. #39
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I startet to read Jacobīs room.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  10. #40
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    "I wonder what Lili Briscoe's painting was like. I remember she had a lot of trouble placing a tree in her picture in the first part of the book. Since it's a landscape, why didn't she just paint it where she saw it? If she didn't like the view then she should have moved her easel."

    Lili Briscoeīs art is for me very representative of VW,s art. Both are trying to represent a reality that has become very difficult to represent because it doesnīt fit in the old picture any more. So it was necessary to create a new form to represent it. There is a lot of symbolism here. I guess that moving her easel wouldnīt have helped, she would go on disliking the view.
    The problem is trying to read VW literally as if she was Jane Austen.

    Ok I'll write this out again as it has disappeared.
    ^That is excellent Danik. I got into VW through Orlando, a very funny, accessible book, that gets you on her side when you come to her other stuff. Meanwhile, look at the excerpt in Danik's post above - every phrase, every sentence is remarkable and apt. This is what she does, I have never come across a writer in the same league for precsision and effect.
    ay up

  11. #41
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Unfortunatelly it is practically impossible to find free criticism on Virginia Woolf in the net. One has to buy most of them. I found an article, which is actually on her critical essays, but helps to understand, what she intended with her novels.
    https://periodicos.ufsc.br/index.php...File/8789/8151
    I think, if you really want to understand the English novel as a whole, and I think at least kev has this ambition, you canīt leave WV out. And, in her case, it is not enough just reading the novels, one has to read some intelligent criticism, to know what they are about. Mind I donīt qualify that readerīs outburst which kev provided as criticism. Both of you would provide something much better, if you sat down to it.
    So, and here am I defending VWs production to her own compatriots. Thatīs the world turned topsy turvy. If you understood her better you would be proud of her being British.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  12. #42
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    Ok I'll write this out again as it has disappeared.
    ^That is excellent Danik. I got into VW through Orlando, a very funny, accessible book, that gets you on her side when you come to her other stuff. Meanwhile, look at the excerpt in Danik's post above - every phrase, every sentence is remarkable and apt. This is what she does, I have never come across a writer in the same league for precsision and effect.
    Warm thanks prendrelemick.It seems we posted almost at the same time, I only saw your post afterwards. I am very glad to notice that you understand and like her.
    To put you in the picture: it all started with a "critic article" about VW which kev linked to the discussion. It is really no business of mine what people think or feel about a certain author, but I couldnīt let Virginia Woolf be that much misrepresented and misunderstood, and that by Litnetters who have shown an real interest in English Literature.
    By the way, Orlando is my favorite. Among other things it is for me a summing up of four or five centuries of literature in England (the changing relation between authors and critics, the ascension of the woman writers, the mass production of books, etc.) and it is probably pioneer in its presentation about the changing gender and gender roles scene.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  13. #43
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Someone else does not think Virginia Woolf (or D. H. Lawrence) was much good.
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/...ury-snobs.html
    This one thinks H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy were better, and Somerset Maugham too.

    VW wrote an essay titled Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown. She thought Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy were ready for the knackers yard. She seemed to think Arnold Bennett either could not write or sympathise with elderly women. I thought he wrote them quite well in Old Wives' Tales. I have not read John Galsworthy. He wrote The Forsyte Saga series and I do not know what else. I have not read it, but my mother used to watch the TV series avidly in the 70s. I think H.G. Wells is a much more interesting writer than Virginia Woolf. He virtually invented British science fiction, or at least he gave the genre a very big push on its way. In his way he was at least as experimental as VW. It seems Bennett annoyed VW when he wrote that he had not read any good, new British writers, so VW put the boot in.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  14. #44
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol!Seems we are evolving to a contest for or against Virginia Woolf. Writers good and bad have and had, of course, their vanities and their preferences. Also, journalists often have to write about literature without going to deep into its, though there sometimes are excellent critics among them.

    But there is a matter that made me curious, I think, you or one of you Britons could help me. In chapter III of JacobīS Room it is stated that Jacob goes to Cambridge and that his brother studied Medicine. Now the family is very poor, their mother had to bring them up by herself, being a widow. How could Jacob get so easily into Cambridge. A friend of the mother got news that there was a vacancy, wrote a letter and, next thing, there was Jacob riding on the coach to Cambridge. The year was 1906.
    Was it that easy to get into Cambrige even if you were poor? No exams of any sort?
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  15. #45
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    There's an old saying. It's not what you know - it's who you know that counts.


    There have always been places for exceptional students. James Rebanks went there in the 1980's, he was a farmers son, bright but without any qualifications. He got in on the strength of one interview after an academic friend recommended him.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 09-18-2019 at 03:06 AM.
    ay up

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