Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 56

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

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253

    Virginia Woolf - great writer or intellectual show-off?

    I was watching an American literature professor on YouTube giving a lecture about Charles Dickens. He said Dickens was regarded as Britain's 2nd greatest author after Shakespeare, or maybe Austen was 2nd, but it was pretty close. That made me wonder who our 4th and 5th would be. I thought maybe George Orwell was the most significant author from the C20th, but I could not think who else would be up there. Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh did not seem in the same class. I posted this on a British literature website (at least it ended in .co.uk). Someone posted he would place Virginia Woolf in the top 5. Virginia Woolf! I have only read Mrs Dalloway and the only thing I can say in its favour is that it is short. I would as rather read one of my computer programming books for entertainment value. If you want to know why there are not many stream-of-consciousness novels then read Mrs Dalloway. If you want to read a better stream-of-consciousness book, read Trainspotting. However, it appears I am being ignorant, because someone polled 82 international book critics outside the UK for their choices, and Virginia Woolf had three books in the top 25, including To The Lighthouse at number 2 and Mrs Dalloway at number 3.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/culture/story/2...british-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

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Belo Horizonte- Brasil
    Posts
    3,279
    I had fun with Dalloway plus Orlando is a masterpiece. You can obviusly be an intellectual show off and a great writer.
    #foratemer

  3. #3
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,119
    Victorian novels are predominant in this list. But I donīt think I would give the first place to Middlemarch.
    As for Virginia Woolf, she is probably one of the most original English authors and the most original female author, but not every one relishes her kind of fiction.
    Intelectual show off doesnīt describe her in my opinion. She was a genuine intelectual. She belonged to a highly intelectual family and also to the Bloomsbury circle.
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 07-01-2017 at 10:17 PM.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  4. #4
    Internal nebulae TheFifthElement's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    3,067
    Blog Entries
    176
    Maybe Mrs Dalloway isn't the book for you. I have a mixed relationship with Dalloway, I want to like it more than I do but I don't enjoy it that much. Yet it is quite an extraordinary book. I didn't realise it straightaway, but it is one of those books which benefits from a good think about afterward. The juxtaposition of Dalloway and Septimus is quite original, particularly when you understand that PTSD and hysteria have only recently been connected as effectively the same phenomena.

    To the Lighthouse is, in my view, a much better read and perhaps Woolf's best book. The Waves is her most innovative. Jacob's Room is a nice blend between the two, quite accessible yet beautifully written. Woolf's ability at 'scene-making' is second to none. There are descriptions in both Lighthouse and Jacob's Room which have etched into my memory in a way few other passages do. The old woman singing on the steps of St. Paul's. Mrs Ramsey knitting in the darkening room.
    Want to know what I think about books? Check out https://biisbooks.wordpress.com/

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    1
    How about Night and Day? Has anyone read this one?

    I personally liked Mrs Dalloway. I read it like it was some kind of a longer poem about doubt, nostalgia, but mainly about how one can regard life: fighting/refusing it (Septimus's choice) or embracing/loving it (Clarissa's choice). This is not an easy content for a novel, so I would say Woolf is a great + intellectual writer, not a show-off.

  6. #6
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253
    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    Victorian novels are predominant in this list. But I donīt think I would give the first place to Middlemarch.
    As for Virginia Woolf, she is probably one of the most original English authors and the most original female author, but not every one relishes her kind of fiction.
    Intelectual show off doesnīt describe her in my opinion. She was a genuine intelectual. She belonged to a highly intelectual family and also to the Bloomsbury circle.
    I thought you said in another thread that you had not read Middlemarch. I do not know whether it deserves first place, but it is worth reading.
    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. #7
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253
    Quote Originally Posted by TheFifthElement View Post
    Maybe Mrs Dalloway isn't the book for you. I have a mixed relationship with Dalloway, I want to like it more than I do but I don't enjoy it that much. Yet it is quite an extraordinary book. I didn't realise it straightaway, but it is one of those books which benefits from a good think about afterward. The juxtaposition of Dalloway and Septimus is quite original, particularly when you understand that PTSD and hysteria have only recently been connected as effectively the same phenomena.
    I am no psychiatrist but what Septimus had seemed to be way beyond PTSD. He had lost touch with reality.
    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

  8. #8
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,119
    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I thought you said in another thread that you had not read Middlemarch. I do not know whether it deserves first place, but it is worth reading.
    I am not sure if I did. If I did I donīt remember it.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  9. #9
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253
    I feel like slagging off Virginia Woolf some more. To help me I found this article in the Telegraph by Philip Hensher, a professor of creative writing, no less.
    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

  10. #10
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253
    I've been trying to read her essay Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown again, in which she slags off Arnold Bennett, H G Wells and John Galsworthy. I started skimming it by page 3 because the noise to signal ratio is quite high. I think Arnold Bennett asked for it because he wrote an article in which he said they weren't any first-rate, young, authors, British ones anyway. Mrs Brown is a hypothetical old woman sitting in a train whom they either ignore, belittle, patronise or misunderstand. Codswallop. I read Arnold Bennett's Old Wives' Tales, and although it's not a favourite, I am certain he could write little, old ladies at least as well as Woolf or any of the favoured authors she lists. She ends her essay with:

    Your part is to insist that writers shall come down off their plinths and pedestals, and
    describe beautifully if possible, truthfully at any rate, our Mrs. Brown. You should insist that
    she is an old lady of unlimited capacity and infinite variety; capable of appearing in any place;
    wearing any dress; saying anything and doing heaven knows what. But the things she
    says and the things she does and her eyes and her nose and her speech and her silence have
    an overwhelming fascination, for she is, of course, the spirit we live by, life itself.
    But do not expect just at present a complete and satisfactory presentment of her.
    Tolerate the spasmodic, the obscure, the fragmentary, the failure. Your help is invoked in
    a good cause. For I will make one final and surpassingly rash prediction —
    we are trembling on the verge of one of the great ages of English literature.

    But it can only be reached if we are determined never, never to desert Mrs. Brown.


    What great books were written in the 1920s? I can only think of Winnie-the-Pooh.
    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

  11. #11
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Eugene, OR
    Posts
    2,331
    I read "To the Lighthouse" a couple of years ago, and it remains my sole Wolfe novel Here's what I wrote about it at the time:

    "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Wolfe. Another early Modernist novel, this tells the homely tale of a family living on the Scottish coast for the summer. Nothing much happens; a brooch is lost, Beef en Daube is served at a dinner party. Then the novel skips ahead ten years -- the key character in the first part has died -- and the other characters reconvene to try to sail out to the lighthouse (which is on an island). Every scene is told from the point of view of a different character, and there is a metaphor in every other sentence. At first, I found this annoying: at one point Wolfe compares a breaking wave to the sudden shattering of broken glass. I thought, "Huh? Why compare the constant and eternal to the ephemeral? Shouldn't a metaphor work the other way around?" The metaphor did work, in the end, because Wolfe wanted to freeze certain moments in time and make them eternal. The Beef en Daube dinner party begins with all the characters thinking about how dull it is. This reader (at least) was beginning to agree with the diners -- but then something happened. Mrs. Ramsey turned on her charm, and suddenly the dinner party was bathed in the glow of, well, a lighthouse (Mrs. Ramsey, like a lighthouse, directs the travelers to safety).
    Wolfe annoyed me at first, but grew on me. I wonder about the hostility toward her. Hensher seems determined to despise her. I barely glanced at his short critique, but some of it was ridiculous. An important character gets abandoned? That's true! Wolfe doesn't follow the formulas that Hensher teaches his creative writing scholars! Horrors!

  12. #12
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253
    I am slightly concerned that I don't like Virginia Woolf. Maybe that means I'm a bit thick. I've just been reading some Goodreads reviews of Tom Jones, and the people who rate that less than 3 stars seem a bit thick to me. I never really got into Shakespeare neither. I did like Moby Dick though, and that's not an easy book.
    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

  13. #13
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Eugene, OR
    Posts
    2,331
    Well, you needn't consider yourself "a bit thick". Lots of smart people don't like Virginia Wolfe, including Hensher. I'd guess she's one of the most disliked "great" writers, which is one reason I never read any of her novels until a couple of years ago.

    I do think that some literary tastes must be developed, especially when the authors are difficult. Of course there's no reason to suffer by reading novels that one doesn't like. But developing a taste for novels that other people of generally good taste think are great is worth SOME effort. I couldn't make it through "The Sound and the Fury" at some point last year. Maybe I should try again.

  14. #14
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Reading, England
    Posts
    2,253
    I have started reading To The Lighthouse, mostly because it is the only book in the top 10 of British novels, according to the BBC survey, that I have not read yet. I want the poseur points. I suppose I should not be determined not to like it. I do like it more than Mrs Dalloway, but I have liked most books I have read more than Mrs Dalloway. I am not sure whether "liking it" is the point with this sort of book. The characters in To The Lighthouse are not as busy as in Mrs Dalloway, and thus are letting their minds wander more. The problem is mine is wandering while I am reading it.
    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

  15. #15
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,119
    Maybe if you read it as novel which is a very subjective account of how a certain middle class went though pre - and post II World War times it will become more interesting. It is also a good example of internal monologue. Or try Orlando, where there is more action, even if it is highly subjective too.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
    By prendrelemick in forum Write a Book Review
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 12-02-2012, 06:10 PM
  2. Virginia Woolf, a true great?
    By burntpunk in forum General Literature
    Replies: 24
    Last Post: 12-07-2010, 01:46 AM
  3. Virginia Woolf
    By pea-nutt in forum Woolf, Virginia
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 10-14-2005, 12:21 AM
  4. Virginia Woolf
    By BookPage in forum Book & Author Requests
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 04-04-2005, 03:10 PM
  5. Virginia Woolf
    By AnneSchjerven in forum Book & Author Requests
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 07-22-2002, 12:35 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •