All I really want to do in this post is share this extract from Virginia Woolf’s diary (Saturday 16th January, 1915) because it is a beautiful piece of writing:
“L [Leonard] to the London Library. I took Max [the dog] along the river, but we were a good deal impeded, by a bone he stole, by my suspenders coming down, by a dog fight in which his ear was torn and bled horribly. I thought how happy I was, without any of the excitments which, once, seemed to me to constitute happiness.“
This is the point where I have to confess I have not read much Virginia Woolf: A Voyage Out, which was incredibly sad, To the Lighthouse, which was incredibly sad, some of the essays like ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and a couple of false starts on Mrs Dalloway and The Waves. Obviously I would like to read more.
The fact is I do not really enjoy the more experimental modernist novels, though I recognise the skill that goes into them. I prefer more continuity. Some critics don’t like Woolf because she was snob. There is a clip somewhere on YouTube of Tom Paulin and Terry Eagleton being exasperated in a documentary about how she ever became representative of an era, when her outlook was so (I paraphrase) restricted. Maybe it was out of context, but it seemed to me like two men deliberately missing the point.
One of the those critics goes on to talk about how James Joyce is so much better anyway, but I did not finish Ulysses either. These three sentences I like very much.