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  •  Julia Briggs Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life (6+ / 0-)

    is an excellent critical biography and each chapter is in reference to each of her works; for instance
    Ch 1. Beginning: The Voyage Out (1915)
    Ch 6. 'What a Lark! What a Plunge!': Mrs Dalloway (1925)
    Ch 14. The Last of England: Between the Acts (1941)

    Briggs:

    Mrs Dalloway is the story of a day in the lives of a man and woman who never meet -- a society hostess who gives a party, and a shell-shocked soldier who commits suicide.  What they have in common  or why their stories are told in parallel, the reader must decide, for this is a modernist text, an open text, with no clear climax or final explanation, and what happens seems to shift as we read and reread.  Woolf intended her experiment to bring the reader closer  to everyday life, in all its confusion, mystery and uncertainty ... For Woolf, fiction's traditional focus  on highly charged moments threatened to devalue daily experience.  In Mrs Dalloway, she set out to restore 'the life of Monday or Tuesday' to its proper, central place in fiction.  At the same time, avoiding familiar narrative sequences [for instance, Dalloway is a novel without chapters, one long foray] made greater demands on her readers, requiring them to take a more active role in the process of interpretation. ... Using the technique of interior monologue ... [Woolf] records the 'myriad impressions' received by the hostess ... and the soldier ... and those around them.  Seeing their experiences from within gives the reader a more fluid and changeable sense of who they are--more like the confused and fluctuating sense we have of other people.
    I found my first read of Mrs D to be rather challenging; I wasn't sure what Woolf was doing and where she was going.  I was living in Holland at the time and had checked it out at the local library--they had an English section--my Dutch boyfriend and I at the time were doing a little 'experimenting' of our own, shall we say, he was a nurse and had stolen from the hospital some syringes and morphine and dosed us and I found reading for several pages Mrs D aloud in that state was quite remarkable (I could not stop/restrain myself I seem to remember, this was about 13-14 years ago) the prose was so stunning and quite tingling, especially given our own 'interior' states and he loved the sound of English as well anyway and though he spoke English rather well, Woolf was way out there for him, but again, in our state, quite enthralling; he kept asking me to continue reading (I thought he may have tired of the whole thing).  Subsequent (and sober lol) readings heighten the beauty and the understanding (and the still in grasping), too, of course; and the parallel stories of Mrs Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith: were these characters both fragments in some way of Woolf herself; two 'stories' she felt compelled to write about and found the best way was to interweave them?

    Writing a decade later, Djuna Barnes in Nightwood added quite a lot of humour to her story and certainly wasn't sublte about lesbianism as Woolf only very delicately alludes to in Mrs Dalloway's past; of course, if we use today's common parlance we might say Woolf was bisexual or Sapphic as she might (and did); Barnes, of course, was living in Paris, and like Jane Bowles around the same time, found a whole city, or certain Parisian corners, with lesbians seemingly everywhere considering the time and as compared to other places.  Barnes writes all over the map, so to speak, but in a different way than Woolf, which can make them both challenging and quite rewarding.  Barnes is much more 'conventional' in some ways than Woolf and in others less so; their focal point, their commonality is TS Eliot.

    Back to Briggs:

    E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence had rejected the old [Victorian novel] forms, while Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Richardson and James Joyce had, in their various ways, all attempted 'to come closer to life,'as Woolf had defined it in [her essay on] 'Modern Fiction,' aiming 'to record the atoms as they fall upon the mind ... (to) trace the pattern ... which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.'  Mansfield had remained primarily an author of short stories (thus posing less of a threat), but the fiction of Dorothy Richardson and James Joyce, Woolf thought, was ruined by 'the damned egotistical self.'  Could this be avoided?  'Is one pliant & rich enough to provide a wall for the book from oneself?' she wondered.  Joyce was most nearly after the same thing as she was.  Reluctantly she acknowledged the 'brilliancy' of his writing, while disliking his 'sordidity', his masculine approach to the physical and sexual aspects of life.  Nevertheless, she adopted from Ulysses the idea of describing a June day in the life of a city, substituting London for Dublin; and the separate paths of Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom ... may also have contributed to the construction of her novel
    .

    The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

    by micsimov on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 09:04:23 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  I'm going to order a used copy of this book (6+ / 0-)

      today!  Thanks.

      And thanks also for the description of your Dutch reading.  That was epic!  

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 09:14:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A delicious comment. You take the Madeleine (6+ / 0-)

      or trifle, if you prefer, with your rich layers.

      the fiction of Dorothy Richardson and James Joyce, Woolf thought, was ruined by 'the damned egotistical self.'  Could this be avoided?  'Is one pliant & rich enough to provide a wall for the book from oneself?' she wondered.
      For a modernist experiment, it's lovely how open and inviting Mrs. Dalloway is. Okay, I've lived in England, and read Somerset Maugham, Waugh, Greene, Ford Madox Ford - so London in 1923 isn't so foreign to my mind. But I never once felt the need of a footnote, the main story was always accessible (I think - who knows how much I missed). I never felt lost. Perhaps in two paragraphs, I got halfway through and saw that I'd mistaken who was speaking right then.

      Well, we know Joyce was willfully obscure: he wrote Finnegans Wake. But, from your Briggs quote, he had more impact on Mrs. Dalloway than I knew.

      Your pleasure trip in Holland was charming, even seen briefly from a distance. I smoked opium once, and it did something weird and wonderful, breaking the experience of time into a non-linear flow. As if moments connected to each other, not by chronology, but relations of subject and significance. An evening in Slaughterhouse Five.

      I'll read Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life , after I've done all her novels. Thanks for sharing your fascinating experiences and ideas, micsimov.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 09:55:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Certainly, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Radiowalla, Brecht, RiveroftheWest, suka

        I loved Holland and enjoyed the 5 years that I lived there, mainly in the south in the city of  Tilburg, but also one summer in Amsterdam (it's, of course, much more expensive compared to the rest of the country; the canals are beautiful but they tend to raise the cost of real estate, etc) and also in Leiden, home to the famous University of Leiden, where the current King, Willem Alexander, studied; I took a Dutch language course there once but furthered by Dutch language studies at the University of Tilburg, they had a much better language immersion focused curriculum.

        I've read Joyce's Portrait of the Artist ... and not all but some of  The Dubliners, The Dead to be sure, absolutely exquisite and the John Huston filmed version with this daughter I also enjoyed.

        Proust was the main influence from what I have gathered on Woolf, but aspects of Joyce are striking as Briggs has noted.  And yes, with Woolf you can 'plunge' right in, unlike the major works of Joyce, I tried but gave up after 50pps or so Ulysses when I was much younger, before I even began to engage with Woolf; I would like to try again one day U and FW.

        The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

        by micsimov on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 02:38:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd read all of Proust in French before Finnegans; (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, micsimov, suka

          though my brother was in a book club who met in an Irish pub, once a week for years, to discuss the next few pages of FW.

          I've already touted my best book diary ever downthread. Here is my take on FW:

          Finnegans Wake, and other Volcanoes of Tharsis.  There are volcanoes on Mars much higher than any earthly mountain.  Olympus Mons is about 2.5 times as tall as Mount Everest.  Finnegans Wake is the Olympus Mons of my Bookcase.  I have tried to read it.  I got about 30 pages in, and discovered a rather short paragraph, about a third of which made sense to me.  I put the book down with a sigh, feeling a rather small sense of accomplishment.
          Ulysses is must-read, for ambitious readers; after Dubliners and Portrait.

          I spent a week in Amsterdam, when I was 16. I foolishly took my father (or vice versa), but enjoyed a lot of rijsttafel and Van Gogh. Very pleasant city.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 05:08:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I love the work of (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brecht, suka, RiveroftheWest, Radiowalla

            Elias Canetti; I read his three-volume memoir (The Tongue Set Free; The Torch in My Ear; The Play of the Eyes; collected as The Memoirs of Elias Canetti) and found it so delightful; Notes from Hampstead: The Writer's Notes, 1954-1971 is mesmerizing; so many quotables; a flavouring:

            Slumbering in every human being lies an infinity of possibilities, which one must not arouse in vain.  For it is terrible when the whole man resonates with echoes and echoes, none becoming a real voice.
            It all depends on this: with whom we confuse ourselves.
            His fear of all his endless little notebooks!  By now they are mounting into the hundreds, every page covered, and he never opens a one of them!  This prolific writer of nothing, what is so important for him to tell no one?
            Why are you always explaining everything?  Why do you always want to find out what's behind things ... How about a life on the surface?  Would that be happy?  And would that be a reason to despise it?  Maybe there is much more to a surface--maybe everything not on the surface is false, maybe you are just living in an ever-changing series of delusions, not beautiful like those of gods but empty like those of philosophers.  Perhaps it would be better for you to just arrange words one after another (since it has to be words), but you're always looking for a meaning, as if what you invent could give the world a sense it does not have.
            The true stories that we tell are false; with false stories at least there is the chance that they might come true.
            Diaries which are too accurate are the end of freedom.  Thus we should keep them only intermittently, so that the 'empty' intervals become the fullest entries.
            Don't seek the silent syllables within yourself; you will find them only in the babbling of others.
            I started with Auto-de-Fa but have heard there is a more recent English translation under the more 'proper' title The Blinding but haven't been able to find it; also read Earwitness: Fifty Characters and also his book length essay on the letters between Franz Kafka and Felice Bauer (Kafka's Other Trial: The Letters to Felice); on my list to read by Canetti are: Crowds and Power and Party in the Blitz.

            By William Gaddis I started with Agape, Agape then went to The Recognitions -- wow what a dizzy.

            Absolutely adore The Magic Mountain and The Man Without Qualities --absolutely adore Mann and Musil -- Ingeborg Bachmann's magnificent story collection Three Paths to the Lake (Simultan) abound with references/allusions to Musil and Joseph Roth.

            As for Hermann Broch, I've conquered The Sleepwalkers and The Guiltless, Death of Virgil is on my list.

            I went through a Gertrude Stein phase starting with the Autobio of Alice ... loved; Ida; Three Lives; Geography and Plays; Wars I Have Seen.

            I would count myself as an avid Henry James reader and admirer but after a few chapters of The Golden Bowl I stopped.

            I'll have to come back to your list at another point; I shall hotlist it; I enjoy William Gass's essays and read In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, need to get to The Tunnel.  Through his constant reference and praise of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano I finally relented and found superb and worthy of your classification as well as Christina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children --I would be interested to read your estimation of that incredible work.  Also, Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch.--which I read cover to cover, he has signposts along the way to read the novel so if you wish you can read it 'out of order' or in another rendered 'order' -however one wishes to characterize it.

            The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

            by micsimov on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 08:29:24 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  So, you're a mountaineer who scales the scarps, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, Radiowalla

              where reason risks unreeling, where angels fear to tread. Respect.

              I'm less reckless, more measured: I'm merely trying to read every interesting or important novel. Also, I will live forever, or die in the attempt. Most of my 50 Himalayas came from hard book lists. I've only read:

              The Magic Mountain, The Glass Bead Game, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Invisible Man (not Himalayan, it turns out), Giles Goat-Boy, The Book of the New Sun, Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, Moby Dick, War and Peace, Brothers Karamazov, Swann's Way, Ulysses, & Name of the Rose. I have started 8 others (including Nightwood), and have 4 more sitting unopened on my shelves.

              I compiled my immense TBR list mostly from consulting 7 or 8 books on books, and about 20 Best Books Lists online. Auto-da-Fé appeared pretty high on my interesting list. Your quotes speak spledidly for him.

              The true stories that we tell are false; with false stories at least there is the chance that they might come true.
              is perfect. The one with
              maybe everything not on the surface is false, maybe you are just living in an ever-changing series of delusions, not beautiful like those of gods but empty like those of philosophers.
              in the middle reminds me of a great friend who said, "What if life is just what you do, and all this thinking is an epiphenomenon?"

              But your first quote is my favorite, explosive with poetry and truth.

              My books on books said that William Gaddis's storytelling got lost in his own games. I'll read The Recognitions, then see if I really want more.

              I like Mann in general, and his Mountain is massive. Musil, I've only read Young Törless. Monsieur Georges was reading him recently. Have you read any Coetzee?

              I haven't yet read The Man Who Loved Children, though people keep recommending it, and it's high on my TBR. Cortazar sounds most intriguing, Hopscotch and his short stories.

              I'm happy to have so many weird and wonderful books before me to read - they'll keep me busy for decades.

              Thanks for checking out my love-child, my favorite diary.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 12:49:11 PM PST

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              •  It's a sort of (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest, Brecht

                'temple of texts' ala Wm Gass.  I want something to read that is spellbinding, that is compelling, not just a story but the telling, the telling and the tale; is it profound? is it moving? do I have to set it down a moment or take a pause and ponder; does it make me jealous but also content and settled; disturbed and explosive.  I haven't read Coetzee but I know he's there.  Since you haven't read Gaddis, I wouldn't rush it.  Only because there is so much out there, I think though he is admirable.

                'as if what you invent could give the world a sense it does not have' Canetti I think is so much more engaging than Gaddis who got lost, as you alluded, and in my estimation, in the inventing.  From what I have read of Thomas Bernhard he's a milder, shorter form of Gaddis in a way. Of Hesse, I've read a couple of the shorter works, Beneath the Wheel and Damien and would like to read more.

                I'm trying, too, to read up on the contemporaries.  Dabbling with Robert Boswell and Andrew Holleran, don't think there's much there.  

                Reading now and thoroughly enjoying Paul Bowles The Spider's House (1955), the title is borrowed from a line in the Koran and is about the unsettling of Moroccan sensibilities and rivalries between the Berbers and Arabs, different cultures and classes that make up the mosaic of Moroccan society and French colonial power.

                The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

                by micsimov on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 05:51:16 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  You read a lot of interesting or challenging books (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RiveroftheWest
                  I want something to read that is spellbinding, that is compelling . . . is it profound? is it moving? do I have to . . . ponder; does it make me jealous . . . disturbed and explosive
                  Those are all reasons that attract me to a book. Ultimately, with books and rock music, I want to try everything, and gauge in what ways it's objectively strong/rich/original. As if I'm mapping out the entire field on a mental map. Then, if it also speaks especially to me, I'll go back for a lot more of it.

                  Coetzee I admire for his clear, piercing, flexible mind - especially his criticism.

                  I've got a friend who loves Bernhard. Hesse spoke directly to my teenage self, so I read lots of him then. I recently got a newer translation of Glass Bead Game, because that was his biggest and deepest, I believe. Tangentially, Buddenbrooks is on my TBR shelf, and champing at the bit; as is Tin Drum; and I really ought to read more Brecht. Know thyself.

                  "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                  by Brecht on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 09:44:14 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  LOL (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Brecht, RiveroftheWest
                    Da wird ein Leben lang das Maul aufgerissen,
                    und steht so was dann vor Gottes Thron,
                    dann wird in die Hosen geschissen.
                    Well, now the Brecht problem is a little bit solved for now.

                    I thought I read there was a more recent translation of Hesse's TGBG, as well as of Kafka's The Castle -- I read The Man Who Disappeared (aka Amerika), was quite impressed and I've read the first volume of Kafka's diaries; I'm smitten with Kafka and Rilke.  Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain I've admired; I hate to compare the two, or put one over the other, but the farewell to Hans at the end of TMM, well, I admit, I just have to gush, especially taken together with Hermann Broch's The Sleepwalkers and Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday.

                    Of Grass, I've only read Cat and Mouse, some of the poetry.  I quite enjoyed the film version of TTD so I must at one point read the book.  As for Bernhard, I've only read Woodcutters and The Voice Imitator and I certainly would rather read more of him than say Gaddis for instance; I'm intrigued by the estimation of many of JR but since I've tackled already The Recognitions it's not as high on my list.

                    Thoughts on Henry Green?  I've read Caught and Loving, would like to try Party Going.  Just hope that one isn't too Ivy Compton-Burnett-esque.  I've read the short stories of Sylvia Townsend Warner, none of the novels yet; she's a gem, at least in the view of her mastery of the shorter fiction form.

                    The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

                    by micsimov on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 05:58:28 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  "Well, now the Brecht problem is a little bit (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      RiveroftheWest

                      solved for now." Oh, if it were only that easy!

                      I found a lot to like in Magic Mountain - the near-death Greek reverie was my favorite bit. Mann, like Hesse, is good with psychic dichotomies.

                      Rilke, I only know Letters to a Young Poet, and a handful of very fine poems I've come across. Kafka: just Metamorphosis and several stories (The Trial is high on my TBR shelf).

                      The Sleepwalkers sounds hard but revelatory. Zweig intrigues. I'll get there.

                      Henry Green is revelatory, too - just incredible that, with his strange approach, he tells stories and draws characters so well. I have a volume with Loving/Living/Party Going. I read the first two, then stopped. He felt a bit strange and rich, to digest all three in a row. I expect, when I get back to him, I'll read all three, and diary them.

                      Having read no Ivy Compton-Burnett, I'm not sure what too much of her would be. But Henry Green is very interested in capturing the authentic speech and personalities (albeit seen from outside) of his characters, and Party Going is fertile ground for that.

                      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                      by Brecht on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 07:08:16 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Ivy Compton-Burnett (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Brecht, RiveroftheWest

                        think, drawing-room dialogue for 300 pages.  I enjoy Henry Green though but as you said have to take in doses, same with Bernhard, James Purdy for that matter.

                        Rilke: 'Stiller Freund der vielen Fernen ...' I adore him; I've read LTAYP as well, also have read Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and have the Duino Elegies&Orpheus compilation.

                        Broch is masterful with the Sleepwalkers trilogy but each volume is only approx. 150ppgs so quite doable and I just love the pre-Great War era through Weimar, and so another Austrian from that epoch I enjoy and respect immensely is Arthur Schnitzler.

                        Brecht I've read quite a bit of the poetry, the Collected Stories, Mother Courage, Caucasian Chalk Circle and have wonderful recordings by Gisela May, Ute Lemper, Lotte Lenya, Dave van Ronk & Frankie Armstrong.

                        The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

                        by micsimov on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 02:58:17 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  If culture is refined, erudite, artistic, (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          RiveroftheWest

                          you may well be better-read than me. It appears so, from this thread. Which is fine by me: I'm confident of my knowledge, perceptiveness, and voracity; and it means you have plenty to teach me.

                          But I hope that you also explore the lower slopes of literature, and occasionally read Stephen King, J. K. Rowling and Elmore Leonard - just to see what's there.

                          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                          by Brecht on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 03:40:02 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I've read some King, (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RiveroftheWest, Brecht

                            it was a story collection I believe or a series of interwoven tales, wish I could remember the title, I rather enjoyed it.  I've enjoyed, too, Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin.  When I lived in Holland, I used to borrow and trade books with my Dutch boyfriend's mother, she was an avid reader, especially of Native American and Fantasy literature and her English was rather well so she had many titles on her shelves in English she always tried to read that way when she could, certain things of course, it just depended, was easier for her to read in Dutch translation; it was through her I was introduced to Terry Pratchett.

                            The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

                            by micsimov on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 09:49:01 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Glad to hear it. Not that I have any business (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RiveroftheWest

                            telling you what to read - but that's not about to stop me.

                            All four of those write middlebrow, and also write well (at least, with awareness and notable strengths). LeGuin always writes well and, like Ellison, is generally very interesting. I tried a decent short story collection of King's (Everything's Eventual), but then found far more power in The Shining. One day I'll write an essay on Harold Bloom vs. Stephen King.

                            I aim to read everything, but Fantasy is my chiefest comfort-reading.

                            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                            by Brecht on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 12:47:34 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  No don't stop, I do like your suggestions, (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Brecht, RiveroftheWest

                            and I'm always looking for things to read that I might not come across on my own.  And I certainly have, like others, various moods in what I want to read, whether I want to plunge and delve, or pass the time in a faraway place or just be entertained/amused.  And I'm not about to lug around on the bus or train Broch, Mann or Woolf ;)

                            The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

                            by micsimov on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 08:13:45 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                  •  Interjecting here: (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Brecht, RiveroftheWest

                    Buddenbrooks is not as challenging or powerful  as Magic Mountain .  It is a good, solid read, but does not knock you off your feet with admiration in the same way or leave you pondering deep, philosophical questions.  It sweeps you up in the saga of a bourgeois German family and the pages turn almost by themselves.

                    When you are done, go to Netflix and get the German TV series which will prolong the pleasure.  I think it would be the perfect holiday read.  

                    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

                    by Radiowalla on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 08:02:39 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Netflix keep offering me a free month to come back (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest

                      but I'm pruning back on TV and internet surfing, to make more space for reading novels and writing diaries.

                      It's so easy to live on the surface, skittering across the currents like a water skeeter. I need more deep, clear peace and pondering to sustain me.

                      I might take up Netflix again, once I feel that I am in charge of my time, and own and shape my schedule mindfully.

                      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                      by Brecht on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 08:15:03 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

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