Reading Notes

I’d meant to write about Virginia Woolf’s collection of short stories Monday or Tuesday, but that isn’t happening this evening.  On the subject of Virginia Woolf, however, I’m going to see a staged reading of Edna O’Brien’s play Virginia at The Drama Bookshop, performed by the Shakespeare’s Sister Company.  The play “encompasses Virginia Woolf’s mercurial inner life, as well as the relationships of her three great loves: her husband, Leonard; her lover, Vita and her greatest writings. Ms. O’Brien touches the heart and captures the essence of Virginia’s character and brilliant mind.”  Fellow blogger Fernham will be there giving a brief talk about Woolf.

And that’s not all — next weekend I’m going to see a performance of Woolf’s own play, Freshwater.  Until recently, I didn’t even know she had written a play.  It’s a comedy about Woolf’s aunt, Julia Cameron, a photographer.  I don’t usually connect Woolf with comedy, so it will be interesting to see what it is like.

And what else is going on in my reading world?  I recently finished Elizabeth Hardwick’s collection of essays Seduction and Betrayal; it’s a very enjoyable book that makes me wish more literary criticism were written as well as Hardwick writes it.  I’ve also finished Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry, the Slaves of Golconda group read for January.  It’s a very short book (160 pages in my edition), so you have time to join us if you would like.  And now I’m reading another Jeanette — Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle, for one of my in-person book groups.  So far it’s a very good read, rather harrowing in an un-put-downable way.  It’s a memoir of Walls’s childhood; normally I wouldn’t go in for that sort of book, but Walls’s story is captivating.

But there’s more … I’m still plugging away at William Gaddis’s The Recognitions; in fact, I’m approaching the halfway point in the book (it’s about 950 pages).  I’m not finding the middle sections as captivating as I found the beginning, but there is still much to enjoy and ponder.  There are moments of confusion, too, I’ll admit — it’s a challenging read — but I can generally understand what I need to to keep going.  I’ve also begun reading Montaigne’s essays as part of my ongoing essay project (the idea being to read as many essays as I can).  Montaigne is such a wonderful reading companion; he’s even interesting when he’s writing about battles and ancient history, two subjects that don’t generally interest me all that much.  But he is most fun when he is writing about himself, and I think he begins to do this more and more as the book goes on.  I have a lot to look forward to.

Finally, I’m slowly making my way through Wallace Stevens’s poetry collection Harmonium (I have the collected poems, but am only reading the first part of it, for now).  Stevens is an odd poet.  I didn’t realize that when I was familiar only with his most famous poems, but reading deeper into his work, I’m coming across lots of unusual vocabulary and strange images; I have had the experience over and over again of reading a poem and thinking it’s utterly bizarre, and then re-reading it multiple times and realizing that it’s beautiful in its strangeness.

The reason I’m a bit too tired to write a proper review this evening is that I spent the afternoon shopping — clothes shopping.  This is highly unusual.  I love book shopping, but any other kind leaves me feeling weary and miserable.  But I really, really need some new clothes and my birthday is coming up, so Hobgoblin arranged for the clothing-shopping expert at Musings From the Sofa to take me on a shopping spree.  If you hate clothes shopping as much I do, this is a great way to fill out the wardrobe a little bit; it’s so much better shopping with someone who can tell you what colors and styles work for you and can give you ideas and take you straight to the right shops.  I came home with some nice new things — and, very importantly, a promise that we can do it again.


Filed under Books, Life

9 responses to “Reading Notes

  1. How spooky! I am also reading Elizabeth Hardwick, and have Jeanette Winterson here beside me to reread AND Jeanette Walls lined up for the immediate future. How about that? Clothes shopping is a pain, so very glad you had a fun and successful afternoon!


  2. I don’t immediately associate Woolf with comedy either, but I do find her essays very funny in places, so I can certainly imagine her capable of comedy. I will be very interested to hear what you think of her play! On the essay front, you might want to have a go at reading some of Wallace Stevens’ essays (The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination) alongside his poetry. He had an interesting mind, that man.


  3. I envy you your week with Mrs. Woolf and all those other great reading choices. Woolf is funny – wry as I recall now reading through diary entries today. Pop over to my blog for a Woolf giveaway on her birthday? Great post!


  4. I hate clothes shopping, too. It’s nice to be able to go with someone who can give you good advice! The staged reading and play you will be going to sound wonderful and I look forward to hearing about them! By the way I read the Walls book a while back–it was very good–painfully funny in parts, but very sad to think she had such a rough childhood.


  5. Woolf wrote a play? And a comedy to boot? I had no idea! Am very interested to hear about it.

    I hate clothes shopping too. My sister loves shopping so whenever she visits here or I visit there a shopping expedition is got up. All I have to do is stand there as she hands me clothes and tells me to go try them on. I’m still exhausted by the time we are done, but in a more pleasant way than if I had shopped alone.


  6. I love Wallace Stevens and his “strangeness”. His bright, startling, unusual images are exciting. Whether it’s a firecat in Oklahoma, a dish of peaches in Russia, or floral decorations for bananas, his poetry is a delight. And it can be very thoughtful too–as in “Sunday Morning” or “The Idea of Order.” I am always thrilled when I hear that someone is reading Stevens.


  7. Litlove — wow, that IS strange! We are clearly thinking alike these days! I’m very curious to see what you think of the Walls — I just finished it, and I’m still reeling. It’s a powerful book.

    Kate — thank you very much for the Stevens recommendation! I hadn’t realized there are essays available, and I’m very curious about them. They would certainly shed some light on him and his work. I’m intrigued.

    Frances — I’m sorry I missed the giveaway! Yes, she does have a comic side, and I should make sure not to forget it! The play I saw about her yesterday showed some of her wit, which was great.

    Danielle — I finished the Walls book last night and yes, it is painful and funny in places and very sad! I couldn’t believe some of what she went through. I’m reading it for a book group, so I’m very curious to see what the others will say about it.

    Stefanie — yes, it’s much better to have someone else along. I have such a hard time making decisions, so I’m happy to have someone nudging me in the right direction. If I keep shopping in this way, I’ll have a much fuller, more interesting wardrobe!

    Natalie — you are right that the images are exciting. I suppose I thought of him as the thoughtful poet and not the poet of unusual images, so I’ve been a little surprised. But that’s a good thing!


  8. verbivore

    I enjoyed The Glass Castle when I read it last year, will be interested to hear your thoughts when you finish. And hooray for Montaigne!!


  9. Hi, I read Freshwater several years ago and I thought it was funny, but it was originally written for the family (lots of in-jokes) and it does help if you know a little about the type of person Mrs Cameron was (f.e. very persistent, if she wanted someone to pose for her she wouldn’t take no for an answer; her art was more important than any discomfort a model might feel).

    Enjoy the play!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s