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Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life Paperback – November 6, 2006
"Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)" by David Sedaris
In one of the most anticipated books of 2017, David Sedaris tells a story that is, literally, a lifetime in the making. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Daphne MerkinThe famous question, surely, needs amending by now: who isn't afraid of Virginia Woolf—of writing about her, at least? Ever since this most singularly gifted of women, whose genius is as protean as it is profound, committed suicide at the age of 58 in 1941 at the height of her creative powers, her life and work has engendered an unremitting flow of books. These have included massively researched tomes and slender impressionistic volumes on every aspect of Woolf, from her pedigreed background and difficult Victorian childhood to her unconventional marriage to Leonard, the "penniless Jew," her Sapphic inclinations and the modernist Bloomsbury circle in which she moved. Certain subsets of questions—what was the particular nature of her mental illness? Did she or did she not suffer sexual abuse as an adolescent at the hands of her two half-brothers?—have inspired whole bookshelves of answers. In the more than half-century since Woolf put a large stone in her pocket late one March morning and walked into the Ouse River near her house in Sussex, the documentation and speculation have not ceased. Enough has been said, or so one would think. I might add, with all due lack of humility, that I am in a particularly good position to think thusly, since it would not be stretching things too far to say that I have read the vast majority of these books, including Hermione Lee's magisterial biography, which appeared in 1997. So it is the more surprising to find Julia Briggs's new intellectual biography of Woolf not only a mesmerizing read but one that adds fresh dabs of paint to what I had otherwise assumed to be a finished portrait. The emphasis on Woolf's "inner life"—on her ongoing creative process and on her response to the critical reception of her work—is especially suited to a writer who was in the rapt habit of watching herself think, keeping track of the quicksilver movements of her own mind like a fisherman on the lookout for the sudden tug on his pole, the flash of a fin. (Woolf was drawn to water imagery throughout her life as a metaphor for the process of intellection.) And Briggs has done an extraordinarily skillful job of interweaving Woolf's experience as a writer with her experience as a woman in the world, one who pondered the "life of frocks" and who had arguments with her cook."How I interest myself!" Woolf wrote in a diary entry. And how she continues to interest us, not least because of the fascination she exerts on other talented readers and writers, like Julia Briggs. That this book is a must for Woolf fans goes without saying, but it is also a must for anyone interested in the nature of female consciousness at its most self-aware and the workings of artistic sensibility at their most illuminating. B&w photos. (Nov.)Daphne Merkin is the author of Enchantment, a novel, and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. She writes a book column for Elle.
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Yes, another Woolf biography, but a unique one given that Briggs concentrates on Woolf's paradigm-altering work, and on Woolf's fascination with the workings of the mind. Briggs tracks the creation of each book, beginning with Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, published in 1915 when she was 33, and concluding with Between the Acts (1941). By lacing her supple, revelatory readings of each book with relevant, judiciously analyzed biographical information, Briggs creates a vital portrait of a perfectionist who endured "rewriting madness," a questing woman who relished life when she was free of the depression that stalked her, and a visionary determined to combat misogyny and invent a new type of novel that would "give the feeling of the vast tumult of life." Happily, the vastly gifted writer who takes shape on these pages is the very genius readers intuit when reading Woolf's work. Woolf believed that women writers could "make the connection between literature and life," and Briggs has done just that in her sterling interpretation. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Not a great deal of time is spent going into Woolf's pre-natal background and infant years. The text quickly gets to the task of looking at the formative influences of Woolf the writer, and the circumstances and stimuli that influenced the creation and formation of each of her books.
A chronological approach is followed. We begin with the first efforts of writing, the first novel, and proceed sequentially through each of her books. A full chapter is given to the period in which each book was written and published. Each chapter concludes with details on the actual book, including such items as the novel's original cover illustration (usually done by her artist sister Vanessa), the size of the print runs, the critics responses, and how the book fared over the years, even up into the 1990s. Honestly, I found information like this very interesting. For one, it was interesting to see how first print runs increased as Woolf gradually grew in popularity.
What I most like about Brigg's approach is that you come away with key insights that any appreciator of Woolf should cherish. One learns a great deal about the process that Woolf went through in creating her works as well as about the life of Woolf herself.