Friday, March 2, 2007

Book passage/Recollections of Virginia Woolf

I've been reading Recollections of Virginia Woolf, edited by Joan Russell Noble, very slowly, an essay at a time, absorbing all the impressions of and stories about the woman by people who knew her as a friend, relative, or acquaintance. I thought the following, written by William Plomer was very interesting.


In each of us there are two beings, one solitary and one social, but no more separate than a man from his shadow, which goes with him everywhere, sometimes throws him into relief, disappears altogether in twilight, darkness or an even radiance, and grows immensely long towards sunset. There are people who cannot bear to be with others, and turn into hermits or something worse; most cannot bear to be alone, and so become common and shallow. In Virginia the two beings had an equal life and so made her a complete person. She could be detached and see things in perspective; and she could enter into things, into other people's lives, until she became part of them. The two beings can be perceived in her writings, sometimes distinct, sometimes merged. The special genius of her rare and solitary spirit reached its purest expression in The Waves, an exquisite, subjective book nearer to poetry and music than the novel. The social being in Virginia, the novelist, can be seen most essentially not in her fiction but in The Common Reader. Those essays are full of warmth, shrewdness, knowledge of the world and of human nature, qualities which, though discernible in her novels, are less important there than her own sensitivity, as an instrument, to the vibrations of the external world.

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