I have decided to join a weekly short story group. As you may remember, I used to post occasionally on Short Story Monday, hosted by The Book Mine Set, but it became clear over time that Mondays don't work for me. When I saw this button today on the From Kafka to Kindergarten blog, I clicked and arrived at Bread Crumb Reads the host for this event. I think maybe Wednesdays will work out better for me to read one and post about it. I love short stories, but sadly just don't take the time away from my other reading to read them. Short Stories on Wednesdays may be just the prompt to encourage me. We'll see what happens, but for now I am quite excited about this. Plus, I love the button, don't you?
I'm beginning this new adventure with a short story by Virginia Woolf from a collection called Monday or Tuesday which was a most generous and kindly gift from a fellow blogger, Jeff and his wife, Janet.
The story is called A Society and it has the most amazing premise, especially for one who loves to read. Poll's father left her a 'fortune in his will, but on condition that she read all the books in the London Library.' We readers might think this is an easy way to become rich, but on reflection it could be more troublesome than we at first realize. What genres do you absolutely hate? If the only books were of that genre, you might not ever read. This stipulation in the will could turn out to be horrible - like the worst literature class ever.
After this promising premise, the story went off in a different direction. What I thought was going to be about books and reading turned into a discussion about men and women among this small group of women friends. After Poll read them passages that seemed ridiculous, they began to ponder the genius of men. They had always assumed that women bore children and men wrote books. The quality of the written works gave them pause. Has it been a waste of time for women to bring such creatures as men into the world? They each go off to a different male bastion - the Navy, Cambridge and Oxford, etc. - to see what successes, what progress has been made. After five years time, they come together to talk over their findings.
Such an odd little story. I can see its feminist idea, but what a strange way to go about it. I did enjoy little moments when authors were noted. Elizabeth has 'dressed as a man and been taken for a reviewer.'
"I have read new books pretty steadily for the past five years," said she. "Mr. Wells is the most popular living writer; then comes Mr. Arnold Bennett; then Mr. Compton Mackenzie: Mr. McKenna and Mr. Walpole may be bracketed together."If I spent some time, I'm sure I could find Virginia Woolf's opinion of them all.
One of the women Eleanor asks:
"Now no woman has ever been an artist, has she, Poll?"I fear there are still little pockets of men in the higher echelons of education who believe these are the only women writers of quality. And here may be the saddest thing about the little story - that some ninety years on, this state of mind still exists.
"JaneAusten-CharlotteBronte-GeorgeEliot," cried Poll, like a man crying muffins in a back street.
A Society may be read in its entirety here. I found it unsettling, and I think I may have to read it a few times before I can grasp what Virginia is really saying. There's an interesting and well-written interpretation of this story here.
And please do read the comment as well because it offers another view.