Oh how I love to read people’s diaries, especially if they were writers. Even better if the diary was written as a private document without intent to publish. I’m not looking for personal secrets and gossip, only a glimpse into the person’s everyday life and creative mind. These things are what make volume three of Virginia Woolf’s diary so marvelous. The volume covers 1925-1930.
Woolf writes of the people who visit and who she visits, of the books she is reading and the books she is writing. She writes about her dislike of her mother-in-law and the ongoing saga of the servant Nelly. Woolf expresses her anxiety over buying a new dress and her pleasure over having enough money to finally buy new furniture. Reading her diary turns Woolf into a person and rescues her from the abstraction of genius author. Even so, if I had ever met her at a party I’d be terrified to open my mouth. I think I would try to hide behind a tall plant and spy between the leaves.
I thought in this diary, more than the previous two, she writes more about her thoughts on art and what she wants to do with her writing:
The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes. Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the voice of the sea. Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that dont belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner: it is false, unreal, merely conventional. Why admit any thing to literature that is not poetry–by which I mean saturated?
But amongst the thoughts on what literature is and should and could do, are little gems like this:
Reflection: it is presumably a bad thing to look through articles, reviews &c. to find one’s own name. Yet I often do.
If Woolf had the internet she’d likely be quite the ego surfer.
I considered jumping right into volume four, but have decided to leave that off for a bit. I think I’d like to try and read a few of her novels before venturing further. If you like to read diaries or love Woolf the writer, I highly recommend giving Woolf’s diaries a go. You won’t be disappointed.