The Spring issue of Shiny New Books is up!
I was so lucky to have the chance to read and review not one, but two, Oxford Classic reissues of Virginia Woolf books.
There is the delightful and marvelously rich Orlando:
I first read Orlando by Virginia Woolf many years ago. Fresh in love with Woolf’s writing and having just learned about her romance with Vita Sackville-West, I read the book as one long love story. But to read Orlando purely as a love letter from Virginia to Vita is to miss all the truly strange and wonderful things the book does. Because the book is also mock historical fiction and a satire on biography, not to mention an examination of identity and gender as well as a criticism of literary criticism. The book turns out to be charming, rich, and complex.
Having just published To the Lighthouse, Woolf wanted to write something lighter to please the public, something of which a reader could understand every word. But this is Woolf we are talking about and she sent me to the dictionary a number of times. Orgulous? Drugget? Obfusc? Woolf made that last one up!
Then I got to read The Waves for the first time. I was pretty nervous about that one and as you can tell, the introduction didn’t help matters. However, I should not have worried because it turned out to be a most amazing book:
Oxford World Classics has produced a terrific reissue of Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves. There are helpful endnotes, biographical information, a selected bibliography and an introduction. But don’t read the introduction first. This is not because the introduction spoils anything, The Waves has no plot to spoil. Nor is it a badly written introduction, in fact it is quite good.
Don’t read the introduction first because it will color the way you read the novel. It will scare you by telling you how difficult The Waves is. It will tell you the book is Woolf’s most anti-colonial novel and you will spend far too much energy looking for clues for this. It will explain characters to you before you even meet them, which will cause you, when you do meet them, to have preconceived opinions. It will try to pin down into reality much of what Woolf works so hard to leave open and ambiguous. Read the introduction, but read it afterwards, after you have been tossed and tumbled about by The Waves and finally washed up on the shore bruised, glassy-eyed and gasping for breath.
Pop over via the links for the full reviews and while you are there, be sure and check out all the other articles and reviews. And be prepared to add to your TBR pile!