Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Woolf & Spies

Via the vwoolf listserv, from a week or so back.

Seems I'm not the only one obsessed with Woolf and James Bond....

If I could bring an author back to life...

In the week that Sebastian Faulks revived the work of Ian Fleming, we asked five writers to do the same for their favourite novelists

Katy Guest chooses Virginia Woolf

A plausible charmer once told me that my email style reminded him of Virginia Woolf's obscurer essays. He later said that I looked like her, which spoiled the compliment, but of course I wish I could write like that. Who else could be so thrilling in a story in which hardly anything happens? Sebastian Faulks says that Bond was difficult to write because he has "almost no internal life". Then Woolf's novels are the anti-Bond: her characters have interior life – to the exclusion of much else. In fact, Bond would be about the same age as the six year-old James in To the Lighthouse. Which could explain a lot...

To the Spy Who Loved Me

"Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs Bond. "But you'll have to be up with the lark," she added.

To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled that the target practice were bound to take place, and the karate lesson to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night's darkness and a quick fumble on the beach with the lighthouse keeper's crippled daughter, within touch. Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan of English public schoolboys who cannot express any emotion at all, and must let future prospects, of mutilating mackerel and throwing them back into the sea, foreshadow what is actually at hand, since to such people any expression of suffocating motherly compassion or paternal disapproval has the power to crystallise and fix the moment somewhere only the best-paid Harley Street shrink could ever find it, James Bond, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of Italian-made Beretta 418s, endowed that picture of cold steel with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy. The Aston Martin DB5, the Rolex submariner, the sound of heavy breathing, a naked girl softly singing on a beach – all these were so coloured and distinguished in the mind of this image of handsome British manhood unformed, though there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold, so that his mother, watching him guide his scissors with deadly skill around the pictures, imagined that it might take only the slightest disappointment to this childish sensibility, the smallest snub from a figure of authority, to turn this sweet, rumple-haired child into a ruthless killer.

"But," said his father, stopping in front of the drawing room window, "it won't be fine."

2 comments:

Richard said...

That's a great mash-up. At one of the schools where I teach, my year's reading list included both Beowulf and To the Lighthouse. One of my students jokingly asked if Beowulf was an ancestor of Virginia Woolf, which got me thinking about the possibilities for a mash-up there. I suspect someone's thought of it already...

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