This is the closest I can get to a writer’s retreat—and maybe better, for the children are here, but happy in another’s care all morning, under the eyes of a beloved grandmother and great-grandmother all day long—so, I did have to bring some books with me. Two boxes worth, it turns out.
The big project for this month is the continuing saga of the edition of Mrs. Dalloway so there are binders, folders, and files for that: I have a photocopy of the first British and American editions, a copy of the Hogarth Press Universal edition, my lovely graph paper spiral binder of notes, three other notebooks (one full, one empty, one half full) for notes and thoughts. I also have the transcription of The Hours, the manuscript version of MD, as I have come to call her; two volumes of Woolf’s diaries; three volumes of her letters; seven monographs on Woolf; each of Woolf’s pre-MD novels to re-read for earlier anticipations of Dalloway-ish themes; The Norton Anthology of Poetry to peruse for allusions, and Ovid, Aristotle, and Aeschylus (all in translation, I must add) to shame me into intelligence and peruse for allusions, too.
Also on hand, of course are a couple Woolfish books for pleasure reading when I want a break but don’t want to stray too far: Ruth Gruber’s Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman, a dissertation by a young Jewish-American girl who studied in Germany in the 30s and corresponded with Woolf. (In her 90s, Gruber now lives in Manhattan.), and Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece.
And then, for pleasure, I brought the following:
- The Ha Ha Bonk Book (English jokes for children—it might rain and my older daughter and I need more jokes to tell each other),
- Out Stealing Horses,
- I was told there’d be cake (finished already!),
- The Wartime Journals of Molly Painter-Downes, the only Persephone book thin enough for me to bring (though I seem not to have exercised restraint elsewhere, that somehow became an issue when looking at the three or four unread Persephones on my shelf),
- Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair (also brought last summer—and perhaps, in fact, pilfered from my mother-in-law’s considerable library—but still unread),
- The Kingdom of Ordinary Time—poems! Purchased at Three Lives because there was a poem from that book featured during National Poetry Month that really moved me and, not reading enough poetry, I figured that if a poem moves me, I should seize that feeling;
- I’d Like, by Amanda Michalapolou, whom I heard read and speak at the PEN festival. I’ve read the first few and loved them but the book somehow got abandoned midway through;
- Three Cups of Tea, a sentimental-looking book about building schools in Afghanistan. I got it for Christmas and want to read it, know I should scorn it to be cool, don’t want to be cool, expect to enjoy it;
- The Untelling;
- Drown (still haven’t read Diaz!);
- Say You’re One of Them; and
- Agent Zigzag about a British double agent in WWII—I’m six pages in and already having nightmares about Nazis.