Wednesday, January 28, 2009

7 Questions

Carolyn Kellogg of the LATimes blog, Jacket Copy, and formerly of the still-lamented Litblog Co-o, interviewed me on Virginia Woolf. Here's a taste:
Jacket Copy: I've never read any Virginia Woolf. Where should I start?

Anne Fernald: There are a lot of ways to start Woolf. If you are interested in experimental fiction, then "The Waves," her most experimental (and perhaps her most difficult) text, can be a good starting place. It follows six friends from childhood through middle age, all in interior monologues -- you flow, like waves, in and out of the thoughts of Rhoda, Jinny, Susan, Neville, Louis (based on T.S. Eliot, from St. *Louis*! ha), and Bernard.

But, if you prefer your novels more autobiographical, then "To the Lighthouse" is a lovely entry point. Woolf's most autobiographical novel, it depicts a large Victorian family on summer vacation and then charts the impact of WWI and other life events over the years. It's got Woolf's best artist-figure in it: Lily Briscoe, a frustrated painter.

For sheer perfection of prose, I love "A Room of One's Own," her 1929 feminist masterpiece. It's a great manifesto for all writers: the need for both privacy and the ability to roam about unmolested in the world. But I love it for its gorgeous sentences, its glorious metaphors, the amazing way that its pieces all fit together into a symphony.

Overall, for me, her masterpiece is "Mrs. Dalloway." There is a lot not to like about the main character, a hostess throwing a party (snore), but Woolf knows that and teaches you to care about her in spite of Clarissa's flaws. It's an amazing book and one of the best treatments of shellshock I know. A great version of the novel set in a single day, too.

You can find the whole interview here.

3 comments:

Valerie said...

Great answer, beautiful interview.

Erika D. said...

Excellent, Anne! So glad to see your expertise recognized and shared this way!

Dr. Crazy said...

Your answer was great - I'm just surprised at how different my own would be! I think we're on the same page as far as AROO and TTL, but I think my other two would be Orlando (because it's FUN! and dammit, Woolf is FUN!) and probably Jacob's Room (I love Betty Flanders, and I love that mindless Florinda. And students always seem to love JR more than the others, in spite of my best efforts to persuade them about Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, or Between the Acts - I'm not sure why).