Saturday, November 27, 2010

Oh, Charles

The errands continue to proliferate. Between the move and an unusually busy semester, I find myself swimming upstream in turbid waters at all times.

My husband and I have been working as hard as we can to make our new house into a home. Still, each box unpacked is mitigated by a new surprise. A bit of water damage at my little one’s new daycare led a mommy to call the city with a worry about mold. Suddenly, the daycare was shut down for a week and, desperate, we had to ship the little one off to my in-law’s. Then, the former owners left us with a filthy oven and, in cleaning it, I put the racks into the sink to soak. Alas, the weight of the racks and the water caused the under-mounted sink to break free of the counter, so now it sits, ¾ of an inch below the marble, on its plywood frame. You can imagine three or four more of these and you’ll have a sense of the domestic side of our lives lately. Add to that a similar set of comic mishaps, all leading to more work for each of us, at our respective jobs, never forgetting, of course, that there are two young children to feed and bathe on occasion, and you’ll have a snapshot of our life in November.

At the moment, my stamina is on low, and, though my mouth runs on as ever, I find myself wanting to channel Ma on “Little House on the Prairie.” As my beloved continues to find the energy to unpack, as I just really want to curl up in a corner and read, I need to talk less and express more. What I remember most of Karen Grassle’s Ma was the many, many inflections of “Oh, Charles.”

“Oh, Charles” could mean “thank you so much for replacing the waxed paper in the windows with real glass.” It could mean “I’m both pleased and embarrassed that you’re flirting with me in front of the children.” It could mean “I’m so grateful that you brought home four new chickens, but where are we going to put them?” Or it could mean “I’m so proud and happy that you’re willing to make this run into town in the blizzard, as we have neither food nor fuel, and yet, it’s terrifying to me that you propose to leave me alone here in the prairie with three young children and no food or fuel.”

Oh, Charles.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Julia Briggs Essay Prize for 2011

The Woolf Society of Great Britain is holding another essay competition in honor of the late, great, dearly missed Woolf scholar and feminist Julia Briggs. Here are the details: 

The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain (VWSGB) is holding an essay competition in memory of acclaimed Virginia Woolf scholar and VWSGB Executive Council member Julia Briggs, who died in August 2007.
The competition is open to members and non-members (except for the Executive Council and Editorial Committee of the VWSGB, the judges, and families of the above). Entries should be sent to Ruth Webb, 15 Southcote Road, London SE25 4RG, to arrive by 10 January 2011.
Entrants should read these carefully and return the signed form with the entry. If you have any queries or would like an entry form, please email Sarah M. Hall on
Please note that student membership of the VWSGB costs only £10 for those at UK addresses and £15 for those at overseas addresses, per calendar year.
Competition Rules
The essay, on the topic ‘Why is reading Virginia Woolf still so crucial today?’, but with a title of the entrant’s choosing, should be between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length. It should be the original work of the named entrant, and previously unpublished in print or any other medium. Student coursework is acceptable. 
Entrants should supply THREE typed copies of the essay on A4 paper, printed on one side only, double-spaced (or 1.5) and in a font size no smaller than 10-point. The VWSGB regrets that no emailed entries will be accepted, because of printing costs.
The competition will be judged by acclaimed Woolf scholars Lyndall Gordon and Maggie Humm, and VWSGB Vice-Chair and Woolf biographer Ruth Webb. The decision of the judges is final. The VWSGB reserves the right not to award the prize if, in the judges’ opinion, none of the entries attains the required standard. Otherwise the winner will be contacted in mid-March.
The winner will receive a cheque for £250, presented at the VWSGB’s AGM in central London on 2 April 2011, and the winning essay will be published in the Virginia Woolf Bulletin. If the winner is unable to attend the AGM, the prize will be sent by secure mail.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Praise of Libraries

It's been a long time. There have been highs and lows. But that's for another day. For now, some Wyndham Lewis. This quotation, about a curmudgeon's private library, comes courtesy of John Whittier-Ferguson's paper at MSA12 (the Modernist Studies Association Conference) in Victoria, B.C.:
This was 1939, the last year, or as good as, in which such a life as this one was to be lived. Parkinson was the last of a species. Here he was in a large room, which was a private, a functional library. Such a literary workshop belonged to the ages of individualism. Its three or four thousand volumes were all book-plated Parkinson. It was really a fragment of paradise where one of our species lived embedded in books, decently fed, moderately taxed, snug and unmolested.--Self Condemned (79)
Wonderful. I love the Lewisian misanthropic soupcon of paranoia added on to the praise of the library: the library in 1939 as a tiny little paradise, under siege from all sides. Wonderful.