Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Productivity, lack thereof

Julia Briggs’ new biography of Woolf is out and reviewed in the Times of London (via The Elegant Variation). Another one! Christine Froula’s monograph, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde just came out in January and is supposed to be the best Woolf monograph. So, two huge tomes to read now, both very promising, both of which I remember knowing about from before their conception. I feel like one of those irritating aunts at holiday time: "I remember your mama before you were even born!"

Now, Jane Dunn, in the Times does not go so far as to say that Briggs supersedes the outstanding Hermione Lee biography, but she finds a lot to admire in Briggs and seems to find the book a worthy read. I bet it is but I also thought it was going to be more than a biography--a kind of intellectual history, a story of a life in books. Dunn makes it sound like less than what Julia told me it would be, but I cannot yet tell if that's a fault of the publisher, the author, or the reviewer. I have met all three women and admire them immensely. Especially Julia, who is so great—and has been so great to me—that I want to be her as much as anything. So I welcome these books wholeheartedly and with a pang, a terrible recognition that to be them, to continue even to be welcomed at their table at conferences, I need to complete my own. All I can think is that my own is far from done. Close, but not that close.

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