Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I write in my books.

So did my grandmother.

When Nana’s glaucoma got bad enough that she couldn’t see anymore, she sent me her books.

I was twenty-four and I was living in a tiny, junky studio apartment (aluminum framed windows, a view of the parking lot, pink tiles in the bathroom) in New Haven, surrounded by books. Box after box of books, mildewed and worn from years in Nana’s attic in Maine, her garage in Florida, arrived at my doorstep.

Thanks to her, I have Woolf’s complete letters and diaries, sometimes with clippings of reviews stuck inside. And I have her margin notes: “Geo. Duckworth controversy/ see #576” she writes; “more Re. G. D. #12.”

Woolf’s half-brother, George Duckworth, molested her. The extent of the violation cannot fully be known, but he was wrong.

Strange as it is to be so engaged in working on Nana’s favorite writer, strange as it is, through Woolf, to remember what I have in common with a very difficult and distant Nana, I’m surprised that this is the thread that she was following through the letters.

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