Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good-bye Lord Harcourt, Good-bye 2011

2011, I leave you with this bit of black humor from Woolf's 1919 review of Edward Jerningham and his Friends:

‘Lord Harcourt, indeed, vanished in an extremely abrupt and, to him, unpleasant manner, being found “in a narrow well, nothing appearing above water but the feet and legs, occasioned, as it is imagined, by his over-reaching himself to save the life of a favourite dog, who was found in the well with him, standing on his lordship’s feet"’ (E 3:60-61)
Happy New Year to all. 

The edition is due on January 31. I am in the thick of it. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Even Woolf nods

In the finished novel, Clarissa's maybe-I-should-have-married-him friend, Peter Walsh, has a young (24) girlfriend called, obviously enough, Daisy. But in the draft, she was, for a moment & far too obviously, Daisy Summers. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to learn how ham-fisted Woolf could be in her drafts and how sure she was in her revisions to excise such silliness.

Daisy Buchanan came into being in the spring of 1925 as well, by the way.

As a name, Daisy first became popular in the Victorian period, along with other flower names. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

The threshold

This fragment from Mansfield's diaries, close to the end of her life, hits a little too close to home.
Above all else, I do still lack application. It's not right. There is so much to do, and I do so little. Look at the stories that wait and wait, just at the threshold. Why don't I let them in? (The Dove's Nest xvi; from her Diary, July 1921)
Indeed. Why didn't she? Why don't we? And then:
My deepest desire is to be a writer, to have 'a body of work' done--and there the work is, there the stories wait for me, grow tired, wilt, fade, because I will not come. When first they knock, how eager and fresh they are! And I hear and I acknowledge them, and till I go on sitting at the window, playing with the ball of wool. What is to be done?
Such a mystery of creativity and work.
Back to Mrs. Dalloway I go.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Draft Textual Note of the Day: Elizabeth's dogs

10:10 absurd woolly dogs Notebook 2 includes this cancelled phrase, giving the dogs to Elizabeth. There is no closing parenthesis in the draft: “(as her Elizabeth would be giving their absurd woolly dogs a run;” (Notebook 2 117; H 255)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: Elizabeth's profession

205:28-206:1 every profession is open to the women of your generation Cf. the added remark in Notebook 2: “her father said of course if she wanted to go to college she might; & her mother m finally agreed” (Notebook 2 89; H 228). 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: She was at her worst

252.6 “How delightful to see you!” In her 1919 essay, “The Royal Academy,” Woolf describes an unidentified portrait of a woman in full evening dress: “She stands at the top of a staircase… about to greet someone of distinction who advances towards her up the stairs. Not a hair is out of place. Her lips are just parted. She is about to say, ‘How nice of you to come!’” (E 3.89).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sport and fashion

Heretofore, the best and most thorough set of footnotes to an edition of Mrs. Dalloway is, without a doubt, the Oxford paperback. I am grateful to it, have profited often from the editor’s insights, and hope that my work is a worthy successor to his. I’m particularly grateful for all the notes about the game of cricket. However, his priorities strike me forcibly in light of Woolf’s comment about cultural priorities surrounding sports and fashion in A Room of One’s Own:
Speaking crudely, football and sport and ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial.’ And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. (128)
So, my edition of Mrs. Dalloway will include footnotes on cricket, sure. It will also be the first edition to elaborate on the meaning of “court dress,” Lady Bradshaw’s attire in the portrait that hangs in Dr. Bradshaw’s office.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Re-reading Hope Mirrlees’ 1920 Paris. There’s a section that simply documents advertisements in the Paris of 1919. One heartbreaking one: DEUIL EN 24 HEURES. Literally, “mourning in 24 hours,” which wouldn’t be a pun in English but simply a service. In a time and place where almost every woman was in mourning, there’s a service to dye your clothes black.
About a mile from my house, on the Newark border, is a t-shirt and skate shop. One of their specialties? R.I.P.s. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: Mallarme

20.22 throw of the dice Clarissa’s musings echo the title of (but resist the sentiment expressed in) Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem, “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (A Dice Throw At Any Time Never Will Abolish Chance.”) Mallarmé (1842-1896) died almost unknown and a definitive edition of his poem was not published until 1913. For a discussion of Mallarmé’s influence on Hope Mirlees as well as Mirrlees’ importance to Woolf, see Briggs (in Scott) 267 ff. Roger Fry would translate Mallarmé in 1936. The Woolfs had both the 1913 French edition of Mallarmé’s works and the later Fry translation in their library. The typographically experimental poem opens with an image that juxtaposes the chance of a dice throw with a shipwreck: “A THROW OF THE DICE / AT ANY TIME / EVEN WHEN CAST IN  / EVERYLASTING CIRCUMSTANCES / FROM THE DEPTH OF A SHIPWRECK” (1-5).
I couldn't have predicted this one.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Draft Textual Note of the day

Another piece of this project, other than footnotes, are the textual notes—not allusions but notes on significant changes among versions of Mrs. Dalloway. I’m hacking away at a few of those today, comparing The Hours notebooks (available, delightfully, in a fantastic transcription from Helen Wussow), against the final draft. Since the notebooks are available as a book, since I’m not trying to present a complete genetic edition, my task here is simply to highlight some key alterations during the composition and revision process.

So, as I labor to meet my deadline (January 31, my friends), I am anxiously trying to add words every day to what I think of as “my Dalloway files.” And one thing I’m adding is evidence of how right Woolf was to strip away what she did. So this is a post about the rightness of taking words away.

Take, for instance, the moment when Peter remembers the night that Clarissa fell in love with Richard Dalloway:

They sat on the ground and talked--he and Clarissa. They went in and out of each other's minds without any effort. And then in a second it was over. He said to himself as they were getting into the boat, "She will marry that man,"

In August of 1923, Woolf wrote a version of this scene:

“she liked laughing at him. Oh he talked about Ibsen. His recollection was that they had sat down on this They had sat on the ground & talked—he & Sally He & Clarissa & & Clarissa argued.” (Notebook 1 38; H 37).

It’s the Ibsen that stuck out to me here: of course Peter, trying so hard to be advanced, and Clarissa, attracted by advanced views but still sheltered, would have argued about Ibsen. It’s the 1890s. But we already know that she and Sally were reading Shelley and sneaking William Morris. Ibsen is one too many and he distracts from the emotions of the scene. So right to excise him. Right, too, to let Peter talk to Clarissa passionately here (rather than Sally—something she cannot quite decide in the notebook): it makes his loss of her love all the more profound. And it only strengthens our sense of what he loves and hates about her: her dignity and grace (as well as her maidenhood) in being able to be kind to him, to be a friend to him, even as she’s shifting her allegiance to a new man.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: Shallott's shallop

When Richard Dalloway finds himself, unwillingly following Hugh Whitbread on a necklace-shopping trip, he thinks "Goodness knows he didn't want to go buying necklaces with Hugh. But there are tides in the body. Morning meets afternoon. Borne like a frail shallop on deep, deep floods...."

I got interested in that shallop and here's what I've come up with. It may be a reach, but I rather like it:

171.26 frail shallop By the 19th century, an unusual* word, denoting a small boat for shallow waters. Tennyson’s Lady of Shallott floats to Camelot “unhailed / The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d / Skimming down to Camelot” (21-23).
*I would love to use "rare" but that is a term of art for lexicographers, so I'll stay safe with unusual, which I believe to be accurate. The OED's 19th c attestations are to Tennyson and William Holman Hunt: both deliberately archaizing writers.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: the daily paper

117.21 Morning Post: owned by Lady Bathurst, this was a publication of the extreme right, which had published violent anti-Semitic propaganda in 1920. Peter Walsh exaggerates Richard Dalloway's conservatism; he reads The Times. Cf. Woolf’s account of her paper-reading habits: “I have changed the Daily News for the Morning Post. The proportions of the world at once become utterly different. The M.P. has the largest letters & the double column devoted to the murder of Mrs Lindsay; anglo Indians, Anglo Scots, & retired old men & patriotic ladies writer letter after letter to deplore the state of the country; applaud the M.P., the only faithful standard bearer left” (D 2.127; 10 August 1921). Lady Ottoline Morrell announced her daughter’s (unsuccessful) social debut in the Morning Post. Cf. L 3.180: “Not a single party has Julian [Morrell] been asked to, though they put a notice in the Morning Post.” See also Mansfield’s story “The Dove’s Nest,” in which a female character consults The Morning Post in hopes of finding suitable conversation topics for a male luncheon guest (249). Woolf glanced at the Mansfield volume in June 1923 (D 2. 247-8).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NYPL Exhibit A Century of Art: 1926 “What London Wears,” Attributed to Mabel Thérèse Bonney

Thérèse Bonney during WWII, via Library of Congress

On Saturday, I participated in a the first of two panel discussions in support of the wonderful new exhibit at the NYPL, A Century of Art. Part of the larger centenary of the Schwarzman building on 42nd and 5th, this exhibit displays one print or photograph from the collection for each year, from 1911 to 2011. As a scholar affiliated with the Wertheim Study, I was invited to speak on one image and I chose an amazing fashion photograph from 1926. I don’t have permission to show you the picture, but I thought you might be interested in my description of it and of what it signifies. The second panel, in which five additional scholars speak for ten minutes each on five other prints or photographs will be on Friday, December 9, 2011, 2 - 3:30 p.m. It’s a lovely, friendly format, so do you’re your calendars and go!

When Jay Barksdale sent around the list of images to be included in this exhibit, I knew immediately that, if I were to speak, it would be on this image, although I didn’t see it until last week. After all, it’s an image made by a woman, about fashion, from 1926, and my current project is a textual edition of Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway, a novel about an upper class London woman who goes shopping and throws a party. But when I saw the image, I gasped with shocked delight. Not having known her work before, how could I have guessed that Thérèse Bonney had created an image that captures at once a very specific moment in women’s fashion and, at the same time, would be at home in a window at Sak’s today?

My expertise is not photography or fashion, but literature and history, and, in the brief time I have today, I want to talk about the caption, the photo, and a little bit about the photographer itself. I should say here that, as the prints department is not even 100% sure of the artist, I do not know the source or author of the caption, nor where, if anywhere, this image originally appeared. The full caption is an amazing bit of 1920s fashion writing:
What London wears—The continental way of being economical—Rubbers for legs—fold into a dainty little package and easily left in escort’s coat pocket. Ingenious way of keeping silk stockings clean.
For copywriters in the 1920s, as today, London prides itself on being glamorous, signaled here by the word “continental,” and practical. What London wears is, in fact, not from London at all, but an import from Europe. However, cautious Londoners need not fear—these rubber stocking covers are economical as well. As high fashion as the photograph is, the caption itself brings us squarely into the world of advertising. The rest of the caption flirts with sexuality. “Rubber” as slang for a condom goes back to 1913 but it has been chiefly North American slang. Still, the idea of sex, of the ways in which we clothe our bodies to conceal and reveal possibilities of intimacy, hovers throughout this silly little bit of prose. The caption contains within it the narrative of a date: these removable little stocking covers slip off and into a pocket, but not your pocket, your date’s. The image of a young woman, balancing on one leg, her hand, perhaps, on her escort’s shoulder for balance, as she unclasps the three hooks on each rubber, folds them into their “dainty little package,” and hands them to him for safekeeping would have been impossible before the war. And then, the next line, “ingenious way of keeping silk stockings clean,” implies that the same daring woman who would wear these rubbers is also one who worries about her laundry. This is a modern woman, sexy, confident, and living on her own. She is like T. S. Eliot’s typist, home at teatime, her drying combinations strewn about her flat. She is not like the protagonist of Dorothy Richardson’s 1915 novel Pilgrimage, a young boarding school teacher who worries, in a panic, about how to do her hair, for it’s still wet from having been forced to shampoo it just before dinner.
The idea of galoshes as dangerously contintental, as a French letter for the feet, shows up in a wonderful scene from James Joyce’s 1914 story, “The Dead”:
"O, but you'll never guess what he makes me wear now! … Galoshes!" said Mrs. Conroy. "That's the latest. Whenever it's wet underfoot I must put on my galoshes. Tonight even, he wanted me to put them on, but I wouldn't. The next thing he'll buy me will be a diving suit."Gabriel laughed nervously and patted his tie reassuringly, while Aunt Kate nearly doubled herself, so heartily did she enjoy the joke. The smile soon faded from Aunt Julia's face and her mirthless eyes were directed towards her nephew's face. After a pause she asked:"And what are goloshes, Gabriel?""Goloshes, Julia!" exclaimed her sister "Goodness me, don't you know what goloshes are? You wear them over your... over your boots, Gretta, isn't it?""Yes," said Mrs. Conroy. "Guttapercha things. We both have a pair now. Gabriel says everyone wears them on the Continent."
Gretta Conroy’s last remark—that everyone wears them on the Continent—is the beginning of an end for her husband Gabriel who, over the course of the evening, will be exposed for preferring Europe to Ireland, for being in danger of being left behind, both by his wife’s memories of a boy from the West and by his female colleague’s commitment to the Irish language and the Irish Free state. The rubbers of 1914 are not the same as the ones shown here.

Galoshes do not figure in Mrs. Dalloway, but another kind of tube for the extremities does: gloves. The original first line of Mrs. Dalloway was not “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” but “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the gloves herself.” And the 1923 short story “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” which began Woolf’s serious return to Clarissa Dalloway as a possible protagonist (She had been a minor character in an earlier work) contains an extended meditation on the decline of gloves since the war. In that story, Clarissa’s preoccupation with gloves is part of the sharper satire on her—she’s a much less sympathetic figure in the story than in the novel—so, she thinks “It would be intolerable if dowdy women came to her party!” and then wonders “Would one have liked Keats if he had worn red socks?” Woolf uses Keats, a great poet revered across England, as a crucial barometer: the notion that one’s opinion of a poet might alter if his socks were not quite so is as shallow to Woolf’s ears as to ours. So when, in the next paragraph, Clarissa forges a connection with the shop girl over the old gloves, “With pearl buttons… perfectly simple—how French!,” we are reminded of how a certain kind of woman still judges others’ value by the correctness of her accessories. 

For Joyce, galoshes are a way that a middle-aged husband protects his wife from a chill. For Woolf, gloves are a sign of a middle-aged wife’s continuing care for propriety. The rubbers that London wears in this 1926 photograph are something else entirely. And to turn from the ways in which Joyce and Woolf ironize the bourgeois preoccupations of the prior generation to Bonney’s photograph is to suddenly feel a breath of fresh air, to feel the breathing room that modernity opened up for women.

If the caption flirts cloyingly, the photograph itself is less shy. It is also art. We see a pair of long, slim legs, crossed just above the ankle, in medium-heeled Mary Janes, with a button strap. The strap and the opening of the shiny black shoes are piped with a thin strip of leather in a paler shade. The spat-like galoshes hook under the heel and fasten three times in the front, leaving large gaps up the shin between buttons. The rubbers hardly look like a practical solution to walking in rainy streets. Surely the splash of a mud puddle is as likely to hit the front of a leg as the back. In Woolf’s short story, Mrs. Dalloway remembers how “old Uncle William used to say” that “A lady is known by her gloves and her stockings” (26). That old saw, still current today, about the telling signs of a woman’s accessories, applies here in ways that might shock Clarissa, for the story that these rubbers tell is not about class or breeding but about modern glamour.

One of the most important facts about these rubbers is how they remind us that this London woman is no longer wearing dresses down to her ankles. Her skirts would have come down just below her knees and her legs are now on display. But the display itself participates in a distinctively twenties aesthetic. The overall effect is glamorous rather than practical. Both sexy and abstract, the rubbers create three additional pale ovals up the white leg, echoing the oval created by the strap itself. If you go to the gallery upstairs, you’ll see that next to this photograph, the Delaunay print, representing 1924, and the Man Ray photograph representing 1925 both feature studies of circles and curved forms. The designer of these rubbers, the model, and Thérèse Bonney have collaborated to create in three dimensions, on a woman’s leg, a design that echoes the clean lines and pure shapes of avant garde art of the period.

In her recent book Glamour in Six Dimensions Judith Brown argues that the world of glamour and of high modernism are not so far apart. We should not, she insists, see a divide between consumerism and art, but notice instead a shared aesthetic delight in abstract forms and clean lines. The Bonney photograph absolutely participates in the phenomenon that Brown describes and it’s an exciting reminder of how fast the world was changing in 1926: just the year before, Woolf published a novel in which Clarissa laments that her daughter doesn’t care about gloves, but now, that lament is tinged with a kind of pride. At the party, one of Clarissa’s elderly guests notes to herself how the young girls’ gowns are short, tight, and straight, a look she finds unflattering. And the very next year time, in Paris, designers are making rubbers to market to the modern Londoner so she can protect her stockings and show off her legs.

The photographer is presumed to be Mabel Thérèse Bonney (limited access link, sorry) and, as I have learned in the past few days, she is very much worth more of our attention. Bonney was born in Syracuse in 1894. Educated at the University of California, and Harvard, she earned a doctorate at the Sorbonne. During the 1920s, she and her sister published a series of books about French cooking and fashion for American and English readers and this photograph looks to be part of that phase of her career as a photographer: gorgeous editorial fashion work.

She returned to New York in 1935 to become director of the new Maison Française, a gallery in Rockefeller Center dedicated to fostering better cultural understanding between France and the United States. That work sent her back to Europe and, while in Finland in November 1939 to photograph preparations for the 1940 Olympic Games, she instead became the only photojournalist at the scene of the Russian invasion of Finland. Her war photography was exhibited at the Library of Congress and published in books as War Comes to the People (1940) and Europe’s Children (1943). Her concept for a film about children displaced by war became the Academy Award- winning movie, The Search (1948). She died in France in 1978. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baron Marbot's Memoirs, a footnote examined

This footnote, so far, gathers information that's been available in many other editions of Mrs. Dalloway, so I'm not presenting it to you as a sign of my research. Instead, it's an occasion to think about the choices every editor must confront. Here is the draft note as I have it:

48.23-24 Baron Marbot's Memoirs: Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcelin, Baron de Marbot (1782-1854), French general who accompanied Napoleon on his disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812. A. J. Butler translated his memoirs into English in 1892 (3 vols.), with an abridged, one-volume, version appearing in 1893, and a new version in 1897. 
Looking at it yesterday, I deleted a comment that I had previously accepted from another editor, to the effect that Clarissa is likely reading from the abridgment. Why? How on earth might we guess that she is reading the abridged Marbot? The whole point of her reading is that she sleeps alone, doesn't have an intimate relationship with her husband anymore and, all in all, prefers about reading about a humiliating, (and frigid) Napoleonic defeat. If you're choosing Marbot over intimacy, why not go for the three volume version?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rolling turf. Draft footnote of the day

44.6 rolling his strip of turf Mr. Bentley is tending to his lawn with a roller, a metal drum with an axle through the center leading up to a handle. Rollers smooth the lawn's surface and are frequently used on cricket pitches, golf courses, and formal gardens to insure perfectly even grass. Woolf’s narrator is shooed off such a lawn in Oxbridge in A Room of Own’s Own (1929).
Not sure about the description of the roller itself. Any suggestions, gentle readers? 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Serpentine. Draft footnote of the day.

I am still here. I still exist. I have more substance than a tweet--barely--I'm just striving to make a 1/31/12 deadline for Dalloway and that makes me a little batty.

16.1 Serpentine The Serpentine is the lake in Hyde Park, formed in 1730 by the damming of the River Westbourne. Hyde Park, another of the major Royal Parks, appropriated by Henry VIII (1536), and site for carriage drives by the wealthy. Hyde Park lies to the west of Clarissa's route. For Clarissa’s memory of throwing a shilling into the Serpentine, see 277.17.  In 1903, Woolf wrote a short sketch about a woman who committed suicide by jumping into the Serpentine. See also her letter to Violet Dickinson, 22 May 1922: “you’ll tell me I’m a failure as a writer, as well as a failure as a woman. Then I shall take a dive into the Serpentine” (L 1.499). 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cura: A new journal of art and action

Late last spring, a group of Fordham students got together with Sarah Gambito, our Director of Creative Writing. They were frustrated that all the work they were doing on the student literary journal resulted in a pretty little booklet that sat in stacks on the radiators of our building, ignored. How could they convey their passion for art and their desire to change the world in ways that would touch other people?

Lots of brainstorming, conversations, coding, and a few visits to Zuccotti Park later, and Cura is the result. I’ve been tweeting about this for a while, but I haven’t written about it here.

Cura is going to be an online magazine, available on Kindle and with a number (how many? we’re not sure yet) of print editions. Four times a year, we’ll publish a prompt, each one related to the theme, and select the best art—fiction, poetry, photography, or any new media that can be displayed on a website—we get in response. The students write the prompt and they’re also writing the Muse, the blog that riffs on that prompt.

Our theme is Home.

Our first prompt is “What does your white picket fence keep out? And what has slipped in?”

Our first deadline is October 17th.

But that’s not all. We are committed to art and action and with the theme of home we’ll be hosting some fundraising events to benefit Covenant House, a nonprofit that benefits homeless youth. Any money we make from sales of the print journal will go to Covenant House, too.

We are so excited about this! I am super proud to play a small role as a faculty advisor. I hope that you’ll pass the call for submissions to all your friends, that you’ll submit your work, and that you’ll come back at the end of the month and read what we’ve put together.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: Lady Bexborough

Lady Desborough

Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed.

9.23 Lady Bexborough The name recalls the Countess of Bessborough (1761-1821; born Lady Frances Henrietta Spencer), a celebrated Regency hostess, confidant of Lord Byron, and mother to Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828). It also rhymes with that of Lady Desborough (1867-1952), a prominent Edwardian hostess and intimate friend of many Prime Ministers of the period. Her resemblance, both physically and in manner to an eighteenth-century hostess was widely remarked. Two of Lady Desborough’s sons were killed in WWI (See EN 9.24) See (D 3.37; 20 July 1925): “Sometimes a buttery crumb of praise is thrown me—‘Lady Desborough admires your books enormously—wants to meet you.’”

Monday, September 26, 2011

One Diary Entry, Five Footnotes

"& then there was Mrs Asquith. I was impressed. She is stone white: with the brown veiled eyes of an aged falcon; & in them more depth & scrutiny than I expected; a character, with her friendliness, & ease, & decision. Oh if we could have had Shelley’s poems, & not Shelley the man! she said. Shelley was quite intolerable, she pronounced; she is a rigid frigid puritan” (D 2.244; 4 June 1923)

My notes to self: 
  1. add to fn. re her memoirs which are in the bookshop window in Mrs. Dalloway
  2. falcon: add to fn. about bird re: Clarissa & about martial Lady Bruton
  3. Shelley: Clarissa and Sally read and love Shelley
  4.  Shelley: Clarissa’s favorite poet from back in 1915
  5. disapproval of Shelley: cf. Richard’s disapproval of Shakespeare

Friday, September 23, 2011

Virginia Woolf in Uruguay, final dispatch: food edition

The beginning of the term has me spinning like a top. So much so, that I forgot to mention that my account of the Woolf Conference in Uruguay was published at the wonderful Words Without Borders site, a terrific resource for literature in languages other than English, with many supporting materials for teachers and students and a beautifully designed virtual space. You can go directly to my dispatch by clicking here.

The one thing that was just too non-literary to mention was how great and interesting the food was, but, especially since I got teased for my enthusiasm about it, before, during, and after, I’ll share that with you here, now.

Forty percent of Uruguayans are of Italian descent and pizza was everywhere. When I asked how it differed from Italian or American pizza, I was told it didn’t, but a group of us went out for pizza on my first night there and I learned different. The slices came to our table on individual, dessert-size melamine plate, each slice cut into strips for sharing. The delicious brick-oven pizza had no tomato sauce at all. It was served with fainá, a flatbread made with chick pea flour. Both were delicious, but neither the food nor the generous way it was shared, down the middle of a long table cluttered with tumblers of water and red wine, was much like eating a slice in New York.

The chivito, the national sandwich of Uruguay, surpassed its reputation. This sandwich, with a thin layer of steak, ham, bacon, mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg, and pickles on a sweet soft roll is messy, delicious, and too much. It’s everything a Big Mac dreams of being: too many meats and condiments, too much juicy flavor, all coming together into a perfect sandwich.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I don't know how she does it

I thought, "Well, since I don't have to teach tomorrow, maybe I'll read a little Proust." (I really do need to read Proust.) Now, two hours later, I am still trying to fill out those beginning of the year forms. "Which package for school pictures? And if I get package B with the $5 sibling discount, how much is the check for?"

I am reading I Don't Know How She Does It on my Kindle. it's very very funny and so close to home that it's almost unbearable. 

I hope that my madeleine for these years is a madeleine and not the sight of a reminder stapled to the front of the homework folder: "Pumpkin patch form and $ DUE MONDAY! : )"

Friday, August 26, 2011

A footnote to a footnote

This is obscure, even for me, but very cool.

In Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa wonders if Hurlingham might be the cause of the traffic. Hurlingham is a polo ground outside London. The Woolf's went to see the polo there in May of 1923, when she was returning, in earnest, to drafting the novel. In a letter, Woolf writes: 

"We’ve just been to see the Polo at Hurlingham, and my wits are gone. How I wish I were the Duke of Peneranda and could play polo! And what d’you think they’re like to talk to?—the D. of Peneranda, the Marquis of Cholmondeley? Imagine their conversation” (L 3.41; 21 May 1923; to Molly MacCarthy)

But who is this Duke of Peneranda? None other than a silver medalist for polo...

Wikipedia tells me, after some labor, that "The Duke of Peñaranda de Duero was a Gentilhombre de Camara (Gentleman of the Household) to King Alfonso XIII of Spain. At the1920 Summer Olympics he and his brother were on the Spanish polo team, winning the silver medal.[1]"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Intensity, Mrs. Dalloway edition

I'm wrestling a file full of quotations into a book introduction. It's not pretty, but that's the project. My brain is like a jello salad that didn't quite set. I don't trust myself to blog. But I can share some great quotations with you. Like this one:
“I have had only 4 days writing at my novel [Mrs. Dalloway] since I got back. Tomorrow, I say to myself, I shall plunge into the thick of it. But how does one make people talk about everything in the whole of life, so that one’s hair stands on end, in a drawing room? How can one weight and sharpen dialogue till each sentence tears its way like a harpoon and grapples with the shingles at the bottom of the reader’s soul? (L 3.36; 13 May 1923; to Gerald Brenan)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Septimus & Leonard

Septimus (?) must be seen by some one. HIs wife? She to be founded on L? Simple, instinctive, childless.

L? L! (Virginia Woolf, The Hours (the manuscript draft of Mrs. Dalloway, ed. Helen Wussow, 416)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gerald Brenan & Woolf, Septimus & Clarissa

An incredibly humane letter from Woolf to Gerald Brenan, a WWI veteran:
“You said you were very wretched, didn’t you?....and compared this state of yours with mine, which you imagine to be secure, rooted, benevolent, industrious—you did not say dull—but somehow unattainable, and I daresay, unreal. But you must reflect that I am 40: further every 10 years, at 10, again at 30, such agony of different sorts possessed me that not content with rambling and reading I did most emphatically attempt to end it all; and should have been often thankful, if by stepping on one flagstone rather than another I could have been annihilated where I stood.” (L 2.598; 25 December 1922; to Gerald Brenan)
Here, we see so much of Woolf's sympathy for the suffering veteran that we cannot help but see how Woolf drew on her own experiences to make Clarissa into more of a person, less of a satire.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bad Bankers, c. 1879

From Olivia Laing's new book, To the River, about a walk up the Ouse. This passage describes Kenneth Grahame's early working life, in the Bank of England, c. 1879:
“the Bank was, by all accounts an exceedingly eccentric place…it wasn’t unusual to come across a clerk in the lavatory butchering the carcass of a sheep bought wholesale in the local market. The lavatories were also used for dogfights, which were so much a part of Bank culture that some of the rougher clerks kept fighting dogs chained in readiness at their desks” (65).

One might write a nostalgic book about rodents in canoes after such an adventure. I'm glad Wind in the Willows emerged from this nonsense. Don't get me started on the bankers of 2011...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: Peter the porpoise

7.21 Peter Walsh Cf. Hours notebook 3 for an anecdote about a porpoise called Peter at the Brighton aquarium (Add. MSS 51046, 130R)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: flying flowers

227.4 flying flowers over some tomb Persephone is gathering flowers when Hades abducts her and takes her to the underworld. Cf. the anonymous Homeric “Hymn to Demeter, c. ll. 5-19.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


From Putnam's Monthly (1907), celebrating the arrival of Rumpelmayer's in London. Gertrude Stein loved their honey cake. Hope Mirrlees invited Woolf to the Paris Rumpelmayer's in the early 1920s.

"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The orchids of Burma

Ah! She could not resist recalling what Charles Darwin had said about her little book on the orchids of Burma.--Mrs. Dalloway (269-70).

For a real life botanist and amateur orchid enthusiast, read Katherine Harrington's Kew Gardens blog post about Charles Samuel Pollock Parish (1822 - 1897). He and his friend, Major Tickell, made an annual collecting trip there.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Mix, 2011—Heat wave edition

Here is the track list for our 2011 summer cd, the 6th we’ve made as a family:

Lovely Day--Bill Withers
Eet--Regina Spektor           
Boogie Nights--Heat Wave           
Chic C'est La Vie--Countess Luann
Montezuma--Fleet Foxes
Police On My Back--The Clash
Like A Rolling Stone--Bob Dylan
You've Got a Friend in Me (para el Buzz Español)--Gipsy Kings
Firework--Katy Perry
Dancing Queen--Abba
What a Wonderful World--Louis Armstrong
Thunder Road--Bruce Springsteen
Right as Rain--Adele
Candombe Del Olvido--Alfredo Zitarrosa
The Cave--Mumford & Sons
Sugar Mountain--Neil Young
Town Called Malice--The Jam
Viva La Vida--Coldplay
Maybe I'm Amazed--Paul McCartney
Doña Soledad--Repique
Mountain Greenery--Ella Fitzgerald

Perhaps not surprisingly, Uruguayan music is represented as never before. Of the three kiddie pop songs that emerged after a weekend with our Vermont cousins, Justin Beiber and Taio Cruz didn’t make the cut, but Katy Perry turns out to be a crowd-pleaser. And, in honor of a genius tribute video by one of my husband’s colleagues, we have our first ever track from one of the Real Housewives, Countess Luann. As Izzy (5) says, “It’s silly, but it’s fun to dance to.” Coldplay makes its third appearance, one of only three artists to do so in six years. The other two are Stevie Wonder and Pink Martini. That trio captures, I think, what it is we’re up to here: picking great songs that are fun to share across generations. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lady Henry Somerset & the Chinese Shoe

My grandmother grew up in China, where she lived until she went to college. She once described witnessing little girls with newly bound feet being chased about the courtyard with switches, the older women forcing them to become accustomed to walking so bound. My grandmother loved China, spoke Chinese, believed—in spite of some of her strict Lutheran teaching—that God must surely admit some of the kind, non-Lutheran Chinese to heaven, too. She did not at all love her girlhood on the mission, but she loved Chinese culture. She was a brilliant, kind, strong woman, and, for all that, she abhorred footbinding.

All that is a long preface to explain why I was so forcibly struck by this quotation from Woolf on footbinding, from a short review called, to emphasize her metaphor, “The Chinese Shoe.” Woolf reviewed a biography of Lady Henry Somerset in the fall of 1923. She emphasizes the immense social pressures that conspired to quash Lady Somerset’s joie de vivre:

“The Victorian age was to blame; her mother was to blame; Lord Henry was to blame; even the saintly Mr. Watts was forced by fate to take part in the general conspiracy against her. Between them each natural desire of a lively and courageous nature was stunted, until we feel that the old Chinese custom of fitting the foot to the shoe was charitable compared with the mid-Victorian practice of fitting the woman to the system.”