Sunday, November 20, 2005

Virginia Woolf was not Mad, just very Annoyed

There is new Woolf biography out:

An Inner Life.
By Julia Briggs.
Illustrated. 528 pp. Harcourt. $30.

Since seeing The Hours in 2003 and reading A Room of Ones Own and Between the Acts I've been a fan of Virginia. The determination and the way some of the imagery and narrative plays with my mind, twisting it, reminds me of such later writers as Doris Lessing (especially A Briefing for a Descent into Hell) and even some of William Burroughs' works. One thing that I objected to in 'The Hours' is the hysterical nature of so many of the female characters, not the least Virginia. The impression I got from her writings is that she was psychotic at times but even when all the birds were speaking Greek she maintained her sense of values. This was the case right up to the end and it is visible in the text of Between the Acts, the desperation and frustration at the world Bloomsbury had made was being savagely destroyed.
So it was a pleasant surprise to read in the review of Briggs's biography:

"Although Briggs does not dwell on Woolf's eventual suicide in 1941, she offers the provocative theory that Woolf's breakdowns were not evidence of insanity, but rather a sensitive person's quite sane response to the darkness and cruelties of life, and particularly to the horrors of World War II."

I hold with this. The review can be found HERE.

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