Planning for Virginia Woolf

January 19, 2007

Time to start a new novel, and based on the recommendation of some of you whose opinion has proven valuable, I am starting Tristram Shandy. I just received the slipcased Heritage Press edition that I picked up on eBay for the incredible price of $5.99. I like the richness and feel of some of these durable editions (Franklin Press, Easton Press, etc) but they have quite a heft that limits the options for reading position.

After that I would like to start something of a reading “project.” I would like to read some Virginia Woolf, and I know that there are a lot of fans out there. What is the best way to approach Virgina’s writings? Other authors that I have read extensively, I have enjoyed reading something about their life and/or times before delving into the novels. I read most of Dickens randomly based on which novel sounded good at the time. I read through Thomas Hardy in order of publication, as I did with William Faulkner. (I was fortunate enough at one time to have had a job where I could read through much of the shift.)

I read Cunningham’s The Hours a couple of years ago, and like many others went out and picked up Mrs. Dalloway, as well as To The Lighthouse. I have not yet read them. The multi-volume diaries seem to be a bit much, unless I discovered a strong interest after reading a few of the other books. Diary of a Writer looks interesting- I imagine that includes just a portion of the aforementioned diaries.

I have a trip to Dallas coming up in several weeks, which will include a trip to the Half Price Book Store, and Woolf is one author I will be looking for. Any suggestions, either in what to purchase or the best approach to reading Woolf?

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4 Responses to “Planning for Virginia Woolf”

  1. Dorothy W. Says:

    Yay for Tristram Shandy! I’ll be interested to see what you think of it — I hope you enjoy it. As for Woolf, I love her, but I haven’t read much about her life/times so I can’t give a recommendation there. I do recommend A Room of One’s Own or maybe Three Guineas, as really good nonfiction that she wrote. Those will give you a sense of her voice and her interests. Maybe shorter versions of the diary, like Diary of a Writer, would be good?

  2. My Says:

    I actually think that you should not read too much about Virginia Woolf and her life before you start reading her books, because her books deal with universal topics and can stand alone.

    My recommendation is to start either with To the Lighthouse, which I think is her most beautiful and complex book, or with Orlando, which is quite humorisric and is a more easily achievable book.

    The book I first read by her was Mrs. Dalloway, and I didn’t like it at all at first reading. Now I love that book as well, but it’s probably not the best book to start off with.

    My best recommendation for you is that you should not expect action in the traditional sense, but more a way of experiencing life. Woolf writes about our subjective experiences and inner life and not about what we say and do (which is most often different from, or not in accordance with,out inner stream of thought anyways.

    Since you seem to have read quite a lot of William Faulkner you know a bit about what to expect, although Woolf goes further. But what they have in common is some of the most brilliant, poetic and beautiful literature ever written.

  3. Brad Says:

    Dorothy and My,

    Thank you both for the advice. I have a copy of To the Lighthouse, so I think I will pick up A Room of One’s Own and Orlando and start with those 3. If I enjoy those, I can go on from there.

  4. Bybee Says:

    I really like The Waves, but that’s probably not the best one to start with. You should listen to other advice.


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