Saturday, March 28, 2009

Viginia Woolf drowned herself 68 years ago today...

Strange, the news came a few days ago about Sylvia Plath's son committing suicide.
Today, the Writer's Almanac reports this (My notes in blue):

It was on this day in 1941 that the novelist Virginia Woolf drowned herself in the river Ouse, near her country home in Sussex in southeast England. She suffered from periods of depression for many years, and modern scholars believe she may have been manic depressive, also known as bi-polar.

Woolf wrote in her diaries about her volatile mood swings. She would often be thrown into depression by her conviction that her writing wasn't good enough. But then she would get herself out of the depression by thinking of a new idea for a book.

She was relatively healthy for most of the 1920s, when she published Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927). But she struggled with her book The Years (1937). She wrote in her diary, "Seldom have I been more completely miserable than I was ... reading over the last part of The Years. Such feeble twaddle — such twilight gossip — it seemed; such a show up of my own decrepitude."

Sometimes, I must admit, that I think that when i read Virginia Woolf...that she does ramble about miniscule things. Yet, she remains a force in women's fiction, so I bow to her anyway. I guess it does my heart good to know she doubted her own work. It happens to all of us, perhaps.

Her mood grew worse as WWII broke out in 1939. She and her husband moved to their country house, which was under the flight path of the German bombers. By March of 1941, she was writing in her diary that she had fallen into "a trough of despair." She wrote, "It's difficult, I find, to write. No audience. No private stimulus, only this outer roar."

Finally, she wrote three letters, possibly as much as 10 days before she committed suicide. The longest letter was to her husband, Leonard. She wrote: "I feel certain that I am going mad again ... I shant recover this time ... I cant fight any longer. ...What I want to say is that I owe all the happiness of my life to you. ... I dont think two people could have been happier than we have been."

Woolf left the letters where her husband would find them and walked a half mile to a nearby river and put a heavy stone in the pocket of her fur coat before jumping into the water.
The novelist Elizabeth Bowen visited Woolf just a month before her death. Bowen wrote about Virginia: "I remember her kneeling back on the floor ... and she sat back on her heels and put her head back in a patch of sun, early spring sun. Then she laughed in this consuming, choking, delightful, hooting way. And that is what has remained with me."

Friday, March 27, 2009

West Virginia

My car--the good old Durango--is STILL in West Virginia. It might get fixed by Monday, and we can go get it next weekend. Good thing the people I dealt with in Princeton, W. V. were so nice. Otherwise, it would have been an entire nightmare trip home from N. Carolina. As is, it's a VERY expensive but funny story. My favorite is the tow-truck driver who was very nice, very toothless, and very intolerant of the "damn foreigners (fawrunners)" he talked to on the phone to charge my towing fee.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


On Thursday, I visited KIPP Pride High and Gaston College Prep in Gaston, North Carolina. What an amazing day. The students had wonderful questions about Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged. We had good discussions every class period.

The most amazing thing was our last period discussion. Every single person in the room had read the book. We talked about everything from the sexual content of the book to how to be a friend to somebody who has good qualities even while being a little scary. We talked about symbols in the book, like the squirrel, and characterization, and how a central idea is not to judge other people until we've walked in their shoes, like Atticus says in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Another especially neat thing was that Lainey in Jake Riley makes reference to Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and to To Kill a Mockingbird, and those are two books the students were reading at that time! It was almost an uncanny coincidence.

What a wonderful day. There are pictures on my website, if you follow the link at the bottom to "photos" and then "here" to the flickr page.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm in sunny North Carolina where the skies are blue and the temp has been in the seventies since I've arrived.

I'm also a brunette. Jesus. Nikki and Josh's girlfriend Emily had consorted in a decision to do a "hair intervention" on me! Hilarious? Sad, too. So Nikki had a hair appointment for each of us. I said I wanted to go darker...and jezus, my hair is almost black. I had a picture of this honey-golden brown hair cut, and said that's what I wanted. Why can't anybody in the frickin' business follow a picture? I tell Keith I want darker, and I go home platinum blonde. I tell this woman I want darker, and show her this honey-brown picture, and go home with a black walnut on my neck. Jeez.

Hair's fairly inconsequential, isn't it? My kids are wonderful, and I'm having a delightful relaxing time. I haven't written a word, but I'm on vacation, so I'm giving myself permission not to.
All is well, and Freya's happy and a wonderful traveler.