1924

Reading: plans for. She assigns herself almost no current books. When she does, they’re mostly for reviews or the hot new topic of conversation. But when she lays out reading for herself, it’s mostly classics and poetry. Poetry includes Shakespeare, two acts an evening. Her train of thought turns to aging: taste in books and –her tastes have changed from prose to poetry.

And here I am reading her. After five years working for a book recommendation site, it’s refreshing and encouraging to be reminded that the constant hype machine of publishing, the pretty covers and author interviews, are the floodwater rapids of literature, with whatever depths there may be concealed beneath the froth. And that there are still deep clear all-season pools full of fish to explore…to overextend that metaphor.

More plans and schedules for reading and writing. A whole year laid out to finish Mrs. Dalloway, put her aside for three months, finish a book of essays, revise the novel, and have them come out one after another the next spring.

A move to Monk’s House, Rodmell gives her writer’s block.  “A change of house makes me oscillate for days.”

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She makes herself feel better about her unsteady mental states by ascribing them to her superior sensitivities, denigrating the lower classes again, the reverend’s wife, etc. People like that “never quiver.” As if she could know.

I suspect she would snub me to death if we could meet. Much as I love her writing, and envy many things about her abilities and circumstances, I’m content to have all this time and space between us. But that’s true of so many artists and writers whose work I adore. The connection is at least half my imagination.

“But it’s a question of work” she says. 250 words a day of fiction, then The Common Reader, then her planned reading. All interrupted by the death of Conrad, Joseph, and a wire from the Times Literary Supplement asking her to write him up, which she does.

On a walk one day, she has a standoff with some cows. “I waved my stick and stood at bay; and thought of Homer as they came flourishing and trampling towards me”  Should I index the cows? They stuck in my brain overnight. I’ll stick them in under the Greek literature they made her think of, and deal with them later.

Her writing plans are thrown off by visitors, effectively invited by one of her servants, Hope, Lottie who thought she’d like to see her niece, Stephen, Ann. Virginia is thwarted, frustrated by the interruption, but also finds Ann “wonderful and charming.” Which is children for you. When they leave, she finishes Mrs. Dalloway and reflects on the style, structure, revision process. What will the reviews be like? They’ll call it disjointed, and “I suppose there is some superficial glittery writing.” But it doesn’t matter, she’s happy, “it seems to leave me plunged in the richest strata of my mind.”

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1923

“I’m over peevish in private, partly in order to assert myself. I am a great deal interested suddenly in my book.”  It is June already in 1923, and the book is Mrs. Dalloway.

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She wants to “bring in the despicableness of people like Ott” — her supposed friend, Morrell, Ottoline. I am 54 pages into this book and have finally hit the point where the work picks up speed. Most of the main characters and themes have been introduced, and I’m starting to get a feel for the shape of this index. Still, so many people, and new ones keep cropping up, for instance here is the name Sackville West for the first time, but it isn’t Vita yet, it’s her novel-writing cousin, Edward. I’m going to leave him in for the novel, and because it’s interesting to see him here before Vita.

But I’ve decided to leave a lot of the others out. If people are interested in the minor friends, they can look them up in the diaries and letters. I have to keep in mind that the main point of this index (the metatopic!) is her writing life.

“To get to the bones, now I’m writing fiction again I feel my force glow straight from me at its fullest.” That stumped me for a bit, until I went back to the sentence before and noticed I’d skimmed past the word “excitement.” mental states: excitement of writing. One of those dissections that kills the thing–but the index is supposed to point you to the inspiration, not embody it.

More about reviews and criticism of her work. But this year she finds that a bad response to one of her essays makes her less inclined to please others,  makes her more determined to be herself. This might be because she’s in the thick of writing Mrs. Dalloway.  Even when she can only write 50 words in a morning doing the madness parts. She’s also realizing new things about structure, and how she can’t do it all consciously. “One feels about in a state of misery–and then one touches the hidden spring.”  planning of novels …. backstory… and also Lubbock, Percy who wrote a book on the craft of fiction that she and her friends obsessed over. It is out of print now.

I still don’t know what Leonard’s criteria were in editing this book, it’s very haphazard. He leaves out book talk, and leaves in these bits about how much she dislikes Ottoline (who died three years before Virginia). I am sure I could do a better job of composing a book for writers out of her diaries and letters myself. There’s probably a “(dead) writer (s’ private thoughts) on writing” series in that idea. However, for that I’d need to see some cash.

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