Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book review: A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf

A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf

"I might in the course of time learn what it is that one can make of this loose, drifting material of life; finding another use for it . . . . What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all . . . . I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection has sorted itself and refined itself, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life . . . ." p.13

"No longer can I summon up that [extroverted] energy . . . . Once I had a gift for doing this, and a passion, and it made parties arduous and exciting . . . . when I wake early now I luxuriate most in a whole day alone; a day of easy natural poses . . . slipping tranquilly off into the deep water of my own thoughts . . . and replenishing my cistern at night with [reading]." p.78

"The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes . . . . Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don't belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting from lunch to dinner; it is false, unreal, merely conventional. Why admit anything to literature that is not poetry-by which I mean saturated? Is that not my grudge against novelists? that they select nothing? The poets succeed by simplifying: practically everything is left out. I want to put practically everything in: yet to saturate. This is what I want to do . . . ." p.136

". . . I think I am about to embody at last the exact shape my brain holds. What long toil to reach this beginning--if The Waves is my first work in my own style!" p.172

"Why all this criticism of other people? Why not some system that includes the good? What a discovery that would be--a system that did not shut out." p.183

"I am now at the height of my powers in that line [reading], and have read, with close and powerful attention some 12 or 15 books since I came here. What a joy--what a sense as of a Rolls Royce engine once more purring its 70 miles an hour in my brain. " p.187

Regarding Form (defined as: "the sense that one thing follows another rightly.")
"[Turgenev] wrote and re-wrote. To clear the truth of the unessential [his] idea that the writer states the essential and lets the reader do the rest." p.203

"A curious feeling, when writer like [Stella Benson] dies, that one's response is diminished . . . . My effusion--what I send out--less porous and radiant--as if the thinking stuff were a web that were fertilised only by other people's (her that is) thinking it too: now lacks life." p.207

". . . I should be who I mostly am: very rapid, excited, amused, intense." p.224

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