Nightjar

Virginia Woolf and Lessons for Me

This week I borrowed a few shorter pieces of works and short story anthologies from the library. These included more shorts by Du Maurier (whose work I love), Steinbeck and Susan Hill, however I also picked up Virginia Woolf.

I have never read Woolf’s works before.

Of course I’ve heard bits and pieces, snippets of fact about Virginia Woolf; a foremost author tackling social injustice and women’s, indeed people’s rights with a delicate pen. A lady and pacifist of the intellectual ‘Bloomsbury Group’; a writer often mentioned in the same breath as George Orwell. A woman with daemons and a poor soul faced with severe mental health challenges throughout her life. Indeed even I, the uneducated couth, have heard of her suicide by drowning.

But now I have read some of her work.

It’s beautiful.

Incredibly clever and teasingly written; chain of thought that meanders, here and there, teases and pleases and poses questions you only realise are being asked at the end. Not in the during; and stories that make you smile afterward.

In today’s race for words, I’m sure many literary agents and publishers would say (faced with a manuscript of this ilk) that it’s overwritten and doesn’t cater for the mass market and cheap kills. Too short, too long, in strange accent and flowery – so flowery, and introspective; they’re probably right.

But isn’t that a shame.

And so as an artist, as an author is, I’m learning to write what I feel is right.

For me!

That length doesn’t matter where a short is concerned in my own anthologies. I saw this in Woolf’s pieces ‘Monday or Tuesday’ and ‘A Haunted House’. I so enjoyed the latter – clearly a sucker for eternal love – and both would likely be called flash fiction now. Then, having read ‘A Society’ , I was left marvelling at how clever she is; seeing the irony and inclusion of women in setting their own social standing. And finally I read ‘An Unwritten Novel’ ... a true exploration of thought and thinking; the essence of make-believe.

I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work.

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PAUL JAMESON 2016