Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Rebecca West and Virginia Woolf

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.

W is for Rebecca West 

Image result for Rebecca West
 Rebecca West was born Dec.21, 1892 in Kerry, Ireland.Her book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is called a travel book but it is unlike any book I have ever read. Like the densest of chocolate, it demands to be savored slowly. I had it by my bed for just under a year. I simply couldn't consume it without lots of digestion time in between reading bouts. I also had to read great chunks of it out loud to my dear guy. West would take something she and her husband had seen on their six week trip to Yugoslavia - say a small church or the cornice on a government building and before you could see what she was up to - you'd have traveled with her back centuries into the history of that place. The trip coincided with the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia. Her grasp and passion for politics and history carry you along until she has deposited you right where she wants you to be. Her private life was anything but - she had a ten year affair with H.G. Wells that gave her her only child, a son. She married in her thirties and stayed with her banker husband until he died but the last years were troubled and unhappy. She lived until she was 92 and was productive her whole life. Happy? I don't think so but brilliant, passionate and engaged - yes. Oh and we share a birthday which gives me a very particular and peculiar thrill - an unearned excitement.
George Charles Beresford - Virginia Woolf in 1902.jpg

and Virginia Woolf - what can I say about this woman that hasn't been said a million times? I am so inspired about her views on writing and women. A Room of One's Own is a constant companion. To the Lighthouse is a wonder of a book and I could spend a year or two reading and rereading Mrs. Dalloway.  I was first inspired by her when I read about The Bloomsbury Circle. Her innovative approach to writing is deeply thrilling. Her writing about writing is something that I think of daily. Here is something she wrote that Ursula Le Guin addressed in one of her essays. I've put it here before but it needs reminding of. It is from The Letters of Virginia Woolf, volume 3.
Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it. But no doubt I shall think differently next year.

Now there you are! Two inspirational writers - born in the same time period - neither particularly happy (Woolf suicided at the age of 59, stones in her pocket to the bottom of the River Ouse) but both feminists, creatives, political and engaging.  Now I need to get back to my own writing! How about you? Any inspiration out there?


Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Breaking away to write poetry (especially prose poems) can help capture the rhythm. While sentences shouldn't rhyme, they should have the feel of balance that defines poetry.

Gail’s 2016 April A to Z Challenge

Margot Kinberg said...

Interesting choices, Jan! And I do love those comments on style. Actually, I've been richly enjoying all of your choices this month :-)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Virginia Woolf can be difficult for the modern reader. But then when one gets to a passage that resonates, oh it is worth it! I don't think I've read any of Rebecca West. Now I really want to look up this book you mentioned!

Hart Johnson said...

Great examples, and nice spotting on rhythm. I think that is one key of voice.

Susan Scott said...

Thank you Jan, I've noted Rebecca West. I love/envy that ability to engage the reader from the seemingly mundane to loftier spheres.
Yes, well, Virginia Woolf who has endless fascination for me. Thank you for the excerpt on style and the necessity of rhythm. It sounds spot on ...I like what Gail as commentator said about breaking away and writing poetry, or prose rather, in helping to find the balance.