stem: joyce carol oates
titel: a writer’s diary by virginia woolf
bron: joyce carol oates teaches the art of the short story

[She doesn’t really see things. She feels a lot of things.]

The written fiction of Virginia Woolf is very, very polished and very mannered. Virginia Woolf perfected a style that some people think is very beautiful, and other people can’t even read. It’s extremely fastidious and sort of floating, impressionistic. It’s beautiful in a way, but it doesn’t have much body. She doesn’t really see things. She feels a lot of things. Now by contrast, the journal is almost the opposite. In the journal, she’s sharp. She’s funny. She’s nasty. She’s very catty. She’s sarcastic. She says things about people she would never have said in her novels. And she would never have said I think in real life, but in the journal, she just is completely uncensored. These journals were published by Leonard Woolf, her husband, after she died. And they’re called ‘A writer’s diary’. And I recommend them for young and new writers, because they’re just wonderful. You start reading the writer’s diary of Virginia Woolf. Immediately, you start thinking about keeping a diary, because they’re so good. So I’ll read just a little bit here, but the whole thing is wonderful. So this is Tuesday in March 1930. And it’s just all one long paragraph. And it just sort of goes on. She’s talking to herself.

‘All because I have to buy myself a dress this afternoon, & cant think what I want, I cannot read. I have written, fairly well—but it is a difficult book—at Waves; but cant keep on after 12; & now shall write here, for 20 minutes.
My impressions of Margaret [Llewelyn Davies] & Lilian [Harris] at Monks House were of great lumps of grey coat; straggling wisps of hair; hats floppy & home made; thick woolen stockings; black shoes, many wraps, shabby handbags, & shapelessness, & shabbiness & dreariness & drabness unspeakable. A tragedy in its way. Margaret at any rate deserved better of life than this dishevelled & undistinguished end. They are in lodgings—as usual. Have, as usual, a wonderful Xtian Scientist landlady; are somehow rejected by active life; sit knitting perhaps & smoking cigarettes in the parlour where they have their meals, where there is always left a dish of oranges & bananas. I doubt if they have enough to eat. They seem to me flabby & bloodless, spread into rather toneless chunks of flesh; having lost any commerce with looking glasses. So we showed them the garden, gave them tea (& I dont think an iced cake had come Lilian’s way this 6 weeks) & then—oh the dismal sense of people stranded, wanting to be energised; drifting—all woolen & hairy. (It is odd how the visual impression dominates.) There is a jay blue spark in Margaret’s eye, now & then, But she had not been out of the lodging for 5 weeks because of the East wind. Her mind has softened & wrinkled, sitting indoors with the oranges & cigarettes. Lilian is almost stone deaf, & mumbles & crumbles, emerging clearly only once, to discuss politics. Something has blunted Margaret’s edge, rusted it, worn it, long before its time. Must old age be so shapeless?’

An Excerpt From A WRITER’S DIARY, Virginia Woolf. Date: Tuesday, a day in March, 1930