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An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a Preface by Leonard Woolf; Indices.


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An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a Preface by Leonard Woolf; Indices.

30 review for A Writer's Diary

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    These diary entries brim over with life, with hunger, with a passion that cannot be contained, with the conflicted need to absorb it all; the lonely walks in the Sussex countryside, the visual and sonorous chaos of life in the city, of incessant travel, mental and otherwise, the unstoppable flow of time, the transience of things, the galloping rhythm of emotions, sensations and the simultaneity of memory, past and present in one’s conscience, the tedium of discussions and routine, the truth abou These diary entries brim over with life, with hunger, with a passion that cannot be contained, with the conflicted need to absorb it all; the lonely walks in the Sussex countryside, the visual and sonorous chaos of life in the city, of incessant travel, mental and otherwise, the unstoppable flow of time, the transience of things, the galloping rhythm of emotions, sensations and the simultaneity of memory, past and present in one’s conscience, the tedium of discussions and routine, the truth about daily life without embellishment. Virginia sat at her desk and wanted to condense it all into poetry and leave out whatever that was superfluous. She never rested. She pushed herself to the limit, squeezed out her mind and existed fully only when she was writing. Writing as a means of being. She became inebriated by the exuberance of words and was carried away by the enthusiasm of getting closer to the voice that would finally give a physical shape to her dispersed, hyperactive senses. Working soothed and provided purpose to an otherwise futile reality, it gave her a reason to be. But when the last page was done, revised, rewritten and typed out, almost manically, the vertigo of impending emptiness oppressed her, and incessant self-doubt erased all sense of wholeness or achievement. The vain, arrogant, scathing writer became a vulnerable woman, conflicted about her own expectations and with an almost obsessive need for validation. The constant search for meaning made her restless, abstracted and prone to introspection. She devoured books compulsively, classics and contemporary literature, and had no trouble scoffing the likes of Joyce, Hardy or Bernard Shaw, but she wasn’t harsher with any other author than she was with herself. She kept track of her book sales, she was easily humiliated by negative reviews and dreaded the reactions of her close friends in the Bloomsbury group. The vulnerability shown in these diaries bespeaks of a woman aware of her writing prowess but also mindful of her limitations, something one might not expect to see in the diaries of her male contemporaries. As years pass and the entries get closer to the onset of WWII, the collapse of Woolf’s world seems to match her increasing mental frailty. The constant fear of imminent bombings during the Blitz overpowers her creativity. Her writing becomes rushed and it loses the quality of a safe haven. Woolf’s hunger to seize meaning through writing wanes and a lulling indifference takes hold of her former urgency. Where to draw the line between the woman and the writer? Between imposed circumstance and deliberate choice? Maybe one wouldn’t exist without the other. Some might think Leonard Woolf’s selection of diary entries show a fragmented account of Virginia’s intimate thoughts, but for this reader, they are more than a censured portrait of an artist. They present a fair testimony to the great joys and uncertainties of being a writer, of surrendering to an unknown vision and committing one’s life to seize it without compromising the fleeting quality of its beauty.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    scritch scratch scritch scratch dash scritch scratch scritch scratch semi-colon scritch scratch scritch scratch inkblot the trusty nib flounders a moment then wades through the puddle of ink and on to the end of the line to the end of the page to the end of that year’s diary and though it flounders sometimes along the way the trusty nib keeps on scratching through the diaries until half-way though the last volume it flounders finally _______________________________ Now for The Longer Review - and apolo scritch scratch scritch scratch dash scritch scratch scritch scratch semi-colon scritch scratch scritch scratch inkblot the trusty nib flounders a moment then wades through the puddle of ink and on to the end of the line to the end of the page to the end of that year’s diary and though it flounders sometimes along the way the trusty nib keeps on scratching through the diaries until half-way though the last volume it flounders finally _______________________________ Now for The Longer Review - and apologies in advance. Reading a diary is like being in a room with someone who thinks they are alone. And even though they think they are alone, and feel quite safe talking to themselves aloud, we see them glance in the mirror from time to time to see how they look when they are speaking. It can’t matter how they look but they check all the same, just in case. How much ‘just in case’ is present in Virginia Woolf’s diary, the kindly blank-faced confidante she turned to in good times and in bad? In March, 1926, aged forty-four, she wrote: But what is to become of all these diaries, I asked myself yesterday. If I died, what would Leo make of them? He would be disinclined to burn then; he could not publish them. Well, he should make up a book from them, I think; and then burn the body. I daresay there is a little book in them; if the scraps and scratching were straightened out a little...This is dictated by a slight melancholia, which comes upon me sometimes now and makes me think I am old. Yet, as far as I know, as a writer I am only now writing out my mind. She was right on all counts. She lived to be fifty-nine and wrote five more novels, some of her most famous essays, many short stories, the second series of The Common Reader, a biography of the artist Roger Fry, plus fifteen more years worth of diary entries. And Leonard Woolf did edit her diaries after her death in 1941, selecting the sections on writing, and some on reading, which he then published as A Writer's Diary full of little gems like this: You see, I’m thinking furiously about Reading and Writing A Writer's Diary starts in 1918 when Woolf’s second novel, Night and Day was about to be published, and it covers the most important years of her writing life. I for one am very grateful to Leonard Woolf for both the editing and the publishing. It is very exciting to get to read about the writing process as it is happening, and about the writer’s reaction to the reception of their work as it is published. As a reader, I’m rarely drawn to the biographical details of a writer’s life except where they are so closely linked to the writing that an understanding of one requires an understanding of the other. In the case of Virginia Woolf, it seems to me that biographical details are simply not relevant to an appreciation of her writing. She may have used life experiences as material for her books but the reader doesn’t need to know which episodes are fact and which are fiction; the writing carries the day almost entirely on its own. It is interesting that we don’t often seek to know the intimate lives of artists the way we sometimes do with writers; we accept an artist’s work as it is, simply placing it in its epoch and appreciating its technique and its merits in relation to its contemporaries. The parallel with the artist is particularly relevant in Woolf’s case; the main agenda in her novels is her art. The novels make political points certainly, but it is done without stridency; it never gets in the way of the style of the writing or the shape she is architecting. Even when she makes political points in her non-fiction, her phrasing is always perfect and her voice remains serene; she examines the field as a scientist or an anthropologist might, and sets out her conclusions. In both her fiction and her non-fiction, there is this firm focus on the writing style. I think she would have abhorred any search for intimate details about the personal life behind that writing style. So what does Virginia Woolf say about the process of writing if writing it is—this dash at the paper of a phrase, this sweep of a brush? In 1923, when she is working on the first draft of Mrs. Dalloway, she writes: But now what do I feel about my writing? One must write from deep feeling, said Dostoievsky. And do I? Or do I fabricate with words, loving them as I do?…But to get further. Have I the power of conveying the true reality?…Answer these questions as I may…there remains this excitement: to get to the bones, now that I’m writing fiction again I feel my force glow straight from me at its fullest. After a dose of criticism I feel that I’m writing sideways, using only an angle of my mind. The other angles of her mind were constantly focused upon the current novel she was working on, or upon the germ of an idea for the next one. Why not invent a new kind of play; as for instance: Woman thinks…He does. Organ plays. She writes. They say: She sings. Night speaks. As we read through the diaries, we watch such seeds grow and change: that particular seed grew into Orlando. Soon afterwards, she began mentioning another theme: ‘moths’. She spoke of those moths again and again, spoke of them hovering at the back of her brain, and finally I realised that she was shaping the playpoem that would become The Waves. More of her diary entries concern The Waves than any of her other books, except perhaps To the Lighthouse. I find it significant that of the entire ten, those are the two I appreciated the most. And so, there was always a story in the making, even before she had finished the previous one, and the diaries were where she coaxed these seeds of stories into the light. As we can see from the quotes, Woolf wrote the diaries in a kind of shorthand, quite unlike the way she writes in her novels and essays: It strikes me that here I practice writing; do my scales; yes and work at certain effects. I daresay I practiced Jacob here; and Mrs D. and shall invent my next book here; for here I write merely in spirit—great fun it is too, and Old V. of 1940 will see something in it too. She will be a woman who can see, old V., everything—more than I can, I think. She registers her thoughts on the spot, her nib following the swerves of her thinking, sensitive to every shift of mood, and very often the mood mentioned is one of exhilaration, of the ‘high' she experienced from creating phrases. The notion of immense satisfaction, rapture, electric shocks gained from writing is repeated over and over again and most often in relation to the periods when she was engaged on fiction: Great content—almost always enjoying what I am at, but with constant change of mood. I don’t think I’m ever bored. Sometimes a little stale; but I have a power of recovery. She needed every power of recovery that she could muster when it came to the reception of her novels. After Night and Day came out to unenthusiastic reviews in 1919, she wrote: I ought to be writing Jacob’s Room; and I can’t…I’m a failure as a writer. I’m out of fashion: old: shan’t do any better….my book..a damp firework. Later, while still working on Jacob's Room, she noted: Elliot (T. S.) coming on the heel of a long stretch of writing (two months without a break) made me listless; cast shade upon me; and the mind when engaged upon fiction wants all its boldness and self-confidence. He said nothing (about Jacob's Room)— but I reflected how what I’m doing was probably being better done by Mr Joyce. By 1939, even though she had some huge successes behind her, and had had books written about her, she was still easily cast down by criticism and brooded about her writing reputation having been damaged by Windham Lewis and Gertrude Stein, and about how she was seen by some critics to be out of date..unlikely to write anything good again…second-rate and likely to be discarded altogether. I think that's my public reputation at the moment. It is based largely on C. Connolly's cocktail criticism: a sheaf of feathers in the wind. About reading contemporary reviewers such as Cyril Connolly, she writes: When I read reviews [of other people's books] I crush the column together to get at one or two sentences; is it a good book or a bad? And then I discount those two sentences according to what I know of the book and of the reviewer. But when I write a review I write every sentence as if it were going to be tried by three Chief Justices. I can’t believe that I am crushed together and discounted. Reviews seem to me more and more frivolous…The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial. Whatever about being read, reading itself was a tremendous pleasure. She mentions reading certain authors again and again; Dante and Proust were two such. She not only reread her favourites over and over, she liked to read them alongside other books, and the more books she had going at once, the better she liked it. In one of her letters, she said: I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time. Due to her association with The Times Literary Supplement as an occasional reviewer, she claims to have learned eventually to read with a pen and notebook, seriously. There are frivolous moments as well as serious ones in her diary life; a line from an old song is tossed out several times like a repeated theme in a piece of music; it reveals a different Virginia from the one we usually see: And what do I care for a goose-feather bed. The line is from the well-known ballad about the Lady who leaves her Lord and her comfortable house and goes off to share a life on the road with the RaggleTaggle Gypsy-O. Interpret that how we like, it is clear that Virginia liked her comforts and was pleased to have made enough money from her writing to eventually afford certain luxuries. I enjoy epicurean ways of society; sipping and then shutting my eyes to taste. I enjoy almost everything. Coexistent with the epicurean was a restless spirit constantly questioning itself, sometimes finding only blackness. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay one’s hands on and say ‘This is it’? My depression is a harassed feeling. I'm looking: but that's not it—that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it? It is at this point that the reviewer might be tempted to end this review by presuming tritely that Virginia Woolf never did find ‘it’. But no, this reviewer thinks she had ‘it’ in front of her all the time, and that she knew it: Nothing makes a whole except when I am writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Published by Leonard Woolf in 1953, A Writer's Diary compiles literary extracts from Virginia Woolf's full diary: the short collection's entries feature the writer's plans for her own books; her reactions to other writers' works; character sketches and other exercises; and philosophical musings about literature and society. Not a single part of the diary reads as superfluous or superficial. Even at her most informal, Virginia wrote thoughtful and brilliant prose, and Leonard included only the be Published by Leonard Woolf in 1953, A Writer's Diary compiles literary extracts from Virginia Woolf's full diary: the short collection's entries feature the writer's plans for her own books; her reactions to other writers' works; character sketches and other exercises; and philosophical musings about literature and society. Not a single part of the diary reads as superfluous or superficial. Even at her most informal, Virginia wrote thoughtful and brilliant prose, and Leonard included only the best parts of the many volumes of his wife's diary. The hyper-mediated character of Leonard's editing to some extent mythologizes Virginia as a flawless writer, obscuring certain facets of her character that appear clearly in the full diary, but it also successfully introduces members of a vast audience to the personal writings of one of the twentieth century's greatest English novelists/essayists. The entries concerning the composition of Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves stand out as highlights of the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Virginia Woolf On January 1, 1953, Leonard Woolf completed his Preface to A Writer's Diary, a compilation of extracts from the 26 volumes of diaries that Virginia Woolf wrote from 1915 until 1941, with the last entry written just four days before her death. This book was published before the five-volume set of Woolf's diaries that is still in print today. Leonard Woolf makes it clear that, especially since so many of the people whom Woolf wrote about were still alive at the point, it was importan Virginia Woolf On January 1, 1953, Leonard Woolf completed his Preface to A Writer's Diary, a compilation of extracts from the 26 volumes of diaries that Virginia Woolf wrote from 1915 until 1941, with the last entry written just four days before her death. This book was published before the five-volume set of Woolf's diaries that is still in print today. Leonard Woolf makes it clear that, especially since so many of the people whom Woolf wrote about were still alive at the point, it was important for him to avoid publishing the more personal diary entries. Instead, Leonard Woolf selected excerpts that focused especially on Virginia Woolf's writing about writing, fiction as well as criticism. There's something very powerful about reading through Woolf's characterizations of her writing process in one volume, covering decades of her development as a novelist and a critic. As such, this volume is an ideal book to read if you are fascinated by Woolf's creative process, if you are a writer looking for inspiration, or if you are interested in Woolf's diaries, but want a taste of her writing before you make the commitment to read the more complete published editions of her diaries (which I plan to read through this summer). There are some strong themes and topics that emerge from A Writer's Diary. One is Woolf's strong commitment to writing and revising, even in the face of poor health. She describes the highs and lows she experienced at every stage of the writing process, from her initial conceptualization of a new novel or essay (often while she was completing another project), to her struggles to pinpoint her vision for her novels and to realize it in prose, to her commitment to re-writing and revising, always looking to condense her writing, to cut away any extraneous words or passages, to realize the heart of her vision for each novel or essay or biography. Woolf struggled to find a rhythm to her writing and reading that would sustain her through the very difficult periods when she had just completed a long work, and when she was waiting to learn what its reception would be among friends and critics alike. She describes having at least two writing projects going at one time, along with some very ambitious reading projects, sometimes tied to her critical essays, and sometimes part of her development as a writer, to learn from others. As I mentioned above, Woolf writes at length about her unease over the critical reception of her own books. Over time, and with more accolades behind her, this becomes a slightly less difficult struggle, but she never completely shook off her concern over how others, friends, family, critics, and the reading public, thought of her work and of her place in literature. How best to handle reviews of her work? To what extent should she write for external approval? How could she judge how good her writings were when her own assessments of them could shift by the hour? All of the topics I mention above would be fascinating enough, but for me the true joy comes in reading Woolf's beautiful prose. I couldn't resist posting something like 15 excerpts in updates when I was reading this book, and that was a result of my being selective. Here are some of my favorite passages: Woolf writes about her approach to writing a diary: "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, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through." Woolf's aspirations for her writing: "Anyhow, nature obligingly supplies me with the illusion that I am about to write something good; something rich and deep and fluent, and hard as nails, while bright as diamonds." Woolf's description of the relationship she seeks between her writing and the substance of life: "So the days pass and I ask myself sometimes whether one is not hypnotised, as a child by a silver globe, by life; and whether this is living. It's very quick, bright, exciting. But superficial perhaps. I should like to take the globe in my hands and feel it quietly, round, smooth, heavy, and so hold it, day after day. I will read Proust I think. I will go backwards and forwards." The dual nature of life--solid and fleeting: "Now is life very solid or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on for ever; will last for ever; goes down to the bottom of the world—this moment I stand on. Also it is transitory, flying, diaphanous. I shall pass like a cloud on the waves. Perhaps it may be that though we change, one flying after another, so quick, so quick, yet we are somehow successive and continuous we human beings, and show the light through. But what is the light? I am impressed by the transitoriness of human life to such an extent that I am often saying a farewell—after dining with Roger for instance; or reckoning how many more times I shall see Nessa." The importance of revision: "At Rodmell I read through The Common Reader; & this is very important—I must learn to write more succinctly. Especially in the general idea essays like the last, "How it strikes a Contemporary," I am horrified by my own looseness. This is partly that I don't think things out first; partly that I stretch my style to take in crumbs of meaning. But the result is a wobble & diffusity and breathlessness which I detest." Reading and discovery: "Now, with this load despatched, I am free to begin reading Elizabethans—the little unknown writers, whom I, so ignorant am I, have never heard of, Pullenham, Webb, Harvey. "This thought fills me with joy—no overstatement. To begin reading with a pen in my hand, discovering, pouncing, thinking of phrases, when the ground is new, remains one of my great excitements." The efforts to pin down ideas when writing: "It is all very well, saying one will write notes, but writing is a very difficult art. That is one has always to select: and I am too sleepy and hence merely run sand through my fingers. Writing is not in the least an easy art. Thinking what to write, it seems easy; but the thought evaporates, runs hither and thither. Here we are in the noise of Siena—the vast tunnelled arched stone town, swarmed over by chattering shrieking children." Her thoughts of what she wants to achieve and develop in The Waves (referred to here by its early title The Moths): "Orlando has done very well. Now I could go on writing like that—the tug and suck are at me to do it. People say this was so spontaneous, so natural. And I would like to keep those qualities if I could without losing the others. But those qualities were largely the result of ignoring the others. They came of writing exteriorly; and if I dig, must I not lose them? And what is my own position towards the inner and the outer? I think a kind of ease and dash are good;—yes: I think even externality is good; some combination of them ought to be possible. The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes. Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the voice of the sea. Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don't belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on 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 succeeding by simplifying: practically everything is left out. I want to put practically everything in: yet to saturate. That is what I want to do in The Moths. It must include nonsense, fact, sordidity: but made transparent." And one last inspirational quote, which captures the magic, the beauty, the sadness, and the wonder of this volume: "Then (as I was walking through Russell Square last night) I see the mountains in the sky: the great clouds; and the moon which is risen over Persia; I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is "it." It is not exactly beauty that I mean. It is that the thing is in itself enough: satisfactory; achieved. A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too: of the infinite oddity of the human position; trotting along Russell Square with the moon up there and those mountain clouds. Who am I, what am I, and so on: these questions are always floating about in me: and then I bump against some exact fact—a letter, a person, and come to them again with a great sense of freshness. And so it goes on. But on this showing, which is true, I think, I do fairly frequently come upon this "it"; and then feel quite at rest." Virginia Woolf

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I have to wonder at my timing on this one. Here I am, picking up one of the most perfect books for spurring the self on to writing during the merry month of NaNoWriMo, only to finish in the midst the most recent surge of action in the great Gramazon debacle; a debacle wholly embittered by the concept of self-published authors. Now, I'd like to go the traditional rout of publishing myself, but still. It gives both this review and my dream of writing for a living an air of antagonism, watch your s I have to wonder at my timing on this one. Here I am, picking up one of the most perfect books for spurring the self on to writing during the merry month of NaNoWriMo, only to finish in the midst the most recent surge of action in the great Gramazon debacle; a debacle wholly embittered by the concept of self-published authors. Now, I'd like to go the traditional rout of publishing myself, but still. It gives both this review and my dream of writing for a living an air of antagonism, watch your step/mince your words or be misunderstood severely. Or that could be me thinking too much. But see here, though, that's what this whole work is all about. Thinking about writing, and when the person doing the thinking is Woolf, well. One hesitates to define one's principles about the 'too much thinking' business, for on one side lies her suicide and on the other, her body of work. And if you've ever had the privileged pleasure to experience her work, you know what I'm talking about. What I'm actually attempting to talk about, here, in this review, is harder to say. The comfort I feel in comparing myself to Woolf is eerily seductive and not nearly as obsequiously awestruck as I would like it to be. I mean, Woolf! Bloomsbury group! Only one of the greatest prose artists to grace this poor world of ours, a life led during the interwar period filled with famous names, famous intrigues, and famous writing. Eurocentric and even more despairingly Anglocentric, to be fair, and her easy disparagement of others and her half-handed hypocrisy on women's rights set my teeth on edge, but my god. This old English lady who drowned herself fifty years before I was born understands me, down to the marrow of my meaning of life. I thought, driving through Richmond last night, something very profound about the synthesis of my being: how only writing composes it: how nothing makes a whole unless I am writing: now I have forgotten what seemed so profound. To reiterate the perfection above, writing is both everything and nothing, depending on whether I'm paying more attention to my self or the grander scheme of things. A fervor delving into the very core of existence's delight, or a waste that asks the ultimate question of why I'm still bothering with everything in general. Once upon a time, if given the chance of control or perhaps even some means of getting rid of the nihilistic face of the coin completely, I would have taken it. These days, I'm not so sure. This compilation of cut-outs from a 27 year run of personal record is chock-full of that feeling, that sense of one's heartbeat relying on the pace and pound of words both writing and already written, a heartbeat that is sensitive in all the ways both right and wrong. It is not practical. It is not objective. It is everything to do with how a question of how I write put by a unwitting bystander is going to set me off on a complete and utter rhapsodizing on the power of literature in every facet of life. It is both unbearably personal and the manifesto of my character that I would proclaim to all, if I got the chance to. For, as you all know, literature means publishing, and publishing means business, and it is a very rare case indeed where those as devoted as Woolf to their craft avoid having their soul sucked out by the reality of writing for a living. Advertising, academia, pick your grindstone and hang on for dear life and the slow weathering down of passion in the face of life. Did I mention that this book is not practical? Good. This isn't a creative fictioning self-help book, for all its sociocultural periphery. This is a lifeline. Woolf was lucky to have a living situation such as hers. I am lucky for her being lucky enough to create such a body of work of not only reading and writing, but commentary on said reading and writing, especially writing. Especially how intimately and horrifically her mental state was tied to it, in as much a way as anything one lives for becomes. Which makes the state less of a tragedy and more of a best of all possible worlds, except not, except. Maybe? Or one could stick with 'that's life'. That is a much more honest answer, one that if you're lucky spools out enough years for the ink to spread out and flow. I'd say more, but really, what else is there to say but: writers, read this. Readers, read this. As for me? You see, I'm thinking furiously about Reading and Writing. I have no time to describe my plans. Toodles.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    My copy of A Writer's Diary—I tried to post a photo, but Goodreads just couldn't deal with whatever it was I had to offer—has a forest of little tags poking out from the side. All the passages I've marked. As a writer, I move between despair and joy on a daily basis. A good day of writing leaves me scoured clean and refilled with peace; There is some ebb and flow of the tide of life which accounts for it; though what produces either ebb or flow I'm not sure. but the stress of rejection and My copy of A Writer's Diary—I tried to post a photo, but Goodreads just couldn't deal with whatever it was I had to offer—has a forest of little tags poking out from the side. All the passages I've marked. As a writer, I move between despair and joy on a daily basis. A good day of writing leaves me scoured clean and refilled with peace; There is some ebb and flow of the tide of life which accounts for it; though what produces either ebb or flow I'm not sure. but the stress of rejection and of praise is such an invasion of the external world into my inner equilibrium. ...the worst of writing is that one depends so much upon praise. One should aim, seriously, as disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, silence there. The only way to right the imbalance is to shut out the world and offer myself up to the page. To sit and write until my limbs are stiff, my eyes ache, my brain empties out. The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial. Then, to take a walk, letting the words sift from my head down to my toes. When I return home, I have room for the words of others. The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. A Writer's Diary show the decades of a writer's life unfolding in real time: the highs and near-shame of success; the deep, quiet pleasures of the life of the mind; the fear and resignation of failure, which is usually far more a product of the writer's imagination than of the external world. Arrange whatever pieces come your way. Never be unseated by the shying of that undependable brute, life, hag-ridden as she is by my own queer, difficult, nervous system. What would Woolf make of the cult of personality she has become? Now I suppose I might become one of the interesting–I will not say great–but interesting novelists? What would we have made of her work, what more could she have offered us, if mental illness had not had the final say, if she could have found her way to a different final chapter? A thousand things to be written had I time; had I power. A very little writing uses up my capacity for writing. I remarked to another writer what an inspiration this book is to me, what comfort I have found in Woolf's own struggles and doubts. She reminded me how things ended for Woolf. That she took her own life. How strange a response. She missed the point entirely. Instead of being haunted by Woolf's end, I think of Mary Oliver's poem, "The Summer Day" Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Oliver asks. Here is how Woolf would have answered: Now is life very solid or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on for ever; will last for ever; goes down to the bottom of the world—the moment I stand on. Also it is transitory, flying, diaphanous. I shall pass like a cloud on the waves. Virginia Woolf passed like a cloud on the waves. But her words have become moments upon which we all stand, strengthened, made taller by the foundation of her genius. And we look up at those clouds, mouthing, Thank you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Khush

    A Writer's Diary, unlike Woolf's fiction–beautiful though, is an easy book to read. One can see what she has lived through from 1918 to 1941. The book is aptly titled; it is primarily about words, mind, books, artists, writing, and how these myriad things at once possess and liberate a sensitive soul like hers.' There are a few things, among many other, that particularly make me stop and reflect to know her better. What one immediately recognizes in her work, even when her work is not really unde A Writer's Diary, unlike Woolf's fiction–beautiful though, is an easy book to read. One can see what she has lived through from 1918 to 1941. The book is aptly titled; it is primarily about words, mind, books, artists, writing, and how these myriad things at once possess and liberate a sensitive soul like hers.' There are a few things, among many other, that particularly make me stop and reflect to know her better. What one immediately recognizes in her work, even when her work is not really understood or only partly read, is the brilliance of mind that is at work. In her diaries entries, we glimpse that mind. She comes across as someone who is wholly immersed in words, drawn to them immensely. Life seems to have no meaning if one cannot give shape it through words– to express her 'becoming.' Such an extraordinary ambition could be liberating and rewarding, but it could also whip the person indulging it– this constant struggle to better life, to live it fully by capturing its 'ever-eluding, ever-mobile' essence. In one of her entries, for instance, a rather casually selected example, she thinks of 'wording' a floating cloud in these words; “The clouds– if I could describe them I would; one yesterday had flowing hair on, like the very fine white hair of an old man. At this moment they are white in a leaden; ...,” I find some entries particular poignant in which she mentions what comes between her and the 'word-world' she seeks to tame. The phases when she could not write due to ill–health, and times when non-creative processes usurp her time which she only wishes to spend writing and thinking things. I guess as she was aging she became more and more restless with thoughts of 'body' and 'time,' Such a fecund mind, rippling with ideas and books in it, is tied to very real limitations. In one of her entries, she writes about a dying person, but her way of seeing gives a peep into her own fears of what lays ahead– what it all comes to in the end. She observes,“ he is sinking into old age, very shabby, loose-limbed, wearing black woollen mittens. His life is receding like a tide slowly; or one figures him as a dying candle, whose wick will soon sink into warm grease and be extinct.” These entries also show how vulnerable writers generally are. Throughout the book, she claims that criticism of her work does not matter, that she does not care much, but we also see that she cares and gets affected by bad reviews. However, I trust her when she says she does not care as much as its reverse. She also mentions that writing is what one lives for. It is through writing that one drives a supreme pleasure. In many diaries, we see how concern she is often about the sales of her book (1200 copies, 2000 copies). Now reading this in 2018, these are also aspects that make her identifiable and endearing with ordinary mortals, that she is not only someone who wrote 'Mrs. Dalloway.' it is a pleasure to see the little girl, even momentarily, in her who is so powerfully overshadowed by the formidable adult writer in her. I am also quite moved by how she responded to Joyce's Ulysses- to her this book seemed 'thin, diffuse, pretentious, brackish, even underbred in the literary sense, pointless. To her, it all felt as if a young boy is scratching his pimples on page after page. Clearly, she was quite stunned by Joyce's achievement but found it hard to acknowledge it. Even toward her last entries, she remains occupied with his work and finally accepts his genius which I assume she has noticed, to her bewilderment, when she first lays her eyes on 'Ulysses.' It was all very clear to her even then. While reading her thoughts I was a bit surprised that she hardly wrote about her relationships about, love, gender, and sexuality. I wondered if the book is a compilation of only her selective diary entries– pertaining to the writer's struggles and ruminations on her art. But finally, I did see gender and sexuality, casually but powerfully, being mentioned in small paragraphs. I saw someone who wrote 'A Room of One's Own' making astute observations on men's behavior and how men occupy space. As for sexuality, there is again a brief but telling claim that friendships between women are more superior, private and comforting than between man and woman. All this, of course, sated my gratuitous curiosity. Even before I started reading her book, I knew a few things about her life, the most unfortunate being the manner of her suicide. For this reason, probably, I noticed that throughout this book images and metaphors of water appear in all sort of ways. One also feels that there is nothing more important to her than 'words.' (Maybe certain heights or territories come with their own challenges and fears– it might be lonely 'there'. What shall I write now? Whom shall I read now?) At a certain point in her life either the words were not there anymore or they had gone unruly– wholly unmanageable. The only comforting thing, then left, was to walk into a river.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephen P

    A full review to come. It has arrived. However most of the, Likes, below referred to a quote of Woolf's in an update status I entered. Then using the magic of my technical skills I lost. Sad. A period of web mourning, yet it appeared again in the review below. What we have here is a reviewer who has been kidnapped. I’m sure it will be in tomorrow’s papers. But how to get out to write… the review? Is there anything here to use to be resourceful? Only words. More words. They mount threatening to cru A full review to come. It has arrived. However most of the, Likes, below referred to a quote of Woolf's in an update status I entered. Then using the magic of my technical skills I lost. Sad. A period of web mourning, yet it appeared again in the review below. What we have here is a reviewer who has been kidnapped. I’m sure it will be in tomorrow’s papers. But how to get out to write… the review? Is there anything here to use to be resourceful? Only words. More words. They mount threatening to crush me as they form before me into ideas, a life. Am I… inside of a diary? How strange. But do I want to escape? These words and ideas around me, covering me, are brilliant. They are honest. Touching them, their touching me, they glitter with the glowed wand of creative light. It is escape that would be containment. This is where to be. She writes: “What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit yet not slovenly, so elastic that it embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art.” A fine thought to keep in mind when opening this diary but beware your fate may be similar to mine. There is no caution sign. Follow me. There is much to be said. This is a collection of her entries culled from the twenty six volumes from the years 1915-1941, the year of her death, by her husband Leonard Woolf. This raises a number of issues; Virginia Woolf was clear from the beginning that no one else would be privy to this diary but herself and years ahead her elder self, therefore no reason to be anything but honest and objective. Can any one of us human critters, even the great VW, be totally free of the subconscious sway, the way we would like to see ourselves and the minute etching and scraping of events past to fit into our frame of the budding image. Then there is her husband and his unspoken agenda, possibly-probably-not known to him for the selections and their cumulative effect in presenting his picture of his deceased wife. She committed suicide. She walked out into the sea. I imagine his thoughts, memories, were quite complicated. This is important information which I unfortunately did not include in my update status. Fortunately GR Friend Proustitute pointed this out before I rambled my merry way possibly leading others to believe this was the entire diary when only a portion. Much grateful for being rescued before walking before walking into a wall. I believe despite its fractioned existence, the distortions, omissions, amplifications, this is a work that stands on its own. A separate collection forming a narrative around her relationship to her own work, the process she developed or was encumbered upon her through natural organic entreaties, the people she associated with including writers, painters, her conflicting relationship with the outside world as seen through the eyes of her artistic realm, scenes of that outside world and its landscapes described in the beauty of words painted, the limitations of a mental instability and physical maladies, and what she read-an influential part of her daily existence. If taken for what it is these diary excerpts form a narrative work impelling the reader within the mind of a significant writer. Each entry, even about her commonplace day is about writing, containing her gifts with her pen, and always at work seeing her world. Every page so far contains inspiration for reading, writing. The only mar is when she feels the obligation to receive and pay visits. Otherwise her world would consist of the scenes gathering in her mind and the need and pleasure of penning them on paper. More complicated than that. She conjures with death. Flits about hiding amongst its shadows.There is another kind of death. Does she fear looking inside to find nothing? This the reason for the continous visiting and being visited? Her fear of being alone? Yet she fills blank pages with an outpouring of her world, the world of imagination. This does not appear to be some psychological defense of projection. The world of imagination is the real world. Her real-true self resides there. Looking inside may prove fruitless but writing across the white pages, then typing what she has written, is the act of discovering and expressing the Self. She exists within the printed words, the empty spaces, accumulating into a bound manuscript. The arc of her sweated battle. Writing is to keep living. Through form she can put the novel together as a substitute for putting her wayfaring emotions together, to put her strident inner life in order.Her writings contain her inner self which resists the tug and pull from the other side. Once the rope snaps she gushes forth. A manic romp of creativity, then sensitivity to its echoed return. In the end this is a book of navigating the inner and outer. Is it navigation or a battle? She believes herself tied to the city life of visits and being visited upon. Her writing, no matter how well guarded is inextricably twined into the reception from friends, family, publishers. She relies on husband Leonard. Yet she is only truly herself in the solitude of writing, reading. The outer world means little until it means a lot. The world she chooses is the world of her imagination. Even out in the world beyond the borders of herself she pulls the objects, the people, into her readerly scope describing and depicting as though writing or the collecting of material within her net to be used at a later time. The classic battle that so many of us here on GR discuss; the outside world is where life takes place and books exist to augment the experience versus the life of imagination. This is where books are the essence of living a life of meaning and that the world is there to only fulfill the necessities, having no more drama than the brushing of one’s teeth. Yes, tooth brushing is something needed to be done but conversations about it might run thin and dry. This is a choice we all make with our varying formulae to produce a unique customized balance. VW makes her battle quite clear from moment to moment and day to day, in her lyrical prose. Since writing for no one other than her older future self it appears that she thinks and therefore writes in a natural swirl of metaphor, simile, analogy. Her style may be an un-style. The flow of liquid words may be the unfolding of her mind in its continuity. Armed, this is what she goes into battle with fierce beneath the lyric path of her words.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helle

    This was glorious. I’ve underlined great things on nearly every page. If this is what Virginia Woolf could produce when sitting in bed and simply writing an expansive version of a ‘dear diary’, it tells us something about her genius (she calls it a dialogue of the soul with the soul). It is the best I’ve read by Woolf so far. It is more immediate, more intimate, more relatable than what I’ve read by her before. It is packed with thoughts and feelings and metaphors and meaning. I’m slowly wading m This was glorious. I’ve underlined great things on nearly every page. If this is what Virginia Woolf could produce when sitting in bed and simply writing an expansive version of a ‘dear diary’, it tells us something about her genius (she calls it a dialogue of the soul with the soul). It is the best I’ve read by Woolf so far. It is more immediate, more intimate, more relatable than what I’ve read by her before. It is packed with thoughts and feelings and metaphors and meaning. I’m slowly wading my way through Virginia Woolf’s body of work and, by extension, through the intricacies of her brain and her sensibilities. It is not an uncomplicated liaison; when I read her fiction, I occasionally glance around during the reading process, appreciating bits here, doubting other pieces there; marvelling at her imagery and insight, yet sometimes feeling frustrated at her refusal to throw me just a tiny bit of plot, just a small shard of a realistic character trait, a little something that induces me to invest in her stories. One reviewer, she admits, describes her style as ‘so fluent and fluid that it runs through the mind like water’ – which is the closest I can come to a description of how her prose feels to me. But when I read her non-fiction, well, I’m both in awe and a little bit in love. In this book, we are granted insight into, especially, her craft and her creative powers but also into her life, her friends and her demons, her gradual rise to fame, her own ambivalent attitude toward it, and into her final days. She airs opinions that are sometimes unnuanced or that I humbly disagree with, e.g. that literature is not a matter of ‘development’ but of prose and poetry. I deeply appreciate a deliberate take on form, but I also prefer deliberate content and development – of story, of people; otherwise it remains poetry to me. She does admit to learning that she could do scenes but not plots. No surprise there. In this book no plot is needed. At times her sentences are shockingly profound, at other times simply gorgeous. The list of examples of the latter is endless, but here are a few to savour: Life piles up so fast that I have no time to write out the equally fast rising mound of reflections (…) (…) the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. But to be well and use strength to get more out of life is, surely, the greatest fun in the world. I am laboriously dredging my mind for Mrs. Dalloway and bringing up light buckets. Joy’s life in the doing – I murder, as usual, a quotation; I mean it’s the writing, not the being read, that excites me. I’m the hare, a long way ahead of the hounds my critics. What a vast fertility of pleasure books hold for me. I was a little taken aback by her blatant disparagement of other authors (Mansfield, Joyce, James, the list goes on), but she is also critical of her own ability from time to time. And as she never criticized Forster, I didn’t care so much. In fact, she mentions him with a certain fondness every time his name crops up (‘Morgan’), and as Forster was one of my first loves in English literature, I cannot help but appreciate that tendency of hers. Her best sentence about Forster may be the following: Morgan has the artist’s mind; he says the simple things that clever people don’t say; I find him the best of critics for that reason. On that note, she writes that intelligent criticism is to be encouraged. Yes, I thought. That ought to be a quote on the goodreads site. Perhaps it already is. Then it deserves to be read. There are other authors whom she expresses something like love for. I savoured and wallowed in those parts. Shakespeare takes centre stage, but there’s also a wonderful scene where she and Leonard visit Thomas Hardy. A valuable aspect of the book, indeed, is when we hear about her own reading habits, her views on contemporary literature, her comparison of Turgenev and Dostoevsky etc. Interestingly, as her books were published by Hogarth House, the Woolfs’ own publishing house, her books never fell under the critical gaze of an editor. We hear of how she typed them up, how Leonard only read the books after she was completely done with them and how they themselves had x number of copies printed depending on how many were ordered. As we progress into the second half of the book, Virginia Woolf is visited more and more by her incertitude, her ups and downs, her despair, while simultaneously being more and more in the public eye. It saddened me deeply when she muses on what exacerbated her depressions: I think the effort to live in two spheres: the novel; and life; is a strain. (…) to have to behave with circumspection and decision to strangers wrenches me into another region; hence the collapse. I wonder if the beginning of World War II also underlined to her some of life’s enormous sadness or if it was a complete coincidence that she committed suicide in the second year of the war. The war is like a desperate illness, she wrote. The Woolfs’ home in London was bombed to smithereens, and so she spent the last days of her life in the country, at Monk’s House, where they could still hear the bombers and where, she wrote, we live without a future. For readers who are interested in the writer Virginia Woolf, this is an absolute must-read. It was one of those books which made me impatient to read on and discover more and yet also stop and savour her words and her thoughts and not rush through it because there is only one first time for every book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robledo Cabral

    Virginia Woolf is known to be one of the most prolific and diversified writers of the 20th century. Her cardinal importance, repeatedly attested by critics and reinforced by the immense popularity of some of her works, is mostly due to her tireless efforts at redefining the novel. Mrs. Woolf was a perpetual observer and a majestic philosopher, and into her production she channeled all her spiritual restlessness. How, she repeatedly wondered, can language be reinvigorated so as to become responsi Virginia Woolf is known to be one of the most prolific and diversified writers of the 20th century. Her cardinal importance, repeatedly attested by critics and reinforced by the immense popularity of some of her works, is mostly due to her tireless efforts at redefining the novel. Mrs. Woolf was a perpetual observer and a majestic philosopher, and into her production she channeled all her spiritual restlessness. How, she repeatedly wondered, can language be reinvigorated so as to become responsive to the hectic world around us? How can we re-electrify syntax by allowing it to absorb life’s multitudinous streams, without losing track of the depths of introspection? How can we prevent ourselves from becoming those poets who, befuddled by the chaotic expansion of real life, turn to nightingales and the moon – innocuous images which excuse us from the task of observing real men, women, animals, pieces of furniture, modern means of transportation? Virginia Woolf declared that “the very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare”. She turned Clarissa Dalloway’s decision to buy the flowers herself into one of the most celebrated moments in Western literature. She, who is now often compared to Joyce, once claimed that Ulysses was the work of a “queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples”. Furthermore, aside from her groundbreaking novels – the most famous of which, Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse and The Waves, are often held as examples of cutting-edge experimental literature —, she produced essays, literary criticism, and short stories. She regularly reviewed books for the Times Literary Supplement, and was a regular contributor to some of the most respected and influential literary publications in both England and the United States of America. In short, Virginia Woolf was a writer who did not turn to words as a hobby, or as a helpful panacea for times of need. Throughout her life, she developed a remarkable relationship with her craft and her feedstock. Not a single corner of her mind was left untouched by literature: it illuminated her perceptions, dictated the orbit of her friendships, defined her hopes and ambitions. The vast majority of her mornings were spent in writing, as well as the occasional afternoon. When she was not writing, she was reading. When she was not reading, she was writing. When she was neither reading nor writing, she was either thinking about the things she had read/written, or ambling across London, trying to capture the elusive perfect phrase to encapsulate this or that fitful glimpse. Human nature fascinated her, its inward complexity as well as its outward glow, and her entire life was devoted to the expression of such vibrant universes. A writer’s diary was originally published in 1954 by Leonard Woolf, Virginia’s lifelong husband and companion – someone who, in her own words, “kept her steady”, and whose opinions she deemed invaluable. Spanning over a 23-year interval – from 1918 to four days before Virginia’s infamous suicide –, the volume comprises a selection of passages from Virginia’s diaries which showcase her deep appreciation of literature and her unfaltering devotion to it. Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of entries: (a) those in which Virginia reflects on the books she has been reading — Dante, the Russians, Madame de Sévigné’s letters, Joyce, the Greeks, among dozens of others; (b) those in which she broods over the painful process of composing her books, and of awaiting and receiving criticism from both the specialized press and her Bloomsbury Group peers; and (c) those which Leonard sees as “exercises”: attempts to describe small scenes from life in England which somehow struck her watchful eye. According to Leonard’s preface, “the diaries show the extraordinary energy, persistence, and concentration with which she devoted herself to the art of writing and the undeviating conscientiousness with which she wrote and rewrote and again rewrote her books”. The sentence couldn’t ring truer, and it is precisely Virginia’s sense of devotion that makes this book such an indispensable read for anyone who’s even moderately interested in becoming a writer. Her enthusiasm, unlike juvenile romanticism, does not wane as she grows older and more experienced: instead, she continuously challenges herself to jump from genre to genre; to go deeper into the human psyche. If one could say that Virginia became a better writer as time went by, that word should be used carefully, for she did not move in a straight line. She loathed repetition and self-imitation, and was always trying to somersault into previously unexplored territories. That, of course, paired up with a routine which could only be made to quiver by illness, travelling or war. And, of course, there’s the sheer pleasure of her language. If her matchless elegance is already quite disarming in her novels, the question now becomes: who in the surface of the Earth can write diary entries as beautifully as Virginia Woolf can, despite the fact that many of her entries are hurriedly jolted down during the fifteen minutes before lunch? Here are some examples: 1) “The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes. Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the voice of the sea. (…) Why admit anything to literature that is not poetry — by which I mean saturated?” (November 28th, 1928, shortly before beginning to write The Waves) 2) “I get the strangest feeling now of our all being in the midst of some vast operation: of the splendor of this undertaking — life: of being capable of dying: an immensity surrounds me. No — I can’t get it — shall let it brood itself into ‘a novel’ no doubt. (It’s thus I get the conception from which the book condenses.) At night L. and I talked of death again, the second time this year” (August 5th, 1932) 3) “I believe these illnesses are in my case — how shall I express it? — partly mystical. Something happens in my mind. It refuses to go on registering impressions. It shuts itself up. It becomes chrysalis. I lie quite torpid, often with acute physical pain — as last year; only discomfort this. Then suddenly something springs.” (February 16th, 1930) This book is a promise of personal enrichment and growth to writers, readers, and to anyone who’s even remotely interested in literature. A lesson in sensitivity, but also in patience and craftsmanship.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    "I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say “This is it”? My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it — that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it?” I normally avoid diaries that weren't published directly by author but this woman is too cool not to be in hell. The book suffers typical limitations of diary - written in certain moods, without desire of bein "I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say “This is it”? My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it — that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it?” I normally avoid diaries that weren't published directly by author but this woman is too cool not to be in hell. The book suffers typical limitations of diary - written in certain moods, without desire of being understood always present (sometimes Woolf just throws a word stream instead of sentences) and not much focused on being eloquent. Woolf was full of ideas what forms literature could take and this book is full of such ideas. Another way a person interested in mind of a writer or art of writing might gain insights is how she has to go through spells of depression, writer's block, insecurities about her writings etc. Than there are all writers impressed her (to impress someone like her should be a real milestone). There are a number of beautiful passages I collected - more than I ever expect to from reading someone's personal diary.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    Woolf. I can’t say as I get her yet, but I’m trying, in fits and starts. A Writer’s Diary has sat by my bed for a good few months now, at times (during the sections on To the Lighthouse, The Waves, The Years) leaping into the foreground of my thoughts, but mostly providing a fallback when I wanted to snatch a quick paragraph or two of something that wouldn’t get its hooks in me. And no, at no point did it really get those hooks in, whether through discussion of craft (which I would have loved, b Woolf. I can’t say as I get her yet, but I’m trying, in fits and starts. A Writer’s Diary has sat by my bed for a good few months now, at times (during the sections on To the Lighthouse, The Waves, The Years) leaping into the foreground of my thoughts, but mostly providing a fallback when I wanted to snatch a quick paragraph or two of something that wouldn’t get its hooks in me. And no, at no point did it really get those hooks in, whether through discussion of craft (which I would have loved, but there was little, it seemed, of any deep detail) or lyricism (it was there but I was as inclined to skip as savour it, finding it at times laboured and at times mundane, and never as potent (need this be said?) as in the fiction) or everyday life (this I quickly tired of; I keep a journal too, have done for half my life, and it may be some things are common to all journals; at any rate much here was familiar and slightly crushing – the grind, the frustration, the grey bafflement by routine). That said, there were parts that took some kind of hold of me, Woolf’s struggle over The Years being maybe most compelling: a nerve-shredding cyclical lurching from confidence to dismay and back again and a cautionary tale for those of us prone to obsessive redrafting. Good to see some glimpse of her process, of her perfectionism. Good to witness her doubts, to know she lived them and still finished and moved on. Good to share in any revelations concerning her work. (Even those constant plans and timelines, composed in vain, were reassuring.) As to my experience of her fiction, it’s been half enjoyable. Mrs Dalloway, years ago, seemed fussy and banal and I left it half-finished. Orlando I put down after a chapter though without malice. To the Lighthouse I read last year to its end; though the reading was a chore at times, images stuck with me (or one image, from multiple angles: the view across the bay, the lighthouse as if shining on one consciousness after another). Also “Time Passes”, I thought, was great. But overall the fussiness, to me, persisted – a skilful engraving but too static, mechanical, or at any rate not quite alive (but no, in retrospect it’s alive; at the time it seemed choked almost, gasping for breath, the grip of Woolf’s style too tight, rigid, close-clutched; though now I wonder if that very rigidity fuelled explosive movement when – as happened at key points, “Time Passes” being one of them – it softened). And most recently The Waves, which I’ve put on hold after 50 pages and may have to start again when I feel like diving in, but which the diary intimates I may like best, for Woolf’s having bent her mind and will to it with such force, in the full flush of confidence, before the torture of The Years, with a sense of both its unique limitations and its power. Whether I’ll ever get over the fussiness I tend to doubt, but that (I hope) I’ll learn to filter it while heeding the full-flowing wellspring beneath is what keeps me going, slowly, at a rate perhaps analogous to Woolf’s own writing habits, which, judging by her diary, were never quite as fast as she kept hoping.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    this isn't exactly prying. leonard woolf presents a very distilled version of her mind. for the public, for her readers and fans, with a clear focus on anything literary, her criticisms, fears, disappointments, perpetual feelings of failure: all in relation to her writing. but, as with all her autobiographical works, there is the impending date of doom at the end of March, 1941. this isn't exactly prying. leonard woolf presents a very distilled version of her mind. for the public, for her readers and fans, with a clear focus on anything literary, her criticisms, fears, disappointments, perpetual feelings of failure: all in relation to her writing. but, as with all her autobiographical works, there is the impending date of doom at the end of March, 1941.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Full of Virginia Woolf's typical incredible insights, also a really interesting look at the books she was both reading and writing, her process as a writer, and her reaction to the reactions her books received. Full of Virginia Woolf's typical incredible insights, also a really interesting look at the books she was both reading and writing, her process as a writer, and her reaction to the reactions her books received.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    Surprisingly as tough and true as its subtitle implies, this paperback has indeed started as my long journey of reading it since 1994, the year I bought its paperback copy (HarperCollins, 1978) in which I browsed off and on once in a while with inadequate motive and left it (at p. 260) on the shelf till I came across this Harcourt edition with larger fonts early this month in the Booklovers Bookshop on Rambutri Lane, next to Khaosan Road, Banglampoo in Bangkok. Delighted to have a more handsome Surprisingly as tough and true as its subtitle implies, this paperback has indeed started as my long journey of reading it since 1994, the year I bought its paperback copy (HarperCollins, 1978) in which I browsed off and on once in a while with inadequate motive and left it (at p. 260) on the shelf till I came across this Harcourt edition with larger fonts early this month in the Booklovers Bookshop on Rambutri Lane, next to Khaosan Road, Banglampoo in Bangkok. Delighted to have a more handsome copy with larger-type pages, that is, more reader-friendly than the old one, I eventually resumed reading it once more, feeling grateful to Leonard Woolf, her husband, who in 1953 edited her 26-volume diary and told us on how he worked by means of his three principles in his preface: . . . I have included also three other kinds of extract. The first consists of a certain number of passages in which she is obviously using the diary as a method of practising or trying out the art of writing. The second consists of a few passages which, though not directly or indirectly concerned with her writings, I have deliberately selected because they give the reader an idea of the direct impact upon her mind of scenes and persons, i.e. of the raw materials of her art. Thirdly, I have included a certain number of passages in which she comments upon the books she was reading. (pp. viii-ix) Therefore, its readers couldn't help feeling obliged to his strategy and the narrative diary entries effectively extracted in which we can find them enjoyably readable to the extent that reading this A Writer's Diary is like reading Virginia Woolf herself but in a smaller scale. If you would like to try reading her formidable full-scale diary, there has long been a five-volume paperback set entitled The Diary of Virginia Woolf Volumes 1-5: 1918-1941 (Penguin, 1982) edited by Anne Oliver Bell; vaguely, I recalled coming across the set in the Asia Books Branches in Bangkok and only browsed some pages during my college years since I had rarely known her and never read her works. For instance: Monday, October 2nd (1933) It's October now; and we have to go to Hastings Conference to morrow and Wednesday, to Vita, then back to London. I opened this in order to make one of my self-admonishments previous to publishing a book. Flush will be out on Thursday and I shall be very much depressed, I think, by the kind of praise. They'll say it's "charming," delicate, ladylike. And it will be popular. Well now I must let this slip over me without paying it any attention. . . . (p. 205) Thursday, August 2nd (1934) I'm worried too with my last chapters. Is it all too shrill and voluble? And then the immense length, and the perpetual ebbs and flows of invention. So divinely happy one day; so jaded the next. (p. 213) Wednesday, March 27th (1935) I see I am becoming a regular diariser. The reason is that I cannot make the transition from Pargiters to Dante without some bridge. And this cools my mind. I am rather worried about the raid chapter: afraid if I compress and worry that I shall spoil. Never mind. Forge ahead and see what comes next. Yesterday we went to the Tower, which is an impressive murderous bloody grey raven haunted military barrack prison dungeon place; like the prison of English splendour; the reformatory at the back of history; where we shot and tortured and imprisoned. . . . (pp. 233-4) and so on and so forth. In short, those diary entries in this book should be taken account as something essential to our background especially for some Virginia Woolf newcomers who have never read her or have just been fledgling ones so that they can understand what might cause trouble in her mind, how she coped with literary snags, why she kept writing, etc. as the foundation of her literary legacy to posterity. Interestingly, there have long been numerous versions of her biography; one being on Virginia Woolf in Professor John Sutherland's Lives of the Novelists (Profile Books, 2011) in which I came across Professor Hermione Lee's quote, "Virginia Woolf was a sane woman who had an illness." (p. 323) as an optimistically verdict-like revelation.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Woolf’s documentation of the tumultuous relationship between the artist and their art – the self-doubt, the procrastination, the triumph – are so relatable. But whilst Woolf is undeniably an excellent novelist, an excellent diarist? I’m not so sure. How can I express this without the review descending into a character judgement? The diary is tedious in places and gives relatively little sense of Virginia’s character. Most notably, I found her rather limited world-view frustrating, particularly w Woolf’s documentation of the tumultuous relationship between the artist and their art – the self-doubt, the procrastination, the triumph – are so relatable. But whilst Woolf is undeniably an excellent novelist, an excellent diarist? I’m not so sure. How can I express this without the review descending into a character judgement? The diary is tedious in places and gives relatively little sense of Virginia’s character. Most notably, I found her rather limited world-view frustrating, particularly when she gets her literary snobbery on. I was particularly surprised that she read practically no female writers – then again, perhaps it’s not that surprising given some of the internalised misogyny in her otherwise brilliant polemic, A Room of One’s Own. You know that bit where she dismisses the female pillars of literature who paved the way for novelists just like her, because their work was too much inspired by their own personal experiences and emotions? Woolf is wonderfully unsentimental, but I still had to skim read from the halfway mark. I’d have liked to have heard more of her views on the rise of Fascism (which she meditates on briefly) and her wartime experiences. Maybe I’ll delve into her full diaries for that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Maloney

    Loved, loved, loved this! I highly recommend this book for writers...especially those who think that they might be struggling in vain. After all, Woolf is now listed as one of the greats and this book is packed with information on her process, her concerns, her self-doubts, and her triumphs. It's inspiring. The reader does have to keep in mind that this is a diary, and therefore doesn't have a particular 'design'. The emotional ups and downs can be tiring (especially regarding her concern about c Loved, loved, loved this! I highly recommend this book for writers...especially those who think that they might be struggling in vain. After all, Woolf is now listed as one of the greats and this book is packed with information on her process, her concerns, her self-doubts, and her triumphs. It's inspiring. The reader does have to keep in mind that this is a diary, and therefore doesn't have a particular 'design'. The emotional ups and downs can be tiring (especially regarding her concern about critical opinion). And the ad nauseam details about jonquils can drag on. But when one remembers that a diary is a spot for a person to 'unload,' so to speak, Woolf's emotional roller coaster is completely forgiveable. ~Jenny Place For The Stolen Under Ground Writing Project

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lady Jane

    Ah, Virginia. I feel that I know you, although I know that I do not. I like reading about your struggles and realizing just how much you leave out (this book is excerpts from a much longer diary). I like that you are human, worried, fallible. I want to jump though the pages of time to reassure you that your writing, your reputation and your beautiful works of art will survive. I love you Virginia. How very presumptuous of me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Naaytaashreads

    "I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say “This is it”? My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it — that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it?” What can I say to a person's diary which consist of something so raw and honest. I only have read one of Virginia Woolf' writing which is Orlando, so I think when I finish reading all her collections of her bo "I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say “This is it”? My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it — that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it?” What can I say to a person's diary which consist of something so raw and honest. I only have read one of Virginia Woolf' writing which is Orlando, so I think when I finish reading all her collections of her books will I reread this again then I can full experience her journey in her writings. In the beginning, most of her entry was mainly focus on her worries of her writings. But after awhile, she states wondering why is she writing in her diary very literature, which then changes her entry where she writes about her relation with people, critics, L, her journey as a writer and her battle with depression. She was really tough on herself with her writing. I don't know if I could say she is a perfectionist, but through her entries, I felt like she is never satisfied with her works. In the beginning, her works was so tight. She was writing this, and then already planning ahead on the things she needs to write. In addition, she really took heart to people who review her works. Even if L said her works were good, she is still skeptical if it is really. Even though she don't write alot on her relationship with L. You can tell L loves her. His advices, he was honest on which works of hers is good and telling honestly what is not good. I feel like L was the one who kept her sane or in the lane when she is drifting slightly. But sadly, we all know depression got over her. I definitely want to read more of her works. Because I felt through her entries, she says how some of the books were not her writing style. I would like to see myself different books written how it differ from each other. And maybe one day, I reread this and totally understand fully on her journey. “My mind turned by anxiety, or other cause, from its scrutiny of blank paper, is like a lost child–wandering the house, sitting on the bottom step to cry.”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I don't really know much about the relationship between Leonard and Virginia Woolf, but this book was lovingly edited. Excerpted from her unabridged diaries, Leonard Woolf culled the bits that he thought to be most about writing--the process, exercises, etc. These entries detail her exhaustive writing and revision process, as well as the relationship between her own reading and writing. She often sets herself schedules and tasks here, which were interesting to read. Reading this book has re-invi I don't really know much about the relationship between Leonard and Virginia Woolf, but this book was lovingly edited. Excerpted from her unabridged diaries, Leonard Woolf culled the bits that he thought to be most about writing--the process, exercises, etc. These entries detail her exhaustive writing and revision process, as well as the relationship between her own reading and writing. She often sets herself schedules and tasks here, which were interesting to read. Reading this book has re-invigorated my writing self.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    A Writer’s Diary was first published posthumously in 1953 and is one of Persephone’s new reprints for Spring 2012. The book is composed of extracts from Virginia Woolf’s thirty diaries, unpublished at the time of its original publication. Each extract has been carefully selected by her husband Leonard, whose idea was ‘to extract those entries that show her in the act of writing’. Lyndall Gordon, a biographer of Virginia Woolf, has contributed a new preface to this edition. Written in October 2011 A Writer’s Diary was first published posthumously in 1953 and is one of Persephone’s new reprints for Spring 2012. The book is composed of extracts from Virginia Woolf’s thirty diaries, unpublished at the time of its original publication. Each extract has been carefully selected by her husband Leonard, whose idea was ‘to extract those entries that show her in the act of writing’. Lyndall Gordon, a biographer of Virginia Woolf, has contributed a new preface to this edition. Written in October 2011, Gordon describes how Woolf’s ‘darting inspiration and plans to transform the novel or enter into women’s buried lives are netted in A Writer’s Diary’. Gordon’s preface is thoughtful and sets the tone for the book, citing it as ‘a masterpiece in its own right’. The original preface, written by Leonard Woolf at the start of 1953, has also been included. He states that the ‘book throws light upon Virginia Woolf’s intentions, objects, and methods as a writer’ and consequently ‘gives an unusual psychological picture of artistic production from within’. Leonard Woolf believes that A Writer’s Diary ‘shows the extraordinary energy, persistence, and concentration with which she [Virginia] devoted herself to the art of writing and the undeviating conscientiousness with which she wrote and rewrote’. The span of the book, ranging from 1918 to the lead up to Virginia Woolf’s eventual suicide in 1941, encompasses her ups and downs, as well as her successes and failures with regard to her writing. Woolf’s thoughts about other writers and their work have been included throughout. ‘Byron had a superb force’, the Reminiscences by Carlyle are ‘the chatter of an old toothless gravedigger’, and the work of Katherine Mansfield is both admired and belittled. On Ulysses by James Joyce, Woolf states that ‘I have read 200 pages so far – not a third; and have been amused, stimulated, charmed, interested by the first 2 or 3 chapters – to the end of the cemetery scene; and then puzzled, bored, irritated and disillusioned by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples’. The diary features Woolf’s meetings with many other writers, spanning from Thomas Hardy and T.S. Eliot to E.M. Forster and Vita Sackville-West. It is set against a backdrop of two world wars and much upheaval, both in Europe and partly in Virginia’s own life. The effects which reviews of her work had upon her have been described throughout, sometimes in harrowing ways. ‘I don’t take praise or blame excessively to heart,’ writes Woolf, ‘but they interrupt, cast one’s eyes backwards, make one wish to explain or investigate’. Leonard Woolf has also included extracts which signpost Virginia’s struggles as a writer and her often mystified thoughts on her growing popularity. After the publication of Monday or Tuesday in 1921, she says ‘The truth is, I expect, that I shan’t get very much attention anywhere. Yet, I become rather well known’. Her work for the Times Literary Supplement is also touched upon. Woolf states that ‘when I write a review I write every sentence as if it were going to be tried before three Chief Justices’. Throughout, Woolf’s prose style is spectacular. Some of the extracts are more spontaneous than others, but all are written with such marvellous clarity. The exacting seriousness of her work is paramount throughout. We, as readers, are given a window into her world and the precise way in which she planned every meticulous detail of her pieces before she began to write. Of her own diary writing, Woolf states that she is ‘much struck by the rapid haphazard gallop at which it swings along, sometimes indeed jerking almost intolerably over the cobbles’. Despite this, each entry is richly written, vibrant, thoughtful and informative, and the piece flows incredibly well as a whole. The book itself is very well laid out. A chronological bibliography of Woolf’s work has been included, along with a glossary of the main people who feature throughout the diaries. A Writer’s Diary is a wonderful and an invaluable book, both for writers and for fans of Virginia Woolf and her work. As one of the most revered authors of the twentieth century, Woolf’s writing diary is certainly a worthy addition to the Persephone oeuvre, one that deserves to be read and reread.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aman Mittal

    There are few writers who write their diaries in a fashion of self-talking. Just to clear one's mind from all the wandering thoughts. I think, that one of the sole purpose of keeping a diary. While reading A Writer's Diary, one has to keep in mind that diaries does not have a specific design by which they are written. It's diary, it can be tedious, and full of blissful thoughts at the same time. It can be an account of one's daily musings, or be a thoughts keeper from time to time. Virginia Wool There are few writers who write their diaries in a fashion of self-talking. Just to clear one's mind from all the wandering thoughts. I think, that one of the sole purpose of keeping a diary. While reading A Writer's Diary, one has to keep in mind that diaries does not have a specific design by which they are written. It's diary, it can be tedious, and full of blissful thoughts at the same time. It can be an account of one's daily musings, or be a thoughts keeper from time to time. Virginia Woolf's A WRITER'S DIARY, is a latter case. It's an account of twenty three years, starting from 1918 when Woolf was 36 to her final entry four days before her suicide in 1941. In these pages she has managed to document her notions for various books and authors she read. Her lost faith in Katherine Mansfield's Bliss while reading, her finding of Ulysses as 'diffuse' and 'brackish'. Her admiration for Shakespeare as observed even his lesser known plays are written with fluency. Her meetings with Thomas Hardy and his wife. For her writing, it shows a clear account of how critical she was of her own words. She had this thought, over and over that she has lost her gift of writing but when she found the energy to write again, she seemed mostly surprised. Her notes on redrafting To The Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, The Waves, Jacob's Room, The Common Reader, clearly express her sensitivity to criticism. She often talked about the critics, and whenever she received negative review, it would affect her mood. She struggled not only with her writing but her illness. Headaches and various spells of depression. I haven't read any other of Woolf's works but after reading her diary, my curiosity is simply raised by her fluent and mild sensing writing style which I can only adore. Her words have an outlandish way of supporting each other, when you see them on paper. But it is glittering. I recommend this book, to every reader, and every writer. 4 out of 5

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nina Milton

    My copy of Virginia Woolf’s A WRITER'S DIARY seems to be a first edition of 1953 from The Hogarth Press. It has that smell of an old book about it – a mix of tobacco, spores and midnight oil. The original owner of the book has written her name in on the first page in slanting black ink...Marjory Todd...and dated it 1/1/54,suggesting that this was a Christmas present. Dipping into it on occasion, as I do, reminds me of something Virginia wrote...What a vast fertility of pleasure books hold for me My copy of Virginia Woolf’s A WRITER'S DIARY seems to be a first edition of 1953 from The Hogarth Press. It has that smell of an old book about it – a mix of tobacco, spores and midnight oil. The original owner of the book has written her name in on the first page in slanting black ink...Marjory Todd...and dated it 1/1/54,suggesting that this was a Christmas present. Dipping into it on occasion, as I do, reminds me of something Virginia wrote...What a vast fertility of pleasure books hold for me! I went in and found the table laden with books. I looked in and sniffed them all. I could not resist carrying this one off and broaching it. I think I could happily live here and read forever...Virginia Woolf’s diaries were kept over a period of twenty-seven years and after her death, her husband, Leonard, gathered extracts from them together. He went through 30 handwritten volumes and selected passages that related only to her writing life. They take us from 1919, when she was 36, to 1941. The last entry, just 20 days before she walked into the River Ouse with an overcoat filled with stones, finishes...I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down.  It has been suggested that Leonard kept the more intimate areas of Virginia’s diary from publication because she wrote of their relationship, her sexuality and the state of her mental health. But he maintained in his lifetime that the abridgement was far more to do with concentrating on the entries that demonstrated her art and intellect as a writer so that her reputation could be restored. It seems remarkable to me that this might need to be done, but in fact through the 50’s and 60‘s Woolf was not widely read and no university taught her work. She had lost her rating as a writer in the vanguard of modernism and English literature. And so the published diary accompanied her return to recognition; in the 80’s the full diaries were published for the first time and she become reinstated as a great writer. Woolf teaches the 21C writer through humility and humanity. She feels ‘like us’; we can empathize on the depressions and mood swings of a writer’s life...I’m a deal happier at 38 than I was at 28; and happier today than I was yesterday having this afternoon arrived at some idea of a new form for a new novel...(January 26th 1920)..the creative power that bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in...(May 11th 1920) I expect I could have screwed Jacob up tighter if I had foreseen, but I had to make my path as I went...(October 29th 1922 – all referring to Jacob’s Room). Sometimes she witnessess and records things that feel historic...It is a decaying village (Rodmell) which loses its boys to the town. Not a boy of them, said the Rev. Mr. Hawkesford, is being taught the plough. Rich people wanting weekend cottages buy up the old peasants' houses for fabulous sums...(September 25th 1927) Although she is modest in her own appraisal of her writing, clues to the homilies people have recently paid to Wolfe can be spotted. I was gripped to read on June 19th 1923...But now what do I feel about my writing?–this book, that is The Hours, if that’s its name?...Finally, Woof called the book she was writing Mrs Dalloway, but that The Hours was the title Michael Cunningham chose for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about three generations of women affected by Mrs Dalloway. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’m often amazed at how organized she was. On April 12 1919, she wrote...Moll Flanders, which I finished yesterday in accordance with my time sheet...Not everyone likes to be so regimented in their work, but any of my students who have suggested to me that they can’t get a routine going will know I do recommend using tick lists, time sheets, work diaries and pie charts to get motivated – I would certainly recommend reading A Writer’s Diary as a wonderful way to inspire your own writing, and one of my OCA students, Helen Steadman, has been doing just that... I’ve had a Virginia Woolf splurge this month...she wrote to me... I particularly liked Woolf’s discussions about using her notebook and especially her entry on 20 January 1919 which talks about her freewriting leading to “the diamonds of the dustheap”...She went on to say how the diary contained lots of very useful nuggets of advice on writing generally and this led to me reading To the Lighthouse and Orlando....which has provided some helpful lessons in bending the boundaries of life writing and I was inspired by Woolf’s amusing observation that when the facts aren’t there, sometimes the writer has to make them up... Helen quotes Woolf in Orlando...We have done our best to piece out a meagre summary from the charred fragments that remain; but often it has been necessary to speculate, to surmise, and even to use the imagination...explaining how this affected her her own writing... With this in mind, I have conflated a number of events to create a more focused story... bringing techniques from fiction, I’ve used some stream-of-consciousness to try to convey the strangeness I felt ... I can’t recommend Woolf’s diaries highly enough to any writer; it won’t matter one whit if you’ve not read anything else of her work...although reading the diary may entice you into the marvel of her novels. Perhaps we should end with Virginia's words; a marvellous description of the June 1927 eclipse of the sun...In our carriage were Vita, Harold, Quentin, Leonard and I. This is Hatfield, I daresay, I said. I was smoking a cigar...so we plunged through the midlands; made a very long stay at York. Then at 3 we got out our sandwhiches and I came in from the W.C to find Harold being rubbed clean of cream....We got out (at Barton Fell, Yorkshire) and found ourselves very high, on a moor, boggy, heathery, with butts for grouse shooting...We could see a gold spot where the sun was, but it was early yet. We had to wait, stamping to keep warm...Then, for a moment, we saw the sun, sweeping - it seemed to be sailing at a great pace and clear in a gap; we got out our smoked glasss; we saw it, crescent, burning red; next moment it had sailed fast into the cloud again; only the red streamers came from it; then only a golden haze, such as one has often seen. The moments were passing. We felt cheated; we looked at the sheep; they showed no fear; the setters were racing round; everyone was standing in long lines, rather dignified, looking out. I thought how we were very like old people, in the birth of the world - druids on Stonehenge. At the back of us were blue spaces in the cloud. These were still blue. But now, the colour going out. The clouds were turning pale; a reddish black colour. Down in the valley it was an extraordinary scrumble of red and black; there was the one light burning; all was cloud down there, and very beautiful, so delicately tinted. Nothing could be seen through the cloud. The 24 seconds were passing. Then one looked back again at the blue; rapidly, very very quickly, all the colours faded; it became darker and darker as at the beginning of a violent storm; the light sank; we kept saying this is the shadow; and we thought now it is over - this is the shadow; when suddenly the light went out. We had fallen. It was extinct. There was no colour. The earth was dead. That was the astonishing moment; and the next when as if a ball had rebounded the cloud took colour on itself again, only a sparky ethereal colour and so the light came back. I had very strongly the feeling as the light went out of some vast obeisance; something kneeling down and suddenly raised up when the colours came. They came back astonishingly lightly and quickly and beautifully in the valley and over the hills - at first with a miraculous glittering and ethereality, later normally almost, but with a great sense of relief. If was like a recovery.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I had forgotten just how meaningful it was to read Woolf’s diary entries that involved her writing and literature. Any writer, whether they have read her works or not, will find this book useful. I plan to read it at least yearly (as I do “Alice in Wonderland”). It gave me such courage, as the genius Woolf shared her insecurities and how she worked through her novels. I have most of her works and have read most many times. I felt the tug to read them from the beginning alongside her diaries (or I had forgotten just how meaningful it was to read Woolf’s diary entries that involved her writing and literature. Any writer, whether they have read her works or not, will find this book useful. I plan to read it at least yearly (as I do “Alice in Wonderland”). It gave me such courage, as the genius Woolf shared her insecurities and how she worked through her novels. I have most of her works and have read most many times. I felt the tug to read them from the beginning alongside her diaries (or at least the writers diary that her husband was kind enough to gather for public view). The diary strips Woolf and her works naked. It does it in such a way that it makes one more in awe of her talent, because while I still consider her a genius, these diary entries remind me that she was flesh and blood with the same doubts that I have about my gifts as a writer. Writing is both easy and hard for Woolf. Easy because she lived and breathed it and hard for the same reason. Her writer’s life is laid bare as she writes and publishes her first novel and up until she lays down her pen after finishing her last (published after her death). This book lets us in behind the curtain of one of literary’s greatest writers. I put her up there with Shakespeare, though she would vehemently disagree with me on that count (we know because she speaks of it). There are so many poignant moments in this book, too many to count. Toward the end, the war to come and the war that finds itself on Woolf’s doorstep is a heavy reminder of what is to come in her own life. It’s as if the drama playing out in the world was mirrored within her very being. Her jottings of Hitler were spot on and made me think of Trump. Woolf saw Hitler as a little man, one that was a master of distraction. She had his number. She had Trump’s number too, even though she died a few years before he was born. This is a reread, but for the first time I read the whole thing out loud. I was moved to for some reason. It was well worth the time. It helped me hear her voice more clearly. It illuminated things I had missed before. Though, I’m a different person than the girl that first read this gem. I understood on a deeper level some of the things she wrote and some I understood for the first time. As the years moved on from 1913, I couldn’t help counting down how much time she had left. She left me with enough works to read but I can’t help but think about the cards she left on the table. She had more in her to write, but as she wrote in her diary, no writer has enough time to write or read all that they want in one lifetime. I know the feeling. The next time I read this one, I will take note of the things that struck me most. I didn’t this time as I wanted to just soak her in before I got down to the business of working on a novel. Or as Woolf does - giving it my undivided attention. That is the best thing that struck me about reading this book, the amount of herself that she gave to all her works. She didn’t just dive deep, she gave everything she was to her writing. Something I don’t think she did to anything or anyone else. She showed how she embraced what every writer should do: read more than you write. Throughout her diaries, she would write and then she would read. She knew the layering of this practice only made one a better writer and was important to help one come back to one’s work with fresh eyes. After I read the last entry, I was struck how a writer’s life might look boring to someone without a writer’s bent. It looks to me to be the most adventurous one can live. It also struck me that if Woolf and I were living in the same time, I would finally feel worthy enough to ask her to tea, while also knowing it would exhaust us both. Unless, we drank our tea in silence and allowed the silent conversation that was swirling around us to take the lead.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    I found this book interesting to read, yet this was maybe the hardest Woolf book I have read. This contains samples from Woolf's dairy selected by her husband after her death that dealt with her writing process. If you are looking for entries about her personal life you won't really find them here (maybe a few here and there). Maybe the hardest part about reading this for me was at times you could tell she had mental illness. Some entries seemed to be all over the place. You would have to read so I found this book interesting to read, yet this was maybe the hardest Woolf book I have read. This contains samples from Woolf's dairy selected by her husband after her death that dealt with her writing process. If you are looking for entries about her personal life you won't really find them here (maybe a few here and there). Maybe the hardest part about reading this for me was at times you could tell she had mental illness. Some entries seemed to be all over the place. You would have to read some days over again to figure out what she is saying. Now this isn't a bad thing? This is her dairy, no editors, so I was expecting some raw material. I wasn't expecting that she focused too much on what other people thought of her work and that at times she put herself down and other times she gave herself high praise. I loved the fact she read so much. I expect most authors to read a ton of the classics, but at times she seemed to be reading 3 books a week. For me this is impressive because she never when to school as a child and had no real form of education. Obviously reading taught her things that other people didn't teach her. This kind of shows you the power of reading. Yet reading too much also made her think she could do better with her writing. The other interesting par of this diary I found was the mentions of Hitler and the Second World War. I know she has talked several other times about her and not liking war. Three Guineas and Mrs. Dalloway cover that topic. Yet she doesn't really talk about Hitler or the Nazis in her books that I recall. I'd never put the two together. Obviously she hated Hitler and the war. I still wonder if the war had something to do with her suicide. If you have read Woolf before this is a must read, but if you haven't read anything by Woolf, I'd save this for last. I might turn you off with her writing. I kind of wish this included her last entry before she killed herself, would have been interesting to read. However, as much as I like Woolf I doubt I'll ever want to read her full dairy. I liked this, but it was messy at times. Woolf life was one beautiful mess.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Rogers

    “I live in intensity.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    AN incredible book full of insight into Woolf's life, genius, writing and relationships. AN incredible book full of insight into Woolf's life, genius, writing and relationships.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leah Rachel von Essen

    A Writer’s Diary: Being Extracts From the Diary of Virginia Woolf edited by Leonard Woolf is one of those rare books that has actually changed my life. After her death, Virginia Woolf’s husband went through her diaries and extracted the parts that had to do with writing, process, and reading, compiling them into this volume, which is now published by Persephone Books. If you are a fan of Virginia Woolf, this book further proves her genius: it reveals the interior thought processes and struggles a A Writer’s Diary: Being Extracts From the Diary of Virginia Woolf edited by Leonard Woolf is one of those rare books that has actually changed my life. After her death, Virginia Woolf’s husband went through her diaries and extracted the parts that had to do with writing, process, and reading, compiling them into this volume, which is now published by Persephone Books. If you are a fan of Virginia Woolf, this book further proves her genius: it reveals the interior thought processes and struggles and doubts about her novels, from Mrs Dalloway and The Waves—she is very self-aware and tracks her progress well. One thing that struck me: Woolf feels she finally hit her style and voice at the age of 40. Her work ethic struck me, both by making me once more aware of how much I wish to be a full-time writer, and by inspiring me to treat my own writing more like work finally, to get guidelines and demands on myself to get my writing and editing done. I liked hearing that she doesn’t like revisions either—it was in many ways a relief. In addition, her fantastic diary-writing inspired me to make my journals more reflective, which as I’ve grown busier they’ve lost somewhat, becoming more matter-of-fact about my days and their events. What struck me as much as her genius and the insights into her novels—not to mention the ways her diary will slip into the incredible imagery she is so known for, in descriptions of the eclipse, or a sunset over the downs, or London—was the way in speaking about her writing Woolf also digs into her mental health, her panic attacks and the depression that dogged her, the self-doubt and anxiety and “headaches” that would make her useless for weeks, the way that her work could drive away the depression that lurked around her. It meant a lot to me to read about the struggles of this poetic genius, one of my favorite authors of all-time, to understand that she too felt these utter doubts and fears—vacillating rapidly between conviction that a novel will be a failure and ecstasy at a sign that it may be a success—and the strange tiredness that took over her bones. Reading this tome—the entries begin in August 1918 and end in March 1941, two weeks before she committed suicide—was an absolutely fascinating look into the mind of a genius.

  29. 4 out of 5

    rosamund

    I meant to read this in small pieces, in between reading other things. But instead: I got hooked. Her relentless pursuit of writing, the tension between the fire to create and drudgery of work, her intense concentration -- it fascinates me. I'm also in awe of how hard she works, writing fiction in the morning and using afternoons and evenings to write articles and reviews. Each book seems to take more from her: finishing "The Waves" took a huge toll of her, but it was nothing in comparison to "T I meant to read this in small pieces, in between reading other things. But instead: I got hooked. Her relentless pursuit of writing, the tension between the fire to create and drudgery of work, her intense concentration -- it fascinates me. I'm also in awe of how hard she works, writing fiction in the morning and using afternoons and evenings to write articles and reviews. Each book seems to take more from her: finishing "The Waves" took a huge toll of her, but it was nothing in comparison to "The Years": Leonard Woolf thought working on the years would kill her. This diary was edited by Leonard Woolf, and it contains passages that focus exclusively on her writing, her reading, and a few vivid pieces about travel, natural beauty, or moments of historical interest. I felt that the diary remained rich and compelling, although these cuts obviously give it a different tone from how it would have originally appeared. Woolf is reticent about her mental health, but living with chronic ill-health, both depression and migraine and fevers, clearly takes its toll on her. I feel that her suicide has been far too sensationalised by later writing: it was clearly the result of a huge struggle with illness: we should celebrate her achievement in living and producing work for so long. She also died in 1941, after her house in London was destroyed, and she believed invasion of England was imminent: this must have had a significant impact on her health. I didn't expect to enjoy this book so much, or find it would remain in my thoughts for so long. If you have any interest in writing as a craft, I recommend it very highly.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    There are times when I think that Virginia Woolf was our most passionate, observant and shrewd writer and that is most in evidence, perhaps, in her diaries and letters. Here she is sharp, entertaining, thrilling, brilliant, sorrowful and inspiring, and yet, always, human. She says this: “I get the strangest feeling now of our all being in the midst of some vast operation: of the splendor of this undertaking—life: of being capable of dying: an immensity surrounds me. No—I can’t get it—shall let i There are times when I think that Virginia Woolf was our most passionate, observant and shrewd writer and that is most in evidence, perhaps, in her diaries and letters. Here she is sharp, entertaining, thrilling, brilliant, sorrowful and inspiring, and yet, always, human. She says this: “I get the strangest feeling now of our all being in the midst of some vast operation: of the splendor of this undertaking—life: of being capable of dying: an immensity surrounds me. No—I can’t get it—shall let it brood itself into a ‘novel’ no doubt.”

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