Monday, 28 March 2011

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.*

"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say."*

A young woman's life can be divided into two stages; her life before and her life after she has read 'A Room of One's Own'. More so if she has vague illusions about being a writer. Also if she doesn't mind being branded a highbrow (which is just another word for uncool) by 21st Century society, where Sex and the City shows how far we have come as women. And free speech is the most prized possession of those who have nothing to say. Those who are afraid to speak their mind.

In a letter to her friend G. Lowes Dickinson, Virginia Woolf explained the reasons for 'A Room of One's Own': ''I wanted to encourage the young women - they seem to get fearfully depressed.''** That was 1929. It still works in 2011.

70 years ago on this day Virginia Woolf took her own life. She lives not just in her books but in our minds.

PS I always have one of her books or essays on my bedside table. For some it is P. G. Wodehouse for others, Virginia Woolf. That's the way it is. I often walked the streets of London waiting to come upon a scene from Street Haunting. Sometimes when I am alone I read some random paragraph wishing I was accompanied by Tom Waits. Or Patti Smith. Often when life seems disgusting I am rescued by the beauty of flowers, the antics of birds, or a perfectly constructed sentence by Virginia Woolf. Not necessarily in that order. I don't keep a picture of hers. Roddy Doyle's rule number one (from ten rules of writing) works well: "Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide". And in over two years I have mentioned her only five times. This being the sixth.
These are random facts. Somewhat interesting. But is it the truth? If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.*

* from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.
**from an introduction to A Room of One's Own by Mary Gordon.

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