Previously unpublished letters between Vita Sackville-West and a young writer called Margaret Howard, written in 1941, which discuss Virginia Woolf just after her death, are being auctioned off at Southeby’s, reports The Guardian.
A full set of chapters of the Tale of Genji dating to the mid-fourteenth century have been discovered in a private residence in Tokyo. [Via TEV]
And from the très ancien to the avant-garde: in the Guardian’s Books Blog, Lee Rouke wonders, what ever happened to British avant garde fiction? “It
seems to have found a home in London’s conceptual art world,” he writes.
A new project at Library Thing lets you look at the libraries of famous writers: I See Dead People’s Books. Right now you can peek into the libraries of Marie Antoinette, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Plath, among others, and there are many other in progress. Via Three Percent. Also via 3%: Zoomii Books, a virtual bookshop. It’s a neat idea, but the titles are a little hard to read, at least on my computer screen.
The incomparable Nicolas Weill takes another look at Jean-Paul Sartre’s Reflexions sur la question juive (1946) for Le Monde. [FR] If you’re interested by what you read there, you might do well to look at Weill’s book La République et les antisémites.
The New Yorker only just now gets around to realizing there was a controversy around the “Paris sous l’Occupation” exhibit at the Hotel de Ville this spring. (I told you about it in April.) Via Ed.
I’m back in town after a long weekend in London visiting relatives, and have much to tell of what I saw in that magical place, from Sissinghurst Castle, where I swooned before Vita Sackville-West’s library, to the Tate Modern’s Duchamp/Man Ray/Picabia exhibit, where my cousin, an artist, had a religious experience in front of "Nude Descending a Staircase."
I would also like to tell you about Anne Marsella’s whimsical, fabulous book, Remedy, from which she will read tonight at the Village Voice (7 pm sharp, duckies!). It’s set in a Paris that will make you feel like you’re seeing in technicolor for the first time.
But I must read a pile of library books that are due back this afternoon, so storytime will have to wait til tomorrow or the day after…
Here, The New York Times reviews the revival of Eileen Atkins’s "Vita & Virginia," currently running on Mondays Off-Broadway. And only someone who has never read any of Vita Sackville-West’s writing could make the following pronouncement:
Virginia and her glittering words are the best reason for the play’s
existence. Vita had an interesting life — traveling to Persia with her
diplomat husband, dashing off for scandalous flings with other women —
yet not such an interesting mind. As Virginia says to the audience,
Vita writes “with complete competence and a pen of brass.”
Woolf could be very competitive and was often insecure about her own achievements compared with those of her friends and contemporaries– and her relationship with Vita Sackville-West, whose writing was quite popular, was cmoplicated and ridden with jealousies. But if Vita’s pen was not always as finely tuned as Virginia’s, this is not an excuse to reject her altogether, certainly not on the grounds that Woolf once zinged her. The mind that produced Seducers in Ecuador could be accused of many things but dullness is not one of them.
I’ve been researching and writing a short paper on Violet Trefusis over the last few weeks– and since this is a paper about Trefusis as an eccentric figure, I’ve had to do a lot of reading about her affair with Vita Sackville-West. I’ve thoroughly immersed myself in the literature, reading Nigel Nicholson’s Portrait of a Marriage, Victoria Glendinning’s Vita, Philippe Jullian’s Violet Trefusis, as well as Trefusis’s own memoir, Don’t Look Round, her letters to and from Vita, her novels Broderie Anglaise and Echo, and Vita’s novel Challenge. It really is a fascinating story, their affair– it culminated in the two women eloping to France together with their husbands in hot pursuit by two-seater airplane, and all this has made for great reading.
However, I’ve been having so much fun researching that I haven’t wanted to stop long enough to write the paper. So I was overjoyed today to find the perfect way to procrastinate, one which allowed me to forestall writing under the guise of conducting additional research: while trolling YouTube I found the 1992 BBC mini-series "Portrait of a Marriage," based on Vita’s son Nigel’s book, which stars Janet McTeer (who sounds incredibly, and appropriately so, like Tilda Swinton in the film adaptation of Orlando) and Cathryn Harrison.
I’m up to Part 3 but I’ve taken a break because I do have to finish this paper, mini-series or not. Here is Part 1, to get you started– let me know if you end up watching it! Truly, this is just about the dorkiest way for a Woolf fan to geek out– I kept getting excited when I recognized settings like Vita’s tower at Sissinghurst or the "cartoon gallery" at Knole– and it even features cross-dressing lesbians dancing the Charleston in Paris. What more could you want?
Incidentally, in case you’re interested, Violet comes from a long line of famous mistresses, being the daughter of Alice Keppel, the mistress of Edward VII (who put the "Edward" in Edwardian), and the great-aunt of Camilla Parker Bowles.