THE DIARY OF VIRGINIA WOOLF: Vol. IV: 1931-1935 by Virginia Woolf
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The VW diary continues to charm, impress, and inform: even more than before, the contrast between the Woolf-fiction stereotype (introspective, soulful) and the everyday Virginia (insatiably observant, variously practical) is an ironic delight--through this fourth, penultimate volume. Not that there isn't a good deal of internal stewing here, of course. VW completes The Waves (""never have I screwed my brain so tight over a book""), has great trouble writing The Pargiters. . . which becomes Here and Now. . . which becomes The Years. And she suffers those well-known post-completion depressions--with briskly noted fainting spells and a reference or two to suicide. But for the most part these are the generous jottings of a hard-working professional, a mischievous mimic, a collector of behavior, a passionate friend, a reluctant yet zestful literary politician--and an energetic woman with ""my accursed love of talk."" Lytton Strachey's drawn-out death, perhaps, is the period's strongest external event: VW sympathizes with Carrington (""Suicide seems to me quite sensible""), visits her just before the end. Roger Fry is also mourned. And among the very much living: difficult old friend Ethel Smyth; difficult new friend Rebecca West (""a very clever woman, rather rubbed about the thorax""); ex-friend Vita S-W (the friendship ""is over. Not with a quarrel, not with a bang, but as ripe fruit falls""); E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot (""He seemed to have got so little joy or satisfaction out of being Tom""); Aldous Huxley, Stephen Spender--""a rattle headed bolt eyed young man. . . who thinks himself the greatest poet of all time. I daresay he is. . . it's not a subject that interests me enormously at the moment."" There are superb recordings of conversation--Keynes on Wells, Bruno Walter on Germany, English chatter about Hitler. Wrangles with the servants are captured as vividly as the give-and-take of literary feuds (""Already I am feeling the calm that always comes to me with abuse""). There are workings-out of ideas on Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Lawrence. And though editor Bell exaggerates when claiming that ""the feminist note. . . now sounds clear and often,"" it does sound: ""Truth is only to be spoken by those women whose fathers were pork butchers & left them a share in the pig factory."" Funny, occasionally cruel, remarkably effortless in its scene-making: a rich fourth installment--impeccably annotated, astonishingly well-indexed, and fully alive with people (like implicitly, quietly beloved Leonard) outside VW's fiction-world.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1982
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich