Monday, July 13, 2009

The London Scene: six essays on London life

by Virginia Woolf

Oh, how I love Virginia Woolf! Her command of the language, her intimacy with the mind and soul, her sense of the infinite and awareness of the minute. If you like Woolf, you'll enjoy this book; only you might be disappointed by its brevity. If, like me, you're an Anglophile, you'll treasure this book and want to have it forever.

Knowing of her somewhat tortured (and also privileged) personal life, it's a bit odd to imagine her writing a series of essays for the British edition of Good Housekeeping magazine. To compensate, I'd like to imagine the magazine then didn't have so many articles about fad diets and recipes for Velveeta pie, but it was in fact a time when many people worshiped the newfangled and it seemed as if science and commerce might solve all the problems of living; yet I need to believe that it was a time when newness still felt new, when the idea of newness hadn't permeated the culture to the point of meaninglessness.

Anyway, this slim volume is a pleasure, both mental and tactile, to read. (I had only to read a few pages to overcome my disappointment at the uncut page edges.) Who better than Virginia Woolf to capture the essence, the texture of a place, a moment, a life in a dozen small pages?

PS, skip the introduction, it's totally unnecessary.

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