2012-11-05T21:39:56.396-05:00You can find me here, with a spanking new website and all of Fernham folded within. If I were a better IT guy, you'd get an automatic redirect, but you're just going to have to click. And soon enough even the sad, temporary annefernald.com will point here, too. And a new blog post on Sandy the Terrible to get us started.
2012-09-10T22:04:18.581-04:00I’ve now done two of four sessions on Woolf for a book discussion series at the Brooklyn Public Library. They have been amazing. Preparing to talk about Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse with a group (how big? somewhere between twenty and forty) of adults, some of whom have been reading Woolf since before I was born, others who’ve never read her is thrilling and nerve-wracking. I can do little else on the day of a talk.But then, to get into a room with other adults who’ve chosen to spend part of their day thinking and talking about a writer is a deeply moving thing and, once we get going, the time takes care of itself.The conversation I had on Sunday, however, was unlike any other conversation I’ve had about Woolf in all my quarter century of studying her. Luna Stage, just down the road from me in West Orange, is mounting the New Jersey Premier of Vita and Virginia (Eileen Atkins’ wonderful adaptation of letters to tell the story of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf’s love affair and of their continuing friendship thereafter) and they invited me to give a talkback after one of the performances. Of course, I said yes. A friend and I were already planning to go.Then they asked me if I would speak with the director and the actresses.On Sunday, I did.We planned to talk for an hour, but it quickly grew to two. I did my best to tell them how to pronounce Lytton Strachey and Violet Trefusis. I tried to explain, not as an intellectual, but in ways that would help an actress, what I thought drew these women to each other, how I understood their sexualities and their attraction to each other. By the end of the time, the actresses were more in character than out, “I think I’m jealous…” “I say you don’t get anything done, but you get so much done…” What a magical thing: to knock on a door, meet a group of strangers, and, within moments be passionately debating what it might have been like to be another woman altogether. I’m still smiling.If you’re in the area, I’ll be talking about Between the Acts on Wednesday, 9/19, 3:00-5:00 and about Moments of Being two weeks later, on 10/3. Both of these events are at the Brooklyn Public Library. These discussions are free and open to the public.My talkback at Luna Stage is after the 3:00 PM performance on Sunday 9/30. The actresses are amazing and tickets are only $25.[...]
2012-09-01T12:25:45.778-04:00In the spirit of the new year, here are the remarks I gave earlier this week at a Convocation for first-year students at my university: A Jesuit educator wrote about the challenges of designing a curriculum for the rapidly changing world: “Current problems will in all probability no longer be current when the youth completes his [or her] education, and so by attempting to fit him for the present the school may unfit him for the future.” Now, Allan P. Farrell was writing about the 1930’s and it would be easy for us to laugh--if he thought that was a rapidly changing world, he should take a look at 2012.But it’s not so simple as that: one of the challenges of college education, whenever one embarks on it, is the challenge of trying to learn what one might need for a future that one cannot fully imagine. What I love about liberal arts education is that, in all its wild impracticality, it refuses to try to predict. In fact, rather than narrowly striving to guess about the thing that’s about to happen in a year or two, the liberal arts education that you’re embarking on is designed to teach you about the past, help you ask big questions, and to demand that you work to shape the future--your own and that of your generation.In order to get the most out of your education, however, you are going to have to step away from the now for a moment. This morning, Colum McCann said that some of what you’re facing will be very hard. One challenge that you can be sure to face is the challenge of moving being a consumer of information to being an active thinker, striving to educate your mind. We live in a thrilling world, one full of evil and danger and also full of great joy and we know this because every time we look down at our devices, every time we pass a monitor, every time we turn on our tablets and laptops, we can see what is happening anywhere in the world. But that glorious instant access comes at a price. We skim and click, we text, forward, like, and share, but rarely do we ask ourselves to pause and think. As one journalist describes his own love/hate relationship to Google “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (Carr 227).I exhort you to dive. Dive as deeply as you can. You are great Jet Skiers. But you didn’t come to Fordham to get better at skimming the surface. That’s not what this four years of your life is for. Your college education is the moment to learn how to dive, to dive deeply and discover the treasures buried far beneath the surface. That means training and practicing, remembering how to be still and just read--doing nothing other than reading--for longer and longer stretches of time.In her 1929 essay on women’s education, Virginia Woolf writes about trying to follow an idea as it swims away from her--her thought, she writes, “to call it by a prouder name than it deserved, hat let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it until--you know the little tug--the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line…” Her thought swims away from her grasp when a guard shoos her from the riverbank--she’s interrupted by another. Now, it is we who interrupt ourselves. As you embark on your college education, I wish you patience and I exhort you to cultivate the strength to dive deeply into your studies. You can always go jet skiing next summer. [...]
2012-07-30T11:30:03.582-04:00I read this book because I needed a summer beachy read and saw that Hanauer was the editor of the collection The Bitch in the House. Knowing she was a feminist, I hoped that this would be a light book that also wouldn’t make my reading stop short with some moment of feminist outrage.It was all right but not nearly as great as it could have been. Boy, does it ever capture something about the zeitgeist, though—both of my own life right now and, as I understand it, of a big sliver of lives of people in their 40s. So, on balance, I am glad I read it to the end. Gone tells the story of Eve Adams (that name! So unsubtle—it in itself almost made me stop), a nutritionist, and her husband, Eric, a sculptor. When the novel starts, Eric has run off with the babysitter. I can see why.Eve is my worst version of myself: wound way too tight, working way too hard, primarily responsible for the home, food prep, and children, she is also having a great moment in her career: things are really taking off for her. Eric, by contrast, is struggling. Uninspired, he hasn’t completed—or sold—a sculpture in a long time and is wondering if he has it in him to ever create art again. (Now, since I’m identifying, let me clarify and say that this—the dry spell or the running off with the babysitter part—is emphatically not a parallel to my beloved’s life.) There’s no room for Eric in their lives at home and he’s frustrated with his career. They need a marriage reset. It’s a great and interesting problem and the unfolding of the novel is interesting—just the right combination of surprising and predictable to make it a reasonable read. And, having spent time this year renegotiating some of the balances in our marriage now that I’m (still) working too hard but that our youngest is in school and the demands of parenting have changed, too, I was interested in their problems.But I was disappointed to see Northampton, Mass. given a fake name: after all the pleasures of recognition in Goodbye, Columbus, I felt the lack in Gone (which I read first) all the more keenly: why not name the town where the poor, obese white client lives? The juxtaposition of poverty with the appealing, fancy, yoga-and-tolerance filled communities of the Happy Valley are one of the most interesting things about that region. More than that, again and I again I found sentences that I wanted tighter and assumptions that I wanted looser. Too often characters are identified by their census categories and shown to be lovable for conforming to what we expect of the black teen mom, the plump chatty Jewish lady, the hippie white girl in the coffee shop. It was never offensive, but it felt lazy and unimaginative. When Eve plays her “game” of trying to see if she can find twenty people in the food court who do not need to lose twenty pounds, I hated her. Listen, Eve, I wanted to scream, stop being so judgy! Still, as a fictional counterpart to those lifestyle pieces about families where the wife outearns the husband, Gone held my interest even as it made me feel like I’d be boxed into one of Eve’s narrow categories: just another tired mommy in the food court who could stand to lose a few pounds.[...]
2012-06-20T11:59:41.153-04:00allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:5ztRM5oqemv4vvyH156PWc" width="300">
2012-06-19T14:34:44.873-04:00Just about the most romantic song I know. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:3HNp9HQ33wdDhAvEc4arE8" width="300">
2012-06-17T20:32:40.358-04:00allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:track:2KSm2iIMPv95bHvoj8AjLc" width="300">
2012-05-28T10:30:52.150-04:00This Memorial Day, I’m doing what I’ve been doing for most of this year: working on the final details of my edition of Mrs. Dalloway. While the big push was for first submission in January, I have now received comments on my work from the editors and need to incorporate those corrections by Thursday, so this is another moment of stressed and constant working on details.To honor those soldiers who have died at war, I offer part of one more footnote from my forthcoming edition of the novel. This one is on the models for Septimus Warren Smith, the novel’s veteran. What struck me, in writing this footnote, was the overwhelming abundance of young men Woolf had to choose from in painting a portrait of a shell-shocked soldier grieving for the death of his friend (and this footnote doesn't even mention Woolf's brother-in-law, Philip Woolf, injured by the shell that killed his brother Cecil. Upon seeing Philip shortly after, Woolf wrote: ‘I can imagine that he is puzzled why he doesn’t feel more’ (D1 92), a thought she gives to Septimus in the novel:Septimus Warren Smith [….] Critics have linked Septimus to real life soldiers whom Woolf knew, including Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Ralph Partridge, and Gerald Brenan. For more on these real-life models for Septimus, see Introduction. Steinberg suggests T. S. Eliot as another possible model for Septimus, noting Woolf’s intimacy with him at the time. Eliot’s hasty marriage to Vivenne Haigh-Wood came just after the death of his friend Jean Verdenal at Gallopoli (8-9), a circumstance that parallels Septimus’s hasty marriage after Evans’s death. (Verdenal is the dedicatee of Eliot’s 1914 ‘The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock’.) [….]I repeat my daily prayer with extra fervency this Memorial Day: Honor the dead. Work for peace.Also: This old post on women and war might be worth revisiting on Memorial Day:[...]
2012-03-28T21:31:24.626-04:00Songs evoke memories, sure. Every day I listen to music and every day a song reminds me of some earlier self. But twice this week, Lucinda Williams’ great song, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” has come on the radio and has brought me back not just to a period, but to an eerily precise time and place.In August of 1998, I drove my little 4-door Civic from my beloved home in Cambridge to Lafayette, Indiana, to take my first tenure-track job at Purdue. Driving behind me, in his nicer 4-door darker blue Civic was my boyfriend. As the land got flatter and Boston receded, I could see his terror mounting. Why, I could feel him thinking, have I followed this woman away from the East?I had found a charming apartment: the top floor of a Victorian house facing a tiny pocket park on the top of a hill. Unfortunately, the prior tenants refused to leave in time. When I called the landlady to insist on our rights, she demurred: “He’s from India,” she explained by way of apology. “I think he’s a rajah!”Rajah or no, I wanted in to our new apartment, but there was nothing to do. The moving company left our stuff in the garage and our landlady put us up in a vacant apartment a few blocks away. This apartment was a tiny one bedroom in a largely abandoned small apartment building with a distinctly Sunset Boulevard feel. One vacant apartment in the same building had a ballroom with French doors leading to a small garden. Although I’d seen it when I was apartment-hunting and had been momentarily charmed by the faded glamour and the promise of parties to come, in the end, it was too much to live up to. My boyfriend and I had never lived together before, and it seemed like a bad omen to move into a house that reminded me of Miss Havisham.Nonetheless, there we were, in the very building I had known to avoid, in a tiny furnished apartment, waiting for the rajah and his girlfriend to move out. Guilty, our landlady had stocked the fridge with cold cuts. I had never seen so many in my life. We had a pound of roast beef, a pound of turkey, a pound of corned beef, a pound of ham, a pound of swiss, and a pound and a half of American, a loaf of bread, some mayonnaise, and a jar of yellow mustard. No sooner had we arrived, then my boyfriend had to head off on a sad errand: to the Mayo Clinic to be with his family while his dad underwent treatment for the cancer that would kill him a year later. He lived to see us married, but not much more.Alone with a boombox and pounds and pounds of sliced meat, I spent my days planning my classes and listening to Lucinda Williams on a bulky black boombox: Can't find a damn thing in this placeNothing's where I left it beforeSet of keys and a dusty suitcaseCar wheels on a gravel road…Child in the backseat about four or five yearsLookin out the windowLittle bit of dirt mixed with tearsCar wheels on a gravel roadI wouldn’t want to live through that week again, and I couldn’t have made it without that song.[...]
2012-03-08T13:59:56.255-05:00Guernica is a finalist for the 3 Quarks Daily blog prize! Thanks for voting. Wish me luck with the judging!
2012-02-21T20:13:34.824-05:00...pour mieux sauter.
My own Tom I love you with that fervent passion with which my father regards Roast beef but I do not look upon you with the same eyes as my father for he likes Roast Beef for its tast [sic] but I like you for your personal merits.
2012-01-22T15:09:44.336-05:0058:14-15 By artificial light the green shone The green dress that becomes magical by artificial light reverses a distressing memory of a green dress gone wrong: ‘Down I came one winter’s evening about 1900 in my green dress […] All the lights were turned up in the drawing room; and by the blazing fire George sat, in dinner jacket and tie, cuddling the dachshund [….] He said at last: “Go and tear it up”’ (MB151). [...]
266:20 Hampstead Village in North London dating from the eighteenth century, where artists and freethinkers have resided. The poet John Keats, who, like Jim Hutton, Woolf imagines in red socks, lived in Hampstead from 1818-1820 (see EN 265.28). He wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ there. Adjacent is the preserved open space of Hampstead Heath. Cf. ‘It’s unfortunate the civilization always lights up the dwarfs, cripples, & sexless people first. And Hampstead provides them’ (D 1:110; 21 January 1918).
2012-01-10T11:00:02.078-05:00An oldie but a goodie:
2012-01-08T08:34:29.570-05:00I'm off to read 'The Rape of Lucrece' for Mrs. Dalloway and it strikes me as a pretty grim task. I was summarizing Cymbeline yesterday, trying to describe how Imogen's husband makes a bet that she is faithful, sets up a friend to test her, and he sneaks into her bedroom and spies on her while she's asleep. Later he pretends to have raped her.
2012-01-07T13:04:19.638-05:00Jane de Gay's excellent book led me to look again at Ariel's song in The Tempest. Earlier, I had heard 'those are pearls that were his eyes' more strongly through Eliot's quotation of it than through Shakespeare himself. Jane's work taught me to think differently and led me to a great dog footnote too. Enjoy.
61:18 Fear no more From Cymbeline. See EN 16:23. See also 46:26, 211:1. Jane deGay notes that Woolf’s earlier allusion to Ariel’s song from The Tempest(47:21) informs this allusion to Cymbeline: ‘Fear no more says the heart, committing its burden to the sea’ (61:18-19). Both songs are dirges sung for characters presumed dead who turn out to be alive (de Gay 89). See also EN:61:24.
61:24 the dog barking See The Tempest: ‘Hark, hark! | burthen dispersedly, [within]. Bow-wow. | The watch-dogs bark! (1:2:381-383). This, from the first half of Ariel’s song, closely follows the combined allusion to Cymbeline and The Tempest above (61:18).
2012-01-04T21:03:45.796-05:00One of the puzzles in writing footnotes to Mrs. Dalloway is that the direct allusions don't necessarily correlate to the writers who most influenced Woolf. This makes a lot of sense--we often talk a lot about influences that bother us and talk seldom at all about those who are so important to us that they run in our veins. Still, one of my challenges as an editor has been to think about ways to depict this accurately. Woolf herself offers an explanation for this phenomenon in this discussion of Shakespeare from the 1924 essay ‘Indiscretions’:
‘Of Shakespeare we need not speak. The nimble little birds of field and hedge, lizards, shrews and dormice, do not pause in their dallyings and sporting to thank the sun for warming them; nor need we, the light of whose literature comes from Shakespeare, seek to praise him’ (E 3:463)It's a beautiful metaphor. I've certainly found a lot more Shakespeare than I expected in Mrs. Dalloway and, thank to other critics, will be able to cite many more.