Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Orlando (by Virginia Woolf)

Beautifully written, as always, but not my favorite Woolf; I liked both Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse much better. This is a satirical biography that skewers the whole genre, and is based on the life of a friend (and lover) of hers, to whom the book is dedicated. It is frequently very funny and witty, but also just as frequently a little too inside-jokey for me. And it gets downright weird at the end.

I expected more of a serious meditation on the meaning of gender, which is in there somewhat and definitely worth reading for, but as far as I’m concerned it’s sort of diluted by the satirical aspects of the whole thing. If I were Roger Ebert I would give Orlando a thumbs-up, but not “way up” as for Woolf’s other works.

“...she was like a fire, a burning bush, and the candle flames about her head were silver leaves; or again, the glass was green water, and she a mermaid, slung with pearls, a siren in a cave, singing so that oarsmen leant from their boats and fell down, down to embrace her; so dark, so bright, so hard, so soft, was she, so astonishingly seductive that it was a thousand pities that there was no one there to put it in plain English, and say outright, ‘Damn it, Madam, you are loveliness incarnate,’ which was the truth.” (Chapter 4)

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