After deciding to sync up my reading of Virginia Woolf’s diaries, letters, and essays, I’ve finally reached that point – and the last piece of reading to that end was a very long and unusual essay, titled “Reading.” Believed to have been written in 1919, an important year in Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s lives, it was only published some time after her death. It bears re-reading, as it is dense and woven out of both literary criticism and a form of reminiscince or memoir. At times a stream of consciousness bubbles up from beneath the surface, and by the end of it, one feels to have wandered or been led into “Monday or Tuesday” territory. In the beginning of 1920, VW started on the writing of Jacob’s Room. I had started this some time ago but set it aside in order to catch up the essays and other writing. This has turned out to be a profitable course, because everything up to 1920 has been preparation. And there comes a deep influence from Vanessa Bell’s painting, and the artistic side of Bloomsbury, that began with the post-impressionist exhibitions a decade earlier, that VW soaked in or perhaps marinated herself in, until Jacob’s Room began to gestate. For this observation we are indebted to Justyna Kostkowska. I have tried not to spoil my naive readership of each novel, but the temptation is great and the PDFs are so easy to reach (privilege check: I’m an academic librarian not subject to paywalls). This was not possible 20 years ago when I read Nabokov, when I was not a librarian, when JSTOR was only gestating, when I was really and in many ways naive.

Kostkowska, Julia. “Studland Beach and Jacob’s Room: Vannessa Bell’s and Virginia Woolf’s experiments in portrait making 1910-1922.” Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas, 9 (1), 79-93. 2011.

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