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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Saturday Rave: Orlando by Virginia Woolf.

I did Virginia Woolf (To The Lighthouse) for 'A' level; and she, in her turn, very nearly did for me.

I was totally baffled.

I've tried Virginia Woolf again at intervals of about a decade, hoping it might begin to make - not sense, exactly, that isn't to be expected - sparks in one or two synapses of my brain, which might lead in turn to some sort of understanding.

And what did I find?

No idea. Haven't a clue. I might as well have been reading Swahili. Or HTML.

Anyway, enough history. Last week I had a go at Orlando, and it was great fun. Orlando is full of sumptuousness and silliness (as well as quite a lot of stuff about Time Itself and the male/female thing) as well as glimpses of notable historical personages.

It was written for the fun of it, and as a sort of tribute to Virginia Woolf's much admired friend Vita Sackville West. As such, Orlando is a bit like reading someone else's fan fiction: but it's worth it for the splendour, breathless excitement, and extraordinary generosity of style.

The poet then gave Orlando the full story of his health for the last ten years or so...He had had the palsy, the ague, the dropsy, and three sorts of fever in succession, added to which he had an enlarged heart, a great spleen, and a diseased liver. But, above all...

But such is the strangeness and joy of Orlando, that the said poet lives on triumphantly for several hundred years.

Word To Use Today: dropsy. Not a habit of dropping things, but water retention in the body. It can also mean a tip or a bribe. It's a shortened form of ydropesie, originally from the Greek hudōr, which means water.


  1. Haven't tackled Orlando because didn't fancy it but might now. DO give Mrs Dalloway a go. It is outstanding. And when was the last time you read To the Lighthouse?? There's a very good tv version of it you might get on dvd still...Those are the two novels of hers I have read and loved.

  2. Mrs Dalloway?
    Oh...oh all right.
    If I must.


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