Marlene Dirschauer: “If a book has a base that is stands upon…”

If a book has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills, then my book without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying on my balcony on a lovely spring afternoon, reading To the Lighthouse (1927) for the first time and being struck by Woolf’s abundant use of water metaphors, by the flow of her sentences, and by the elegance of a writer who, as I later learned, took rhythm very seriously, and who somehow managed to never use “a word wrong for a page at a time” (Woolf, Diary 132). Yet, the effect of her writing was far from watery—her words were solid and precise, and they conveyed reality in a way that was utterly new to me. In other words, like so many before me, I fell head over heels in love with Virginia Woolf’s writing.

In my attempt to get hold of the “swirling waters” of Woolf’s art, I sometimes felt akin to Orlando trying in vain to “breast the flood” of the river on which his lover disappears toward the sea (Woolf, Orlando 45–45); but the attempt itself was incredibly joyful. 

Marlene Dirschauer
22 August 2022

Works Cited

Woolf, Virginia. The Diary of Virginia Woolf: 1925–1930. Vol. III. Edited by Anne Olivier Bell, assisted by Andrew McNeillie, Harcourt, 1980. Vol. 3 of The Diary of Virginia Woolf.

Woolf, Virginia. The Essays of Virginia Woolf: 1933–1941. Edited by Stuart N. Clarke, Hogarth Press, 2011. Vol. 6 of The Essays of Virginia Woolf.

Woolf, Virginia. Orlando: A Biography. 1928. Edited by Brenda Lyons with an introduction and notes by Sandra M. Gilbert, London, Penguin, 2000.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. 1929. Edited with an introduction and notes by Michèle Barrett, London, Penguin, 2011.

Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. 1931. Edited with an introduction and notes by Kate Flint, London, Penguin, 1992.

Published by International Virginia Woolf Society

The International Virginia Woolf Society is devoted to encouraging and facilitating the scholarly study of, critical attention to, and general interest in, the work and career of Virginia Woolf, and to facilitate ways in which all people interested in her writings— scholars, critics, teachers, students, artists and general readers—may learn from one another, meet together, contact each other, and help one another. Find out more about our organization, activities, and Virginia Woolf herself by following the links on our home page.

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