Pale Wire (Popscene)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Alone (Again!)

This afternoon I buzzed through Virginia Woolf's essay A Room of One's Own. At once a lightly fictionalized memoir, a lecture-like summation of the literary effects of the second sex's systematic subordination and a commencement address for the would-be women writers of the world, it's a sparkling read. Woolf provides plenty of insight and wisdom packaged in beautifully rendered and imminently quotable prose. While she's clearly aiming to inspire, Ginny's unafraid to call it straight. Here's how she explains the dearth of great female literature.
Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time.

While I agree with her general assessment — that independence and economic security are what female writers need most to reach their potential — it didn't hit me all that hard. I suspect her thesis felt so pedestrian because it's become so widely accepted. Because of that, the tangential adventures (I found the stuff about the "androgynous mind" particularly interesting) and rhetorical florishes I encountered along the way are what really got me. Have a taste.

The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in spearate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Probably no book is born entire and uncrippled as it was conceived.

Time to roll up the crumpled skin of the day, with its arguments and its impressions and its anger and its laughter, and cast it into the hedge.