Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thoughts on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 adaptation of Edward Albee’s play by the same title. The title references the Disney song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” but, of course, replaces the Big Bad Wolf with Virginia Woolf. I looked into the significance behind this title, and found that Albee added Woolf’s name because the play/film focuses on the lives of well-read, intellectual university professors, the type of people who would appreciate this intellectual play on words. As the characters tauntingly ask one another “who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” throughout, the larger question being asked is, “who’s afraid of living a life without illusion and phoniness?” For the couples in the film, the real “Big Bad Wolf” is reality exposed and all its honest ugliness.

And this is just what the film gets at. With Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and her husband George (Richard Burton), the illusion of a happily married couple is instantly shattered through the couple’s drunken, violent, and ceaseless screaming matches. Perhaps the two turn to alcohol to live in an illusory world and escape their troubles and inadequacies, but this only brings each trouble brutally, honestly to the surface. George is revealed to be an unsuccessful professor of History, while Martha feels like a failure as a born-to-be mother who could never conceive. When Nick and Honey, who together seem a shy, perfectly conventional couple, come to Martha and George’s as guests, their own image of perfection also is shattered, as long-kept secrets between the two are slowly revealed. Nick must suddenly face the fact that Honey had an abortion and Honey must acknowledge that Nick only married her for her father’s money. The fighting and mutual destruction is difficult to witness as a viewer, and when all secrets and faults are finally exposed, Martha admits that she is afraid of Virginia Woolf, that she is afraid of living without illusion. And yet, with nothing left to hide, the characters somehow seem better off, even if not content, because they are no longer in denial. The film shows the necessity – as well as the pain and sheer terror - of living without phoniness and delusion.

           Virginia Woolf herself certainly upholds this theme in her writing. While a reference to Woolf’s name is her only obvious role in the film, there are some interesting parallels between the film and Woolf’s works like To the Lighthouse. Martha is outwardly everything Mrs. Ramsay is not; she calls her own house a “dump,” is rarely sober, and where Mrs. Ramsay is the ideal hostess, Martha is quite possibly the rudest, crudest, and least hospitable woman imaginable. What I found interesting, though, is the way the film highlights Martha’s dominance over her  husband when she drunkenly, unapologetically tears him down and exposes his professional inadequacies before himself and his guests. Mrs. Ramsay would never do such a thing, of course, but through her stream of thoughts we learn that she too is aware of her husband’s insecurities and weak self-esteem. Through these thoughts Woolf shows Mrs. Ramsay’s own dominant role over her husband, who for his own well-being relies on her compliments and reassurances of his success. Woolf thinks it’s important to show that while outwardly Mr. Ramsay has control over his wife, inwardly he is bound to her. In this way Woolf’s stream of consciousness has a similar function to the film’s unfiltered, alcoholic, verbal dialogue between characters. In each case, a character’s honesty and complexity is exposed. What's shattered is the illusion that any person or interpersonal relationship is as it appears on the surface; men and women are equally capable of being vulnerable in some instances and dominant in others.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Divine Secrets of the Mother/Daughter Bond

I live alone in the city and the bouts of loneliness that arise are not uncommon or infrequent. Even in the center of what many people may consider the most exciting place in the world, loneliness still manages to creep into my sixth-floor walk up.

However, to my delight my mother made an impromptu visit this weekend. With school in recess, and an Easter break from work, I was looking forward to two days of complete uninterrupted girl time with mom.  

After spending hours catching up we decided to watch one of our favorite movies: "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood." I’ve seen the film over a hundred times but watching it this time was notably different. I don’t know if it was because I was watching it with my mother for the first time in MY own apartment or if it was because of the distinct Woolfian influences I finally noticed in the film.

For those of you who haven’t seen it I’ll give you a short synopsis. The plot revolves around the complex relationship between Sidda Lee Walker (Sandra Bullock) and her mother, Vivi Abbott Walker (Ellen Burstyn). Conflict arises when Sidda Lee reveals painful childhood secrets in a Time magazine interview that paints her mother as a less than enviable parent. Amidst all the misunderstandings between these two women, Vivi’s closest friends, (The Ya Ya’s) abduct Sidda Lee, and take her back to Louisiana to reconcile some of her most troubling childhood experiences. Throughout this journey Sidda Lee discovers some painful truths from her mother’s past that lead her to acceptance, forgiveness and rapprochement towards her mom. The film touches on issues of feminism, gender roles, race, sex, family and most importantly the relationship between a mother and her daughter.  

My mind was bursting with excitement upon a scene when Ashley Judd (a young Vivi Abbott Walker) confesses: “In my thoughts I want to abandon my children. I want to injure my husband. I want to run away and I want to be unattached. I want to be famous.”
This is INEVITABLY influenced by the story of Susan Rawlings in Doris Lessing’s “To Room Nineteen.” (MIND BLOWN).
To prove this further, in the later scenes, Ashley Judd eventually checks herself into a hotel room to escape the demands of her children and husband. The characteristics of the room had striking similarities to Lessing’s description of the room in her short story.

In an earlier scene in the movie Sandra Bullock tries to rationalize her estranged relationship with her mother by saying, “If I had an easy childhood I wouldn’t have had anything to write about.”
(This has Bechdel written all over it. And Woolf from "A Sketch of the Past," and perhaps even Lessing since many of her stories were autobiographical). 

The depth and influence of Woolf's work is still evident today. Rebecca Wells, author of "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood," was a writer I never would have previously associated with Woolf. It's exciting to view her in a different light, while also gaining new perspective into a film that I thought I knew so well. 

For those of you who haven't seen the film, watch it! And for those of you who have already seen it, watch it again! You'll find yourself making Woolf references from start to finish. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Blog Post About a Blog Post

One of my favorite blogs, run by Maria Popova featured a posting about Virginia Woolf today. I thought you might like to check it out.

I also highly recommend following this blog for lots of fun and interesting literary tidbits. Or just go with her twitter for even smaller tidbits. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Review of The Retro Housewife by Lisa Miller

            Does our generation still have something to prove as females? Lisa Miller argues in “The Retro Wife” that maybe we don’t. She writes that Caitlin D’arcy, a character from The Good Wife says in season three when she quits her job to raise her family, “Maybe it’s different for my generation, but I don’t have to prove anything. Or if I have to, I don’t want to. I’m in love” (Miller 24). This character may not have been the best example for this article as the last name D’arcy jumps out at me as a choice by the director of this show to remind watchers of the satire by linking the idea of a “good wife” to Victorian ideals in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Miller is coming at the issue of the stay at home mom from a very narrow perspective. The main real-life examples she uses are of upper middle class women whose husbands make enough money for them to stay at home without jobs and who are also totally content with staying at home. Of course there are women who don’t want to work, but that does not mean that it is, as this article suggests, ingrained in the female psyche to want to nurture her own children rather than build a business or go into a professional field.
            It makes sense that a girl who was raised in a patriarchal society would feel like she is supposed to stay home and raise the children because that is what she saw her mother doing, but I feel like this is exactly what feminists are fighting against, this forced domesticity.  Even if it is subconscious, the conditioning is still a force of society, not a force of nature. I find it hard to believe, on the other hand, that some men do not want to stay home and take care of the kids and the home. If the divide between male and female spheres were as clear as this article tries to boil it down to, homosexual relationships would be in real trouble. Two women would be fighting over who gets to raise the children. Two men would presumably always have a nanny because they could not learn how to take care of children as well as a female mother figure.
            The easiest way of splitting familial duties we have found so far in our society does seem to be that one person take the domestic duties while the other takes on the role of breadwinner, working a full time job to provide the funds for the care of the entire family. However, I firmly believe that the roles are not set in stone, and that traditional “mothering” can, to some extent, come from a father or fathers. Yes, a female mother must physically care for the child in utero and during early infancy, but this is why there is maternity leave.
            To relate this to our Woolf studies, it is clear that some women who are only depended on to nurture their families with no tangible rewards from their work burn out. In Woolf’s novels they die out like an overused battery. The men do not have this problem because they are paid for their work, or praised by high society for the things they have accomplished. Many of her father figures are writers or scholars who feed on compliments. The wives and mothers, however, never get praise for their work in the home. They are only told that they look pretty. Mrs. Ramsay from To The Lighthouse and Clarissa from Mrs. Dalloway are perfect examples of this subordinate kind of housewife who hates her position, but can do nothing about it. Woolf is working against the turn of the century notion that women are bred to raise children and households. This article takes her argument and the arguments of many other feminist thinkers back 100 years in some respects. There needs to be an emphasis on the choice aspect of the female to become a stay at home mom. The goal of a modern feminist seems to be to be able to make this choice freely, and this article is not offering that freedom.

Miller, Lisa. "The Retro Housewife." New York Magazine : 20-25 (cont.) 78-79. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <>.

So I watched The Hours...

Last night, I watched The Hours per multiple recommendations, including one from our dear Professor Fernald. I was taken aback by the quality of the film, half expecting to be uncomfortable with the film's treatment of Woolf's work given the quantity we have been consuming since January. I find this frequently happens with films based on books, but not this time. For 1 hour and 54 minutes I was proved wrong. What struck me first was the music; a stirring, ambiguously emotive piano which carried the opening credits and many scenes following. Just as I noticed how much I was enjoying the music, the credits read "Music by Phillip Glass" and I was no longer surprised by how much I was enjoying it. I have seen Phillip Glass live in concert at Carnegie Hall (amazingly I found a link to a song from the exact concert), and while some consider him gimmicky or overly experimental, I have always enjoyed his music.  Being neither a film, nor a music critic I will spare you the rest of my opinions, and instead attempt to address what The Hours has done with Mrs. Dalloway, and an autobiographical look into Woolf's life.

One of the strengths I found in the movie, is that it did not attempt to exactly recreate the narrative/plot/characters from Mrs. Dalloway. Naturally, I found myself continually trying to pinpoint what exactly I recognized from Woolf's writing, and what little I know about her life. It was distracting at first, until I realized that was not the point. Even after I was able to let go of this analysis, I never fully understood Meryl Streep as the modern day Mrs. Dalloway. Was this her actual name? Did Richard, the writer, play into this coincidence? Were we supposed to believe none of the characters in the 2001 plot line were ever thinking of Woolf's work? Was the intrigue in all the connections that none of them noticed? I find it hard to believe that modern day Richard cited a line from Virginia Woolf's suicide note to Leonard just before he jumped out the window coincidentally (a moment which had me crying two tears out of one eye as my boyfriend fumbled around my apartment uncomfortably...I tried to explain). There must be something I didn't fully understand, and I would love to watch it again soon and figure it out.

There are countless moments in the film I would love to draw attention to, but what I thought most demonstrated how well David Hare and Stephen Daldry understood Woolf's ideas about women, was when Mrs. Brown came to Mrs. Dalloway's apartment after Richard's suicide. The conversation between these two women, and the understanding which transpired between them perfectly incapsulated the question of a woman's choice (or lack thereof) which is understandable from 1930 to today (not to mention passing the Bechdel Test with flying colors). It was incredibly moving to hear Mrs. Brown speak of the choice she didn't have, not necessarily as a woman, but as someone facing what they think they cannot bear, and therefore having to chose between life and death. I still don't think I fully understand Mrs. Dalloway's death in Woolf's novel, Lucy's death, or even Mrs. Ramsey's--but for some reason, I feel much more than ever that I understand Woolf's death, as much as anyone can understand the taking of one's own life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Caring and Gender Identification

Reading Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel got me thinking about the act of caring and how it plays into a child's mental development. This is just a reflection on the consequences of caring and the word's link to a female mother figure, as well as the role it plays in a child's gender identification.
 Essentially, caring is engendered to women only because the original standards were set up by a male figure; standards that were of “masculine” foundation rather than standards of human beings. So... if the standards are “masculine”, then the end result would inevitably favor males than females. The inevitability that follows this idea is that if women are deemed more suitable as caregivers in relation to their family, most importantly to their children, then the ideology would pass from woman to woman. Even more so, it would become a socially accepted ideology; which it already has.
To ultimately undo the sequence of woman as primary care giver, women, more so than men, should make it their primary concern to eliminate the issue at its crucial moment of development: the childhood stage. It is the stage where children begin to associate caring with a parent’s gentleness and attention. If the mother believes it is her duty to be more caring, then it is not surprising that the child will associate her to be the more caring one. If, however, the mother and the father convey the same amount of caring, gentleness, and compassion, then there would not be a need for gender specificity. 
It is up to mothers who demonstrate a balanced conveyance of caring, gentleness and compassion towards their children – boys and girls – in order to secure a future where gender roles are no-existent. For women to identify and differentiate themselves, they must separate themselves from what is deemed to be conventional by “masculine” standards. Once mothers have accomplished the separation themselves, they can teach their daughters (and sons) to approach matters of gender and sexuality at a very early stage of development to prevent issues that they (mothers) had faced. It is thoughts and experiences during a child’s developmental state that provides a foundation for latter behavior – as adolescents and/or as adults – where an individual identifies with a “masculine” or a “feminine” Self. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

To the Lighthouse Blog Post

I am an artist who has a problem with mixing my mediums. Sometimes it’s okay when I have the compulsion to add words to a painting I’ve done or a design I’ve made, or when I sing along a little while the pianist plays in ballet class. But sometimes I have this feeling that I’m battling myself, never happy in the present moment of creation, always thinking about what it would be like to be fulfilled by art so complete it squeezes out every drop of talent I have and satisfies my incompleteness. Sitting in class and listening to Professor Fernald read this section aloud from “Time Passes,” I did not hear a single word. Instead I heard music: rhythm that made my toes bounce, melody that made my torso sway, dynamics that made me want to burst from my seat. And then I thought- What the hell!? I just ran hear from a ballet class, where I was distracted by thoughts of this book I wanted to read and a poem I was trying to write about my mom… Anyway, it’s ironic that it’s a passage about stillness yet made me want to move. So I inserted my own movement: lines of my own poetry – talking about dance, but more about art and ideas – interspersed between Woolf’s sentences and trying to fit in with her words somehow. Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase. The toe of a brown leather boot pulses up, down, up, down. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept around corners and ventured indoors. Stiff joints ache for explosive movement to sweep the cobwebs out. Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper, asking, would it hang much longer, when would it fall? A shift of weight is all it takes to set the turn off-balance. Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) But moments fade and shapes will change and what are poses worth? the torn letters in the waste-paper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, Were they allies? Were they enemies? How long would they endure? Ideas linger after closing curtains and dying applause. So some random light directing them with its pale footfall upon stair and mat, from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse even, the little airs mounted the staircase and nosed round bedroom doors. Nuzzling deep inside creases of the brain: ideas in-extractable… But here surely, they must cease. Whatever else may perish and disappear, what lies here is steadfast. The movement should settle; but the fingers of the mind tighten their grasp. Here one might say to those sliding lights, those fumbling airs that breathe and bend over the bed itself, here you can neither touch nor destroy. Prisoner of abstraction, held hostage by the compulsion to pin down… Upon which, wearily, ghostlily, as if they had feather-light fingers and the light persistency of feathers, they would look, once, on the shut eyes, and the loosely clasping fingers, and fold their garments wearily and disappear. a feather that flits endlessly in periphery, teasing with its lightness that carries so much weight. And so, nosing, rubbing, they went to the window on the staircase, to the servants’ bedrooms, to the boxes in the attics; The attic of the mind is no mere storage space… descending, blanched the apples on the dining-room table, fumbled the petals of roses, tried the picture on the easel, brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the floor. A workshop: it draws on the moments, the shapes, the poses, the unconscious. At length, desisting, all ceased together, gathered together, all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to. The dance in all of us… How to make movement a memory? --Hanna T.

Are You My Mother? Blog Post

On the inside cover of Are You My Mother?, the book is summarized as a memoir of “how [she] became the artist her mother wanted to be.” Instantly, I knew Alison Bechdel and I would have a lot in common… based on the first half of the novel, I think I was right in my assumption. This is a poem I wrote about my mom (an ex-professional pianist) and me (an aspiring dancer).
Mother and Daughter Dim light is made brighter in your mahogany hair that Sways back and forth just above the piano’s music stand They melt together in an auburn sheen which blurs my memory Of the face behind the notation and vibration and resonation Four walls and eighty-eight keys and books so worn Their spines crack in webs of whiteness and you hide Behind them all, behind the assumption you could not Offer something new or shiny or limitless to an audience Audience is judgment and my vulnerability unveiled A black sweater painstakingly pealed from tingling skin To leave me naked, translucent and cold, trembling Before eyes blind to the memories that dance on my heart Seeing only this instant, this slicing arm or swiveling hip That should somehow convey the fullness of humanity Yet fall shorter and shorter until I want to be small, too Hidden behind your four walls and curtains of mahogany
--Hanna T.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Living in The Past

      Above is the video link to what was my midterm for my film class. Originally, as seen with the title, I was inspired by Mrs. Dalloway.  The quote comes from the beginning of the novel where Mrs. Dalloway is wishing she was different from herself. Wishing that she like her husband , "did things for themselves" (10) and finishing the quote, if she could have her life over she would even look different. Although my title comes directly from this passage, the concept of my short film takes from this initial mindset of Mrs. Dalloway's and draws on the in depth detail of Mrs. Dalloway's reminiscing of the people in her past. People like Peter Walsh and Sally, who she seems to constantly be wondering her initial question in regards to them, what if she had her life over again? What if she had married Peter Walsh, even thinking, "[i]f I had married him, this gaiety would have been mine all day!"(46).
       My film goes on to be a critique of what we, just like Mrs. Dalloway, are so often guilty of, living in the past rather than the present. Mrs. Dalloway seems to be struggling with her marriage to Richard but could this be on her part, simply a product of her constantly living in her past and wishing things to be different. I find myself asking every time I look back on the past and fill myself with regret, how much of my present am I missing out on while I do this? This missed present I will later regret as well and continue on in a never ending cycle.
     To highlight this idea of living in the past, I chose to critique the fact that almost whenever we see films that wish to portray a character thinking about the past in a conventional manner, the past scene is shown in black and white.  By reversing this method, I was aiming to show that while my character is reminiscing on the past she has actually becomes a part of it. Those past events in the photograph in turn become her present (hence them being in color). The buildup of short clips between the scenery of the park mixed with her past represent the surrounding environment that she has missed while being so absorbed in her past. Doing this film, I found it cool to think that through editing I was trying to convey visually what Woolf tries to do through writing, give a glimpse at the human thought process.
       I was initially not going to post this seeing as we have finished Mrs. Dalloway some time ago, however, it was the reading of A Sketch of One's Past that inspired me to do so. It was this idea of the power of memory, and quotes like, "I often wonder- that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence?"  that made me wonder even more about the past and its role in our present (67). A Sketch of One's Past however quite contrary to my film made me look at the positive aspect of memory, for example, in our ability to recall our childhood, and the idea of how complete experiences from childhood can be compared to experiences that can be modified and almost diluted by our adult way of thinking.
      Overall, both Woolf texts have offered me different sides of the spectrum regarding the idea of our past and perhaps my next film will explore the positive :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"The Widow and the Parrot"

Yesterday's discussion in class about the mother and child relationships explored in Woolf’s writings and the clip from The Hours reminded me that I read somewhere when I was doing some general research on Woolf, that she had written a children’s story once. After some brief internet browsing, I found this article that gives 7 examples of famous authors and their less-than-famous children’s books. Woolf’s story, titled “The Widow and The Parrot”, was written at request of her two nephews for submission to their family newspaper The Charleston Bulletin. Mentioned in another article about the book is Woolf’s nephews’ disappointment at the story she gave them. They were hoping for “something as funny, as subversive, and as frivolous as Virginia’s conversation”. Since she wrote “The Widow and the Parrot” in 1923, right in the middle of her writing career, I found it to be a good example of the importance she placed on her family. 

Pretty interesting to see these authors who we know for their great accomplishments in literature use writing in such a different way.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Having a "Cool Mom"

                I am an unfortunate example of a girl whose mother has been, and always will be, way cooler than her.
For the majority of my childhood, my mom was a “stay-at-home mom.” 

While I was growing up, she didn’t have a full-time job. But she didn’t fit the mold of a soccer mom, either. While she would never charter me to after school activities ("taxis are cheap in Beijing for a reason"), she would occasionally pick me up at gymnastics class so she, too, could show me up by practicing her back handsprings. She missed my swim meet since she had a photography trip to Burma that week. My mom often went to hear her friend from college, Wayne, DJ at a nearby club. Wayne’s day job also happened to be the Ambassador of Jamaica to Beijing. When I finally reached the age where my friends and I started going out to bars at night, we would have to plan to go to ones where we wouldn’t run into my parents. She went to Adelaide for a Great-White shark dive for her birthday. And in May, she will be running a half-marathon on the Great Wall. All of my friends consider her “cool.” Which of course, makes me cringe. 

Today’s class got me thinking about Woolf’s portrayal of stay-at-home moms and my own mother. Both Mrs. Ramsay and Mrs. Dalloway view their dinner parties as the biggest (and only) ordeal in their lives; Mrs. Brown is deeply unhappy with her suburban life. Since our family moved 7 times throughout 3 countries and 5 cities for my father’s job, many would classify my mom as a “trailing spouse.” When I first heard this term in middle school, I asked her how she felt about having to constantly follow my dad and not pursue a career of her own. Her first answer was that being a mom was her job right now. But she also said that she wasn’t bored, and that she often finds interesting things to “keep her busy.” She does not make dinner; she makes reservations. She plans family vacations to Bangkok instead of Disneyland.

Since then, I have always wondered what she could have accomplished on her own, without the burden of my sister, or me, and without having to follow my father to wherever his new job took us. I wondered what made Mrs. Brown so unhappy and compelled to attempt suicide. Why don’t the dinner parties planned by Mrs. Dalloway fulfill her happiness? And why does Mrs. Ramsay question her life accomplishments at the head of the table? It seems obvious to point to the difference in gender equality during Woolf’s era and modern day, or to say that our lifestyles are more complex now. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Does my “cool mom” ever feel the way these characters do? Does Angelina Jolie keep adopting to fill some void? Or are these empty feelings just part of being a mother?

Frustrating Silence

In my dorm room, one of the shelves in my closet is filled with books. These are not my school books, which reside on my desk, but books that I want to read for pleasure if I get the chance. Since many of my classes demand reading outside of the classtime, this shelf is unfortunately untouched most of the time. Last week during Spring Break, however, I spent the first half of it in the city to take advantage of several of the museums and I read through a book from that shelf during this time.

It's seemingly unrelated to Woolf. The book was The Chosen One by Chaim Potok, and none of the important characters in the story are female at all. The narrator is a 15-year-old Jewish boy in Brooklyn in the ending years of WWII. His main strength is in math, especially with logic, but he wants to become a rabbi when he becomes older. While he lives in a section of Brooklyn where there are different sects of Judiasm, it is also important at the time to assert American patriotism, and the narrator does this by playing baseball. The day that the book focuses in on was the day when the narrator's team plays a game against a team from a decidely more Orthodox sect of Judiasm. Therefore, the tension in the game is not only about baseball, but about the animostity between the different sects of the same religion. The narrator at the end of the game is pitching to the best player on the opposing team, who hits the ball straight to the narrator, who doesn't catch it in time. Instead, the ball hits his glasses, which results in glass going into the narrator's eye and the narrator spending a week in the hospital. At the end of that week, he becomes friends with the kid who injured him, and the rest of the book is the story of their friendship for at least the next 3-4 years.

The reason I'm even bringing up this book in the first place is that I saw a theme reoccur often in this book that we've been seeing all semester in the things we've been reading as a class. Starting with The Voyage Out, Terence Hewet mentions how he wants to write a novel on silence. Then, later on in To the Lighthouse, we had discussed that the section called "Time Passes" could be Woolf's attempt at writing that novel. There are also all of the characters that we have come across who are not able to say what they think, such as when Mr. Dalloway gives his wife flowers but can't say "I love you", or when Lily struggles to say what she means to men but ends up being nice to them anyway, or the story by Doris Lessing that we talked about earlier today where Susan Rawlings lies about having the affair because she cannot tell Matthew that she goes to a hotel room multiple times a week just to be alone.

The Chosen One has a theme of silence too. The other main character (the one who hit the baseball that ended up in the narrator's eye), is interested in psychology, but is slated to become the next rabbi of the synagogue that his father is in charge of. As a result, there is no conversation between the son and his father except when it comes to analysis of the Talmud. This is contrasted heavily with the narrator and his father, who talk to each other about everything. There is a painful scene in the book where the other boy's father uses the narrator to convey a message to his son because he could not possibly talk to him about anything other than the Talmud. In fact, the book mentions multiple times how the characters communicate through silence. This lack of communication, though different in flavor from the way Woolf portrays it, also results in the same frustration that Woolf's characters feels.

P.S. While writing this post, I couldn't help but be reminded of this song by Simon & Garfunkel. I'm not sure how it connects with what I've been writing, but hear it and decide for yourself: Simon & Garfunkel: The Sounds of Silence

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just after finishing "A Sketch of the Past," I went onto iMDB, as I do most days, to check out the new trailers that are posted daily. I stumbled upon a documentary called Stories We Tell about a woman trying to reconstruct her mother's life and her own. I was almost immediately reminded of To The Lighthouse, and the difficult task Woolf describes in her memoir of turning her mother into art. The line that particularly struck me was when the filmmaker, Sarah Polley, wonders of her mother, "Is this the tsunami she unleashed when she went, and all of us still flailing in her wake?" It brought to mind our discussion of the passage from To The Lighthouse about the mutilated fish; what Mrs. Ramsey-- or Mrs. Stephen-- had meant to those who knew her and the legacy that continues even a decade after her passing. I would definitely be interested to see this film when it comes out and draw a larger comparison between Woolf's artistic representation of her mother and Polley's. Check out the trailer and the iMDB page of Stories We Tell below.

iMDB page:


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bloomsbury Group Artwork

I was browsing around Tumblr as one is wont to do on Monday of Spring Break (at home in Massachusetts at 2pm) and I found this really cute and totally awesome artwork that someone posted. It's all about The Bloomsbury Group and their different relationships with a key that will tell you if the members were linked by "marriage, crush, sex, unrequited obsessive love, failed marriage proposal, or platonic relationship." Such a fun and interesting way to get to know how the members of The Bloomsbury Group were connected; they were even more complex than I thought. Also apparently you can buy this as a poster on Etsy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Fairies' Nest

With all this talk about female artists and Lilly Briscoe, I decided to paint something from "To The Lighthouse". I chose the boar's skull wrapped in Mrs. Ramsay's scarf, and I put some fairies and flower vines in it for a touch of whimsy. I really enjoy fairy tales, so this part of the novel was of particular interest to me as Mrs. Ramsay makes up a little magical narrative on the spot to help her daughter fall asleep. It is a really sweet moment that shows what a skilled mother she is. She may not write books like her husband, but she sure can tell a story to please her children, and this is the kind of thing they will remember her for. They are not likely to remember the books their father wrote when they were children which is ironic because his greatest fear is not being remembered.

I had no idea what a boar's skull looked like before this project, and surprisingly there are not a lot of pictures on google images of them with horns which I was expecting since Cam complains so much about how scary they are. Apparently, boars can have really long tusks, and it's still legal to hunt them for their tusks with proper licences, but I drew small ones since my paper was not very large.

In this piece I used watercolor paper, watercolor paints, water soluble colored pencils, and some illustrating markers for details. I wanted to take a photo that had my supplies and myself in it because this novel focuses heavily on the female artist. In this case I am that artist, so I though I should show it. The picture to the left is a close image so you can see some details. I think an interesting side note to add is that the skull itself without the shawl was probably the most phallic thing I have ever drawn. The long snout section that connects to the mouth just felt very much that way when I was drawing it, and I think that might be why I subconsciously decided to drape over that section in the end. Perhaps this says something about me, but I'm not sure what. Either way, I am very pleased with the outcome as I think it gets the message across that women can be creative and artistic in the same and in different ways than men. Art, including writing, is not designated to a specific gender.