Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today’s writing lesson: Virginia Woolf

From The Common Reader.

"there is a formal elevated dullness which is part of the incantation of poetry."


"From most poets quotation is easy and obvious; some metaphor suddenly flowers; some passage breaks off from the rest…Chaucer is very equal, very even paced, very unmetaphorical…Chaucer it seems has some art by which the most ordinary words and the simplest feelings when laid side by side make each other shine; when separated, lose their luster."

There's literary peril, however, in the ordinary and simple. Virginia Woolf writes of Jane Austen: "She, too, in her modest everyday prose, chose the dangerous art where one slip means death."

Modest everyday prose. Laid side by side. Puts me in mind of the ordinary words and simple feelings of the Pat Nixon aria ("this is prophetic") in Nixon in China.

But there's more about Jane Austen from Virginia Woolf: "She stimulates us to supply what is not there. What she offers is, apparently, a trifle, yet is composed of something that expands in the reader's mind and endows with the most enduring form of life scenes which are outwardly trivial."

That's today's writing lesson.

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