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Selected Short Stories by Virginia Woolf

Selected Short Stories

by Virginia Woolf

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More so than the novels, Virginia Woolf's short stories are difficult to read. One reason for that, is that in the stories, particularly in this early collection titled Monday or Tuesday she was looking for a new form. Her writings take the form of an experiment. Another reason is that Woolf's view of the world is idiosyncratic. This makes that her writing has a very particular feel to it; Woolf's style is not easy to follow. A moment of inattention, and the reader may be lost, having to retrace steps and reread to catch the thread. Finally, in her work Woolf makes many references to people and events of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century; without knowing what she refers too, even in fiction, the stories are difficult to understand, or it is hard to see the significance. For example, in the story "A society" there is a reference to a publication in 1920 by the Edwardian author Arnold Bennett, who posed that women were intellectually inferior to men. However, the reference in the story is very vague, and it requires an annotated edition (such as the Selected short stories) or quite some research in the library to pick up such allusions.
A short story collection such as Monday or Tuesday might be difficult to start reading Virginia Woolf, but for people who have already read some of the later novels, the collection is very rewarding. The collection is very typically Woolf, including all features of her style and themes. It contains the stories “A Haunted House”, “A Society, the title story “Monday or Tuesday”, “An Unwritten Novel”, “The String Quartet”, “Blue and Green”, “Kew Gardens” and the well-known “The Mark on the Wall”.
In addition to the eight stories, as originally included in Monday or Tuesday, the Penguin Modern Classics edition includes other early and signal stories such as “Solid Objects”, “In the Orchard”, “A Woman’s College from Outside”, “The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection”, The Shooting Party”, “The Duchess and the Jeweller” and “Lappin and Lappinova”. Many of these stories are rather short, do however expound Woolf’s unique style, and form a nice complement to the eight stories of Monday or Tuesday.

Highly recommended, but difficult to read, and therefore I would suggest to read an annotated edition such as in the Penguin Modern Classics series, rather than a free download. An additional advantage is that the Penguin edition reprints the woodcut illustrations by Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell. The Penguin edition however is not just an annotated edition, but seems to be overdoing things a little bit, taking the shape almost of a scholarly edition. While academic readers might find the long introduction and extensive notes by Sandra Kemp very useful, the overall effect on the leisurely reader might be quite contra-productive. The 15 stories in the book take up barely a hundred pages, including illustrations. The introduction is 26 pages long, with no less than six pages of notes following the introduction. These are notes to the introduction. At the back of the book, there are another 18 pages of clarifying notes annotating the stories themselves. So on a total of less than 100 pages of prose, there are 50 pages critical apparatus. ( )
2 vote edwinbcn | Aug 11, 2012 |
Virginia Woolf was a wonderful story teller, elegant prose and beautiful descriptions and passages - all of which are shown in this collection. There wasn't a single story I didn't like. Some I enjoyed more than others, some I wanted to devour again afterwards - but I enjoyed them all.

The writing in this collection was wonderful - I was continuously lost in the passages and short stories. I had intended to read a few at a time, but I found myself diving right into the next story - just one more! I kept telling myself. Even the stories that were less interesting to me, like the Duchess and the Jeweller or the Shooting Party, had be captivated by the writing. And I cannot stress enough, just how beautiful the author's writing was. Blue and Green was a short, short story almost a poem, but had a lovely descriptive passage. And I loved the way she set the scene in The String Quartet.

Virginia Woolf was an observant author and at times quite profound, this book is no exception. Lappin and Lapinova is one example of this, the ending was almost haunting, but I enjoyed the message she aimed to send out. I also enjoyed story A Society, where again she aims to send out an important message on how she sees the world around her. Honestly, I could probably spend hours dissecting each story. They were all wonderful, the only thing I didn't like was I wanted more, and some weren't as good as others - I think the Shooting Party was the weakest story in the collection. I also wouldn't call it light reading, she does make you think about what you're reading, her stories usually have a deeper meaning to them, which isn't a bad thing, but I wish I had a literature class to talk to about her books with, just so can fully grasp everything she had hidden in her story. Otherwise, not much to dislike with this book.

Truly a lovely collection, by a wonderful story teller, that has me wanting to devour my next book by the author.

Also on my Book Review Blog Jules' Book Reviews - Selected Short Stories ( )
  bookwormjules | Jan 31, 2012 |
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