Virginia Woolf

Listening to: Giovanni Hidalgo
Watching: Midnight Diner: Toyko Stories

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Virginia Woolf

How terribly difficult it must have been to be a Woolf, or Plath, Parker, Gilman, or Cowen. Sensitive, thoughtful, brilliant and forced to have to work harder, hide your real life, find scorn over and over for simply wanting/needing to BE your true self.

Virginia Woolf was born on this day in 1882. She conceived sentences in radically new ways. Her writing continues to be innovative, challenging, inspiring and brilliant. For us her words are always enough.virginia-woolf-frame

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” – Virginia Woolf

Her novels have been described as being written from stream of consciousness and heavily focused on character thoughts and impressions even more than deep story line or studies of plot. They are complex, psychological and filled with detail. Her stories are poetic and infused with allusions to the society, it’s problems and promises in which she lived.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf

She drowned herself in 1941 by filling her overcoat pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse near her home. Her suicide note written to her husband is beautiful, tragic and haunting. I wish it were fiction but the letter is extraordinary in its clarity of how she feels about her illness and how it is consuming her.

I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.
I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

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Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South

Listening to: Another Brooklyn
Watching: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories

Zora Neale Hurston was born on this day in 1891. It wasn’t until 1973, when Alice Walker, on a quest to visit the grave of one of her writing idols found Hurston’s grave site unmarked, barren and overgrown. Walker had a gravestone put up with the engraved epitaph, “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South”. Walker said, “We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. If they do, it is our duty as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children. If necessary, bone by bone.”

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It was said many times, throughout Zora’s life, her spacious heart, sharp wit and big personality endeared her to everyone she came into contact with. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama but grew up in Eatonville, Floraida, one of the first self-governing all black municipalities in the United States. Here she gained a strong sense of self and a strong sense of pride in her community. Zora described it as “a city of five lakes, three croquet courts, three hundred brown skins, three hundred good swimmers, plenty guavas, two schools, and no jailhouse.”
Her mother died when she was 13 years old. Zora later wrote “That hour began my wanderings”.

She began publishing stories in 1921 upon entering Howard University and never looked back, publishing several fiction novels, books of poetry and dozens of short stories. During the 1920’s she befriended Langston Hughes and other notable figures of the Harlem Renaissance. The fact that America was not kind to African Americans nor Women authors in general and much of her career ran through the Great Depression left Zora virtually destitute when she died in obscurity in 1960.

When Alice Walker wrote her first essay on Hurston in 1979 all of her books were out of print. Thank you Alice Walker for ensuring Zora Neale Hurston and her powerful voice live on in our American anthology and literary canon.

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