I’ve loved Virginia Woolf for a long time, and this vacation has sparkled because of her prominence on my reading list. But I’ve never found her funny, have never laughed out loud while reading, though I know she was supposed to have been a wit, a great impersonator and gossip.
I'm reading The Voyage Out, Woolf's first novel, for the first time, & I've just reached the scene of the engagement ball in a South American hotel where the awkward and inexperienced protagonist, Rachel Vinrace, seizes the piano to prevent the dancing from breaking up. At first the dancers protest that they can’t dance to her music, when her aunt Helen cries ‘This is the dance for people who don’t know how to dance!’ and all the characters who have until now been priggish snobs begin to cavort:
‘St. John hopped with incredible swiftness first on his left leg, then on his right…Hewet, swaying his arms and holding out the tails of his coat, swan down the room in imitation of the voluptuous dreamy dance of an Indian maiden dancing before her Rajah…Mr. Pepper executed an ingenious pointed step derived from figure-skating…’
This kind of undignified noisy comedy seems like nothing else in Woolf and begging for Baz Luhrman to take a crack at it.