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Showing posts from May, 2011

Fragments of Woolf

Yesterday at my tutorial on Virginia Woolf, I stopped and thought how funny it was – (embarrassing, sentimental to note how cyclical) – that a year and a half ago I sat in a bookstore office at 6.30 in the morning with the phone pressed against my ear, listening as some person in an imaginary ivoried city read the first page of Mrs Dalloway to me and asked me to respond. And J was in the room listening to my answer on speakerphone, sitting against the same backdrop of books, the prints of the Bront√ęs, Lawrence. And now I sit opposite him, reading my essay, quoting those same lines back to him.



(copyrightFrederic Lefebvre)

It was a day for Woolf: not only did the rain thunder down, vanish, and play havoc with the light (very Between the Acts), but I saw James Wood speak on Woolf and mysticism at St. Anne’s. I’m a long-time Wood fan and found his discussion of To the Lighthouse in the light of Woolf's religious and secular mysticism engaging (if not shattering). I hadn’t thought of…
The - it seems - infinite delay: essays and mealtimes and sleep. Skating backwards, losing at croquet.

And sometimes a little something else: I saw Tom Stoppard speak at the Sheldonian ten days ago and wrote a sliver for the Cherwell here.

Audenary Afternoon

I so clearly remember being moved by Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’ in grade 10 English with Miss Scott and that uncomfortable corrugated iron prefabricated building next to the cricket pitch, the cheaply wrinkled photocopied handouts, it being one of the four poems we read a year (our ambitious syllabus) – ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s Day?’, ‘God’s Grandeur’, and something else (we didn’t care, poetry was an inscrutable equation every now lit up by a phrase or a word that was likeable for its own sake, but there was no meaning transferred).

The immediacy of the poem, the grief (‘Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead/ scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead’). I spent years trying to remember whether it was W.B. Yeats who wrote it, or W.H. Auden (same number of letters, etc). Now, I suppose this gives evidence of the development of personal taste, because I find it cloying (‘I thought love would last forever: ‘I was wrong'), coloured perhaps by the poem’s popularity, in the…

A Sudden Mania for Mallets

Though last night brought the first proper rain in the last six weeks, the Trinity term has begun and that means croquet. The college rule that forbids sports on the quad lawns – except for croquet, in Trinity – was the reason I moved here.

So, suitably wooed with the promise of Pimm’s on the green, but without any functioning knowledge of the sport (and, let’s get this straight, it is a sport), I joined a college team. Our first practice was on Thursday afternoon in the University Parks, with our first match against Somerville on Friday afternoon, leaving the team, all relatively inexperienced, with little promise of success.

O Croquet: the idiosyncrasies of your handbook, the polite but anguished repression of your players (and instructors) upon the fertile grounds of flirtation, the pun-ability of nearly all your terminology. One is required to know when to roquet, when to croquet, and how to do a rush, a stop-shot, and a stab. This is no easy clipping of the ball through the hoop (…