WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY FRANCESCA WADE
Who better to serve as a guide to great books and their authors than Virginia Woolf?
In the early years of its existence, the Times Literary Supplement published some of the finest writers in English: T. S. Eliot, Henry James and E. M. Forster among them. But one of the paper’s defining voices was Virginia Woolf, who produced a string of superb essays between the two World Wars.
The weirdness of Elizabethan plays, the pleasure of revisiting favourite novels, the supreme examples of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad: all are here, in anonymously published pieces, in which may be glimpsed the thinking behind Woolf’s works of fiction and the enquiring, feminist spirit of A Room of One’s Own.
Here is Woolf the critical essayist, offering, at one moment, a playful hypothesis and, at another, a judgement laid down with the authority of a twentieth-century Dr Johnson. Here is Woolf working out precisely what’s great about Hardy, and how Elizabeth Barrett Browning made books a “substitute for living” because she was “forbidden to scamper on the grass”. Above all, here is Virginia Woolf the reader, whose enthusiasm for great literature remains palpable and inspirational today.
One of Nylon's "50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"
An entirely original portrait of a young writer shutting out the din in order to find her own voice
On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer’s Diary with the words “too much and not the mood.” She was describing how tired she was of correcting her own writing, of the “cramming in and the cutting out” to please other readers, wondering if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying.
The character of that sentiment, the attitude of it, inspired Durga Chew-Bose to write and collect her own work. The result is a lyrical and piercingly insightful collection of essays and her own brand of essay-meets-prose poetry about identity and culture. Inspired by Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Lydia Davis’s short prose, and Vivian Gornick’s exploration of interior life, Chew-Bose captures the inner restlessness that keeps her always on the brink of creative expression.
Too Much and Not the Mood is a beautiful and surprising exploration of what it means to be a first-generation, creative young woman working today.