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“The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief”,作者:[James Wood]
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"[James] Wood explores the special realm of fiction with extraordinary sensitivity and incisiveness. In example after example, he makes you understand its geography as you have rarely done before."
--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

"What Marianne Moore once said of Hugh Kenner--'Fearless, he can be too fearless, but we need him'--may be said equally of Wood. It is the excess, the polemical drive, that makes him exhilarating to read, often to be instructed by, sometimes to argue with."
--William H. Pritchard, The New York Times Book Review

"In a distinctively impassioned voice, James Wood advances some formidable arguments for what fiction and the truthful deployment of the imagination can be. He is one of literature's true lovers, and his deeply felt, contentious essays are thrilling in their reach and moral seriousness."
--Susan Sontag

"We have very few critics . . . who can remind us that talking about literature is part of what literature is about, and talking about it with passion, precision, and out of a rich store of reading is a rare and precious gift: it is good for all of us that James Wood has it and we have James Wood."
--Gabriel Josipovici, The Times Literary Supplement

"Wood is a close reader of genius. . . . There is wonderful writing throughout this collection, by turns luscious and muscular, committed and disdaining, passionate and minutely considered."
--John Banville, The Irish Times

"James Wood is one of the best book critics in this country and England, possessed of a towering empathy and a vital literary instinct."
--Los Angeles Times --此文字指 paperback 版本。


Virginia Woolf's Mysticism


There is a story that the young Virginia Woolf and others visited Rodin's studio in 1904. The sculptor told the party that they could touch anything except the figures still under sheets. When Woolf began to unwrap one of the sculptures, Rodin slapped her. The story is probably apocryphal; but like the grave of the unknown soldier, it can stand as the general emblem of a war. Woolf's literary struggle was to uncover figures, in a way that they had never before been denuded. She unwrapped consciousness. To do this, she would have to disobey the generation that stood behind her, its slapping hand outstretched like Rodin's. Woolf's best biographer, Hermione Lee, tells the anecdote in a chapter titled "Madness": Woolf was on the edge of an attack of mental instability. But there is also what Henry James called the madness of art.

The modernist Virginia Woolf, the writer betrothed to a creeping project, is the Woolf who matters. "Bloomsbury," the big floral distraction, has obscured her. For she was much more serious, and more seriously literary, than her celebrated friends and relatives, who look nowadays like mere threads of "promise." The academy has stinted the achievement of Woolf's writing by offering a general amnesty to all of it, however unsuccessful; or simply by converting literary questions into political ones. Thus The Waves becomes an example of "postcolonial carnivalesque," according to Jane Marcus. But postcolonialism, even modern feminism, would have happened without Woolf, whereas her fiction would not. The writer--single, snobbish, new, rare--can be found in her great essays, in her diaries, with their combination of sharp wail and steady literary appetite, and in her best novels, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves.

Much about Woolf's childhood can be learned from a ninety-page memoir called "A Sketch of the Past." Woolf wrote it in 1939 and 1940, just before she took her life. In it, she looked again at the origins of her literary rebellion, which she found in the impress of her parents, and in the thick air of the family home, at Hyde Park Gate in West London.

Virginia Stephen was born in 1882, into the very riot of Victorianism. She wrote that she and her sister, Vanessa, represented 1910 and her parents 1860. All her writing would offer an insubordination to the sure captaincy of the Victorians. They were represented by her mother, Julia Stephen, whom Virginia complicatedly loved, and her father, Leslie Stephen, whom she complicatedly hated. Julia Stephen, a Victorian idealization of the wife and mother, was unselfish, an emotional wet nurse to her husband, devoted to good works outside the home. When Virginia started writing book reviews in 1905, she felt the ghost of her mother (who had died in 1895) warning her to be femininely decorous, and to soothe male reputations. Woolf, characteristically, wrote at this time, "My real delight in reviewing is to say nasty things." Leslie Stephen became Mr. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse, the needy monolith surrounded by the poor pebbles of his battered family. He was one of those Victorians who seem like portable zeitgeists. He was one of the most important agnostics of his generation, a literary critic, a Cambridge rationalist, the author of The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. Stephen had a grinding, puritanical mind. "He would ask what was the cube root of such and such a number; for he always worked out mathematical problems on railway tickets," wrote Woolf in "A Sketch of the Past." Woolf selects one sharp memory which gives us a picture of difficult pleasure. She remembers him stooping from his intellectual labors to mend his little daughter's sailboat, and snorting in embarrassment, "Absurd!--what fun it is doing this."

In To the Lighthouse, Mr. Ramsay is seen struggling to get beyond letter Q in the intellectual alphabet. It is one of Woolf's finest similes: "It was a splendid mind. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet . . . then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. . . . But after Q? What comes next?" Leslie Stephen acted like a genius but he thought like a merely gifted man. His tantrums, his loud groaning about the difficulty of mental activity, his domestic helplessness, his virile activity (a twenty-mile walk was nothing), the intellectual fez he wore on his head--does it not look, to us, a little like the self-conscious opposite of a dunce's cap?--the foaming beard: all this was sanctioned by the age. It is how "great men" acted. But Stephen once confessed to his daughter, with his admirable honesty, that he had only "a good second-class mind," and Woolf wrote: "He had I think no feeling for pictures; no ear for music; no sense of the sound of words." Unwittingly, her father trained her in hostility, taught her how to float away from him in his own shallow waters. The way she summed up his limitations would be the way she pounced on the limitations of a whole class of people. Repeatedly, one comes across these portraits in her diaries. Her father was the model "insider." He was an institution, which could be abbreviated to "Eton-Cambridge," places from which she was excluded. Such people were what she called Romans (whereas she was Greek). They kept the Empire spinning, politically and intellectually. They were necessary, she wrote, "like Roman roads." But in her father, she found "not a subtle mind; not an imaginative mind; not a suggestive mind. But a strong mind; a healthy out of door, moor striding mind; an impatient, limited mind; a conventional mind entirely accepting his own standard of what is honest."

Leslie Stephen can be caricatured, though Woolf never did this. Yet the education he gave his daughter was deep. Virginia Stephen did not go out of the house to school. Her childhood was violently isolated, and was spent in the shadow of her father, who expected that Virginia would "become an author in time." Virginia ran through the battery of his books. He read, of course, to the collected family--the thirty-two Waverley novels of Scott, Carlyle's The French Revolution, Jane Austen, and the English poets. But Woolf's own reading, under her father's tutelage, constituted her real education. It was like a less heated version of John Stuart Mill's upbringing. She read Greek--Plato, of course--with Walter Pater's sister. Leslie Stephen gave her history and biography. During 1897, when she was fifteen, he chose for her Pepys's Diary, Arnold's History of Rome, Campbell's Life of Coleridge, Macaulay's History, Carlyle's Reminiscences, and Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography by James Stephen, her grandfather. We see Woolf developing that deep, secretive relationship with language that often characterizes the solitary child. "I have spotted the best lines in the play," she wrote to her brother, Thoby, who was at Cambridge. "Now if that doesn't send a shiver down your spine . . . you are no true Shakespearean!" And more plaintively, again to Thoby: "I dont get anyone to argue with me now, and feel the want. I have to delve from books, painfully and alone, what you get every evening sitting over your fire and smoking your pipe with Strachey etc."

Woolf's background, like a patronymic, was something that marked her publicly. She lived for twenty-two years in her father's house, and escaped only when he died, in 1904. This was her first escape--out of Hyde Park Gate and into Bloomsbury, where she lived with her brothers and sister in Gordon Square. Her second escape was into literary journalism. Here, most commentators are not attentive enough. For Woolf, I think, became a great critic, not simply a "great reviewer." The Collected Essays, which are still being edited, is the most substantial body of criticism in English this century. They belong in the tradition of Johnson, Coleridge, Arnold, and Henry James. This is the tradition of poet-critics, until the modern era, when novelists like Woolf and James join it. That is, her essays and reviews are a writer's criticism, written in the language of art, which is the language of metaphor. The writer-critic, or poet-critic, has a competitive proximity to the writers she discusses. That competition is registered verbally. The writer-critic is always showing a little plumage to the writer under discussion. If the writer-critic appears to generalize, it is because literature is what she does, and one is always generalizing about oneself.

Of course, all of Woolf's work is a kind of tattoo peeled off the English poets and rubbed onto her sentences; all of it is poetically metaphorical. But these early experiences encouraged the tendency toward metaphor found in all her fictional work. In her criticism, the language of metaphor becomes a way of speaking to fiction in its own accent, the only way of respecting fiction's ultimate indescribability. Metaphor is how the critic avoids bullying fiction with adult simplicities. For it is a language of forceful hesitation. Its force lies in the vigor and originality of Woolf's metaphors; its hesitation lies in its admission that in criticism the language of pure summation does not exist. Criticism can never offer a successful summation, because it shares its subject's language. One is always thinking through books, not about them. Woolf's father had written "successfully" about books, with a vigorous alienation from his subjects. Leslie Stephen's essays chew through books to the cardboard, grimly intent on the same universal mastication, whether the subject is Pope or the history of the popes. Therein lay his limitations, and Woolf could surely see this, even if, as a young woman, she could only ar... --此文字指 paperback 版本。


  • 出版社 : Modern Library (2013年11月6日)
  • 出版日期 : 2013年11月6日
  • 语言 : 英语
  • 文件大小 : 2882 KB
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