I spare you the twists and turns of my cogitations, for no conclusion was found on the road to Headingly, and I ask you to suppose that I soon found out my mistake about the turning and retraced my steps to Fernham.
--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)
Now that my edition of Mrs. Dalloway is out, I’m trying to move on to next things. Part of that means moving all my notes out of my study and into the attic. Although these notes have now been superseded by the book, I can’t quite bear to throw them away yet. Some day. Soon.
Here is the pile of, from the top down:
- A photocopy of the first English edition of Mrs. Dalloway, with each page folded in half.
- Photocopies of the textual apparati from the prior textual editions of the novel.
- A box from Staples with a photocopy of the proofs with my corrections
- The spiral binder I bought on Charlotte Street, London, in 2005 and in which I made my first pass at writing the textual apparatus
- A photocopy of the first American edition of the novel
- A photocopy of the first English edition in a manila folder marked “XEROX of 1E don’t mark”
- Printout of final comments and corrections from the series editors
- Printout of the XML proofs with my comments
- Printout of my final submission (as a word document, not including the novel)
- A survey of creative writing students (some things get misfiled)
- An MA thesis on crime fiction that one of my mom’s friends thought I’d like to read (also misfiled)
- Printout from the British Library catalogue of manuscript material relevant to Mrs. Dalloway (1 page)
- A printout of an email to myself from 2011 listing footnotes I need to research and write
- Printout of Jerome McGann, “What is Critical Editing”
- A blank marketing questionnaire from Cambridge
- A long memo from the series editors, dated February 2012, on preparing the edition, to supersede earlier versions of this memo
- Brenda Silver, “Textual Criticism as Feminist Practice”
- Edward Bishop, “The Alfa and the Avant-texte”
- A manila folder with a few handwritten notes from the folks at the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain
- Two pages of handwritten notes from October 2010 on The Metropolitan Traffic Manual
- A manila folder with the 2007 version of the memo on preparing the edition
- A cover letter for the inclusion of the photocopy of the first edition of Mrs. Dalloway, confirming my right to use it as copytext for the edition
- Two handwritten, small format hot-pink pages, ripped from a spiral bound notebook, in purple sparkly ink, from June 2004, noting the editors’ ambitions for the edition as a whole
- A yellow lined sheet of handwritten notes (in my hand) on a questions about preparing the edition (but so deeply in code that I can barely figure them out)
- Permissions information from the New York Public Library
- A 2010 letter from me requesting permission of the NYPL
- A recipe for egg white frittata with leeks
- A printed bibliography from London Transport Museum
- A list of every proper name in the novel
- Amy Smith, “Loving Maidens and Patriarchal Mothers”
- An article printed from the web on Mrs. Dalloway
- Rowena Fowler, “Moments and Metamorphoses”
- Jesse Wolfe, “The Sane Woman in the Attic”
- a chapter in mss from Yopie Prins
- Steve Monte, “Ancients and Moderns
- Paul Saint-Amour on antiwar prophecy
- Mark Hussey’s handout from a panel we were on about editing Woolf in 2009
- handwritten notes on Margot Asquith’s autobiography from 2011
- more handwritten notes on Asquith and on traffic
- more articles
- a Cambridge University Press style guide
- articles on textual editing
- notes from my graduate assistants on proper names in the novel
- permissions guide from the Lilly Library in Indiana
- Sara Blair’s essay on Bloomsbury
- the mailing address of a student in Scotland who could help me in 2007
- Andrew Marvell, “Upon Appleton House”
- an email from the Lilly Library
- a list of illustrations
- my typed notes from Brenda Silver’s edition of the Reading Notebooks
- an article in mss on Mrs. Dalloway
- a photocopy of some material from the Smith College archives
- a typed list “Works I need to consult”
- permissions form from the NYPL
- the general editors’ preface in mss
- email from the editor about the textual apparatus
- Cambridge guide to proofreading
- my working photocopy of the first English edition
- on salmon paper, in pencil, my notes on corrections to the Raverat proofs
- my royalty agreement (2’ in! delighted to find this one—not taking this to the attic)
- a solicitation from Yale for money
- one from Wellesley
- a poem about Virginia Woolf mailed to me by a librarian friend
- a three ring binder containing a printout of the first English Edition of Mrs. Dalloway—my working copy
What on earth should I do with all of this stuff? What do you do with your notes once a project is done?
On Saturday night, a few dozen friends gathered in a friend’s apartment in Upper Manhattan for a party to celebrate the publication of Mrs. Dalloway. After working on this edition for eleven years, I knew there needed to be a publication party and I knew it had to be just right. It was perfect.
But what’s uncanny and wonderful about throwing a party in honor of a book about a woman throwing a party is all the echoes of the book that inevitably occur. A few moments, then, each with an echo, distant or close, to something in the book.
Oh, the nerves of a hostess throwing a party. It happens every time before I have guests over: I wake up and, thinking about all that needs to happen before the party, it feels like the party is a folly and the most appealing way to spend the evening is not with friends but alone, knitting and listening to some soothing classical music. The anxiety is so ridiculous and so profound and has no real connection to what needs to be done. In this case, the cheese (from Murrays) was going to be delivered, the wine (from Astor) was going to be delivered, the sparkling water (Costco!) was in the basement, my friend was getting her apartment ready. All I had to do was buy the flowers. So why was I thinking of Clarissa’s fear, “Why, after all, did she do these things? Why seek pinnacles and stand drenched in fire?”
I bought the flowers myself, of course.
I don’t know any Ellie Hendersons (she’s the poor aunt whom Clarissa invites only reluctantly), but the only people who get in touch with a hostess on the day of a party are the ones who have fallen sick or are snowed in. Oh, these messages make me so sad. My Miss Manners advice is to write those regrets in a message just as the party is beginning—then your regrets are first encountered in the afterglow I was so very grateful for the friend who left a voice mail telling me how excited she was to see me later and offering to bring something special. That was cheering.
My friend’s apartment had a real New York fire escape and peek-a-boo views of the George Washington Bridge. At one point, my younger daughter asked me to make an announcement about the lovely pink sunset because she was so little that no one paid attention to her.
We never envisioned dancing, but we did want music. After a little effort, we figured out how to get my friend’s turntable running and we put on a few records. The sound of classical music on vinyl coming out of an old hi-fi was perfect for a Woolf party.
I had wanted to give a toast, but there was never a moment when it seemed right to do so. If it had, I would have thanked my wonderful, and generous hostess, my family and all my friends, absent and present, who put up with my whining, my updates, my stress, my footnotes of the day, for all these years. I would also have thanked Virginia Woolf (born January 25, 1882) and my mother (also born January 25th, but more recently). Without them, no me.
But not finding the moment to give a toast is the equivalent of beating the curtains back: it means the party was a success—it didn’t need that structure for it to work. People ate and drank and were merry.
At one point someone looked over at my older daughter, did a double take, and then realized that that beautiful girl was not just another party guest, but my daughter. We called her over and made her blush at the compliment even as we laughed at how we’d Elizabeth Dalloway-ed her.
The Prime Minister did not come, but because of the snow in the morning, I wasn’t sure if many would make it at all. With each new face—colleagues, graduate students, friends, Woolf scholars from other schools in the city, novelists, and artists, I felt that delight: oh, it’s you! Wonderful!
For there they were. My friends. Such a treat. So grateful.
I totally forgot to tell you, but it's true: my edition of Mrs. Dalloway has been published. That's eleven (count 'em) short years in the making, but it's finally here. There have been some issues with stocking it, but order away, we'll find a way to make the press print all the copies you need. I'm so excited I could burst.
This is always a tough time of year for me. I have to work hard to fend off the winter blues. This year has been particularly challenging. Ice and snow have scratched my plans to run more. Correcting the XML proofs of Mrs. Dalloway—that is, the conversion of my edition from a word & .pdf document to a universal mark-up language—has proven unexpectedly challenging. A young friend died after a long illness. Long hours at my desk necessitates my eating lots of little tiny bites of things to keep going, a habit that is not great for my diet. In short, it’s not just February around here it’s FEBRUARY. Yuck.
Then, I look at something like this little girl, just bursting with joy in her snowsuit, and I think, well, she’s got something right. Or someone sends me a quick email—or even a tweet—to say something kind. Or I see a picture of one of the babies whose wee lives I’m following on Facebook, and I can keep one foot in front of the other for another few hours.
I find myself thinking, in the same breath, “We should have a dance—a big square dance, something joyful and goofy and open to the whole community!” (seriously, and with a burst of “I know! Let’s put on a show!”) and “I wish I could just crawl under the covers and have someone deliver me soup.”
When I was in high school, my grandmother was very ill and far away. I wrote her letters, constant letters, instead of keeping a diary. I told her all about my life, but I kept the focus on the good parts because I wanted to cheer her up. That ended up serving me well, too: instead of wallowing in the miseries of unrequited crushes and worries about popularity and SAT’s, I wrote about my friends, movies I saw, hopes and dreams.
Grammy has been gone a long time, but I still try to keep that alive. And when I see people urging us to be more “realistic” about the challenges of our lives on social media, I understand the impulse, but come at it from a different place. To that end, then, I offer you this random list of the things that I’m using to give me that little hit of joy as I slog through the slog of this month:
- Humans of New York
- checking Twitter and retweeting any little piece of good news or sharp satire about bad news I can find
- artist trading cards
- watching the birds at my bird feeder
- liking cute baby pictures on Facebook
- cranking our new Girl Power Dance Party Mix
- cottage cheese with blackberries
- recipes for King Cake: Mardi Gras is just around the corner, people!
So, imagine me, if you wish, cycling through these options, sometimes pretty rapidly, to stave off the blues. Maybe they'll help you, too! After all, spring cannot be far behind, can it?
What's going on at Fernham, you might ask. What, indeed. Christmas was lovely. I cooked and cooked and cooked some more. Then, when company left, I made julekage (my recipe is better, but it's analog & I'm lazy). It failed. I made another batch of julekage. It's not great, but it satisfied my need for some Norwegian Christmas bread.
Now I am copyediting the XML of Mrs. Dalloway. Reader, this is a dispiriting task.
So, to stave off the tedium and blues, my daughters and I have been coloring. We made some artist trading cards.
We put out a call on facebook to see if anyone wanted to trade.
People got interested.
We decided to stop at 20. Now, 21.
I'm tumbling the project here.
If you want to be part of round two, let me know. We may never stop coloring...
After the profoundly disappointing VIDA event on women and book reviews last month, I felt duty bound to attend this second VIDA event at the Center for Fiction last Wednesday, May 29th. This packed event in the charming but always too-hot second floor of the Center for Fiction was the public portion of the NBCC (National Book Critic’s Circle) meeting and part of BEA (Book Expo America), so not only was the room packed, but it was packed with important editors and writers and eager freelancers.
The panel was moderated by Laurie Muchnick, book editor at Bloomberg News and president of the NBCC. She took a much firmer hand than the moderator at the Housing Works event had taken, with welcome results. Muchnick was aided, too, by the panel’s composition: with one of the co-founders of VIDA (Erin Belieu), the editor of the New York Times Book Review (Pamela Paul), the editor of Tin House (Rob Spillman), the book critic for New York Magazine (Kathryn Schulz), and a novelist (Meg Wolitzer!), the panel included people with a wide range of perspectives on the problem.
You can read Laurie Stone’s thoughts on the same event here.
Paul, new in her position, knows first hand the special vitriol reserved for women in positions of power in the book world, and it was reassuring to hear her speak about her ambitious goals for a wide range of diversity in the pages of the Times. Wolitzer, as a novelist whose books treat Big American themes without getting Big American Male (FRANZEN! ROTH! UPDIKE!) attention, spoke about reviews, blurbs, and marketing from the perspective of an artist wanting to make money through her art. By contrast, Schulz spoke about her position at New York, where she has complete freedom to choose books to review and was really smart about the real downsides of that freedom: for, while she reviews a fairly good balance of women to men (6 women for every 5 men), her predecessor, a man, reviewed 8 books by men for every 1 book by a woman. Spillman was a welcome presence on the panel: an editor whose journal had made big changes to assigning and soliciting pieces based on their originally very imbalanced VIDA numbers.
For me, it was Belieu and Schulz who best summed up the message of VIDA: for true change to happen, we need to always be counting: how many women are reviewing? how many books by women are getting reviewed? True, the count is crude and imperfect, but it also reveals a continuing inequity in our literary culture that is not trivial. And, though I, too, tire of counting, being tired of counting (and seeing, yet again, how little we count for), is no reason to stop.
Belieu spoke about the origins of VIDA, in Cate Marvin’s 2009 essay, emailed to like-minded friends, bemoaning the lack of reviews of and by women writers—a cri de Coeur that became VIDA. She said that, in spite of all the limitations, “we liked the simplicity and elegance of the count. We liked the fact that we were able to get a picture of the year.”
And Schulz returned to this at the end, positing that a structural answer is the only answer. That editors need to do what Spillman has done at Tin House: that part of curating a vibrant literary culture includes counting: how many books by women are we reviewing? how many by men? how many of our reviewers are women? how are people of color represented in the numbers of reviewers and of books reviewed? how are we doing in representing a range of class perspectives, in reviews and in books reviewed? If we don’t ask this question, and continue to think that all we want is “the best,” the best will continue to look like this hoary dinosaur.
Only after listening to this did I recognize how much counting is part of my life as an editor, a teacher, and a teacher of teachers.
When we edit The Norton
Reader, we look for all kinds of diversity and we look to see that every
section of the reader not just “Personal Narrative” includes contributions from
women and people of color.
When I teach young teachers how to put a syllabus together, I demand that they look for essays old and new, difficult and easy, and that they make sure that there their syllabus represents women, people of color, gay and lesbians writers, and writers from a range of class backgrounds.
When I design my own syllabi, I demand the same of myself.
And when I was working on the introduction to the forthcoming (Summer 2013) special issue of Mfs: Modern Fiction Studies on Women’s Fiction, New Modernist Studies and Feminist Theory, Urmila Seshagiri (who has an article in the issue) and I engaged in our own, informal count. How many special issues on feminist theory had Mfs done recently? One, kind of. How about modernism/modernity (the other top scholarly journal in the field)? Zero, ever. So this forthcoming issue, with eight articles by eight women scholars using feminist theory to analyze the work of ten often neglected women artists from the early 20th century will be a good corrective, to say the least.
Still, I dwell so deeply and completely in a world of women that sometimes I wonder if I’m doing too much.
The other day, I asked the students in my summer graduate class why they were enrolled in a class on modernist women writers (100% women). One woman, a strong feminist, said that, as she came to the end of her M.A., she realized that for her coursework, she had only read three women writers.
People, our work here is far from done.
Always be counting.
It’s a start.
[corrected to fix Schulz's stats which I had backwards at first]
a look of John Burrows That is, he looks like a criminal. In Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton (1870), John Burrows is a notorious jailbird, also called ‘Jack the Grinder’, who is convicted of the murder of Farmer Trumbull. VW’s father had known Trollope. In her 1932 revision of ‘The Novels of George Meredith,’ VW calls Trollope’s novel The Small House at Allington along with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ‘those two perfect novels’ after which ‘English fiction had to escape from the dominion of that perfection’ (E5 551). In MB, VW refers to Trollope as one of the rare novelists who can convey both being and non-being (70).
Ah, gentle reader, welcome to 2013, same as 2012.
That’s right, just as I rang in 2012 scrambling to write footnotes for Mrs. Dalloway, so, too, will I ring in 2013 doing the same. The edition is close. One of the outside readers said it was good to go. The other reader noticed that I had not footnoted every single solitary proper name. I missed dozens, in fact, not having understood the mission of the edition--all the party guests and all the Londoners who stand in the crowd and watch the car drive by. Now, I'd noted the names of ones that stuck out at me, but Mr. Fletcher, retired, of the Treasury, who is just a phrase in the novel? Him, I had not noted. I am doing so now. Each first name and surname gets a note for which I will have checked:
- Woolf's family tree for relatives with that name
- Woolf's other novels, mostly prior to 1925 but occasionally post-Dalloway, for characters with that name
- Woolf's letters and diaries for friends and associates with that name
- Woolf's essays up to 1925 for reviews by authors with that name or of novels w/characters of that name
- The etymology of the name
- For surnames, the Oxford DNB for famous people whom Woolf might have known or of whom she might have been aware with that name
- And, for surnames only, its frequency & geographic distribution in the 1881 UK census
Now, most names won't get all points mentioned, but each name has to have all checked. So, if the frequency of a surname isn't mentioned, it's because it's in that zone of not being in the 100 most common names, but is common enough to be in the census as my editorial decision was to note only when names were so infrequent as to have fewer than 100 bearers in the 1881 census (the closest in time to Mrs. Dalloway) OR so frequent as to be among the 100 most common.
I’m getting better at this and I alternate between despair and cockiness. Give me a proper noun, any proper noun, and I will write you a footnote explaining its relevance to Mrs. Dalloway. Try me!
Oh, my poor edition of Mrs. Dalloway needs another thirty or so footnotes before it can go into production. I was asked, among other things, to comb through the entire print run of the Virginia Woolf Bulletin of Great Britain in case I missed anything.
One thing I missed: this 2007 review of my first book:
This very attractively produced volume runs to just 168 pages of text and aims to 'investigate the relation between these two facts' (my italics). These 'facts' are that Woolf read 'widely and with passion' and that 'she was also an unusually subtle feminist thinker'. While the former may be pretty self-evident one wonders what sort of 'fact' is the latter, as it contains at least two subjective judgements. The first is that Woolf was an unusually subtler thinker and that she was a feminist one. Fernald goes on to assert that Woolf was 'one of the best-read writers in the history of English literature'; all very easy judgements to make when no comparative evidence is presented on any of these three assertions. Who are the unsubtle feminist thinkers and who are the poorly-read writers one wonders.
This analysis...reminds one of Anna Snaith's Virginia Woolf: Public and Private Negotiations...a much better written and lucidly argued account.
Moving right along.