Granite and Rainbow: The Hidden Life of Virginia Woolf

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Mitchell Leaska unearths much new and disturbing material that illuminates both Woolf's life and her work. He recounts the hard realities of her early life -- the succession of tragic and untimely deaths, the illnesses, the stretches of madness -- as they emerged, infallibly transformed by Woolf's imagination in her iridescent novels, letters, and diaries. Leaska's unprecedented reliance on the Woolf archives leads to fresh revelations about the troubled lives of Virginia's parents. Plunging beneath the dense ...
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Overview

Mitchell Leaska unearths much new and disturbing material that illuminates both Woolf's life and her work. He recounts the hard realities of her early life -- the succession of tragic and untimely deaths, the illnesses, the stretches of madness -- as they emerged, infallibly transformed by Woolf's imagination in her iridescent novels, letters, and diaries. Leaska's unprecedented reliance on the Woolf archives leads to fresh revelations about the troubled lives of Virginia's parents. Plunging beneath the dense lyrical surface of Woolf's narratives, he uncovers the dissonances generated by her parents' relationship and the deeper story of how she sought to create harmony out of such profound divisions.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Interest in Virginia Woolf seems to be limitless, as yet a fourth major biography in as many years now appears. Recent works have looked at Woolf's life from the standpoint of literary analysis (James King's Virginia Woolf), family life (Panthea Reid's Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf; Louise DeSalvo's Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work), and the need to debunk misconceptions of her as a fragile, eccentric victim (Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf: A Biography). Leaska, who has written and edited a number of books about Woolf, argues that Woolf used her writing as a connection between the inner and outer worlds. Fiction was, to her, more satisfying than the real world in which she battled manic-depression and memories of a horrific family life. While the book is solidly written and well done, one has to wonder, in light of the plethora of recent biographies on Woolf, whether all the bases have already been covered. -- Ronald Ray Ratliff, Chapman High School Library, Kansas
Library Journal
Interest in Virginia Woolf seems to be limitless, as yet a fourth major biography in as many years now appears. Recent works have looked at Woolf's life from the standpoint of literary analysis (James King's Virginia Woolf), family life (Panthea Reid's Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf; Louise DeSalvo's Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work), and the need to debunk misconceptions of her as a fragile, eccentric victim (Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf: A Biography). Leaska, who has written and edited a number of books about Woolf, argues that Woolf used her writing as a connection between the inner and outer worlds. Fiction was, to her, more satisfying than the real world in which she battled manic-depression and memories of a horrific family life. While the book is solidly written and well done, one has to wonder, in light of the plethora of recent biographies on Woolf, whether all the bases have already been covered. -- Ronald Ray Ratliff, Chapman High School Library, Kansas
Michael Anderson
. . .Leaska has not really written [a biography]. . .[he] uses the form as a catchall for stray critical observations. . . .what Virginia Woolf needs most is to be read, not written about. . . -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Another effort at what Woolf herself once described as the 'compromise, evasion, understatement, overstatement, irrelevance which we call biography.' Woolf biographies and studies are still churned out at nearly an annual rate. Leaska, the editor of Woolf's early journals (A Passionate Apprentice) and her correspondence with Vita Sackville-West, as well as the author of several critical studies of her work, is a longtime mainstay of that academic industry. His appraisal of Woolf's life, here made largely through the lens of her writings, offers a thoroughgoing and yet curiously limited version of her portrait. Crucial aspects of her father, Leslie Stephen, the emotionally demanding patriarch of letters, and of her devoted but distant mother, Julia Duckworth Stephen, are viewed essentially through their fictional counterparts in To the Lighthouse. According to Leaska, the influence of her parents combined Leslie's dependency on others for approval and affection with Julia's defensive aloofness, leaving Woolf unbalanced as she embarked on her writing career and marriage. Perhaps Leaska took Woolf at her word when she wrote, 'Nothing is real unless I write it.' He overdoes it with documentation, plumbing her voluminous diaries, as well as her novels, at the expense of taking a wider and more objective view of her relationships with the remarkable people in her life: husband Leonard, sister Vanessa, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, Vita Sackville-West. Typically—and narrowly—these people are characterized as parental substitutes. Unsurprisingly, Vita emerges in a pivotal role as both a strong father-figure and an emotional mother-substitute (and as theinspiration for Orlando). Leaska seems overly concerned with Woolf's imaginative existence and not curious enough about her daily life. Earnest and faithful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374166595
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 439
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.62 (d)

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