On Being Ill

On Being Ill

by Virginia Woolf

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Virginia Woolf confronts the taboos of illness, then shows how this common experience transforms perception.
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Virginia Woolf confronts the taboos of illness, then shows how this common experience transforms perception.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The essay has the virtue of suggesting an origin for [Virginia Woolf’s] impassioned, circumnavigatory style: her racing, feverish mind.” THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“I’d assign my students to read, ten times daily, the first sentence of Virginia Woolf’s brilliant and beautiful essay On Being Ill – until they learned to appreciate the full potential, the dazzling glory, and the clarity of the complex sentence…. [D]elicate but powerful… an effecting, resonant recapitulation and illustration of the inadequacy and superfluity of language in our efforts to describe human suffering.” Francine Prose, BOOK FORUM

“A most unusual and long-neglected reverie on illness, language and poetry – reprinted by the sterling Paris Press…. Woolf lets her consciousness roam over the unpredictable terrain of sickness – the sick body, the sick mind – and how difficult it is for us to find words to describe this altered state. This is a brilliant and odd book, charged with restrained emotion and sudden humor.” LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“Examining her own familiarity with illness, Woolf undertakes a rigorous, compassionate, and droll investigation of how illness shapes the identity of a sick patient, particularly the invalid, not only affecting his or her perceptions of the world but also awakening the helplessness of being unable to convey those perceptions, or the effects of illness, to other. […] Because of its enduring relevance, On Being Ill is a necessary and compelling read. The slender and striking hardbound edition from Paris Press gives an old text new life.” YALE JOURNAL FOR HUMANITIES IN MEDICINE

“ ‘On Being Ill’ is one of those peculiarly fascinating essays that Woolf wrote which defy categorization: part mediation, part autobiography and part critical analysis; it refuses to be pigeon-holed. […] I have no hesitation in recommending this new edition…. Paris Press is a non-profit organization and is to be congratulated on this splendid publication. If you do not already have this essay in your collection, this is a must.” VIRGINIA WOOLF BULLETIN

“This new and beautiful reprinting by Paris Press, a small nonprofit house in Massachusetts, replicates design elements of the Hogarth edition, including Vanessa Bell’s cover art. It also contains a superb introduction by literary scholar and biographer Hermione Lee, who considers ‘On Being Ill’ one of Woolf’s ‘most daring, strange, and original essays.’ ” JOURNAL OF CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION

The New Yorker
The first sentence of this essay, which was originally published in T. S. Eliot's New Criterion, in 1926, includes references to both the consolations of angels and the indignities of the dentist's chair, and this almost gleeful waywardness is characteristic of what's to come. By turns lyrical, self-mocking, and outlandish, Woolf's meditation on the perils and privileges of the sickbed lampoons the loneliness that makes one "glad of a kick from a housemaid" and extolls the merits of bad literature for the unwell. As Hermione Lee points out in her excellent introduction, the author only hints here at the mental and physical illnesses that plagued her throughout her life, but one's knowledge of them gives the references to "waters of annihilation" and "deserts of the soul" an added resonance. And yet the consolations of creation are also considered. When Woolf imagines beauty in a frozen-over garden, even after the death of the sun -- "There, thrusting its head up undaunted in the starlight, the rose will flower, the crocus will burn" -- it seems less a triumph of nature than of art.

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Product Details

Paris Press
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)

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